An Unusual Purple Martin Year

Posted August 11th, 2017

Thanks, Henry  for allowing us to re-post these observations….. It will be interesting to see how the year finishes.

Amazing how on April 11, 16 birds is awesome, hopeful and just brings hope and joy, but on August 11, 16 birds at home is gloomy, depressing and almost devastating. Silence is not golden for us PM landlords, almost the opposite. My ears are ringing with the lack of chatter in my back yard.

I too, like Toy in PA had a poor year. We were on route to a banner year after a slow start with the crappy spring weather, and had very high hopes and even expectations of what was to come. With almost fifty pairs by the second week of May, things looked great. 200 plus eggs by the middle of June with lots of activity, things looked really good. Then the second batch of cold came in. Average clutches of fives and sixes were everywhere, but we had doubts things would go smoothly with the cold/cool weather. With first hatches, we noticed at least one , sometimes two, eggs not hatching out, so problem one. Then came the SY males, 12 one night, just hanging out, problem two. In the next few weeks, little pink young were tossed out from many rooms, in two days we lost 23 young, and there was nothing we could do but try and save the few that were alive when we found them. We might have saved two, maybe three, but that is hard to tell. The weather warmed up, some bugs started, but we think the major hatches of bugs did not coincide with the young PMs, so now the runts started to suffer, problem three. Then the heat hit, temps in the 90’s, high humidity, not much breeze, and now the runts did worse, and out to the porches went the fledglings, where the waiting SY’s did some more damages, problem four. For the first time in seven years I :!: was supplemental feeding in July and August, and not feeling good about my decision to try to get a larger colony. Fledging kept up, many birds took off, had one night on August 2 with 200 birds coming back, which was great, so we decided to do the final take down of the five houses to get them clean and nice for the last two or three weeks before they all leave, and found 16 other young dead in 45 rooms, guessing from the various problems mentioned above.

We still have one really late pair of SYs that are feeding two really fat young that are about 4-8 days from flying, and many HY coming to stay the night with what seems to be one ASY male keeping a somewhat watchful eye on them, but probably not that watchful to say the least.
Final tally seems to be 48 pairs, two abandoned nests, two nests with 4 eggs each abandoned, makes 44 successful nests. All in all, from a possible 240 plus eggs, we will be lucky if my final numbers hit 160 fledged for 2017. If we had a predator problem on top of this, I cannot imagine how I would have felt, I love my two giant dogs and what they do for my colony by just sleeping and lazing around the backyard.

There will be many changes to all the housing this winter. Larger rooms, all insulated, plugged vent holes for the cold spring, remove the plugs for venting on the dog days in July, entrance holes at a 90 degree angle to a separate nesting chamber out of sight, paint all interiors black, were just some of the things we will try to get done.

Sorry for long drawn out saga, but it has been a while since I posted and wanted to share. Here is to hoping that there are more successful stories for this years “crop” as compared to the below average outcome we had.

Henry W.
2015, 28 pair, 102 fledged
2016, 39 pair, 154 fledged

Comments are closed.