Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Purple Martins by Thomas Wiatt

Purple Martins are Thriving in Tallahassee!

As of May 11, I have 14 active nests with 50 young and 22 eggs. I check the nests every 5 to 7 days in the afternoon. Conducting nest checks helps landlords find problems like parasites, predators, wet nests, chilled nestlings on bare floors, etc. while there is still time to provide help. Purple Martins lay one egg per day in the morning until they have laid one to seven eggs. Incubation begins when the last egg is laid and requires about 15 days. Nestling martins fledge about 28 days after hatching. The martins will only stay around for a few weeks after fledging. They will winter in South America and return to the same colony next year.

Hosting Purple Martins is a very rewarding hobby. It provides hours of entertainment while watching the dynamics of the colony, which can sometimes take on very people-like characteristics. It is amazing to watch a group of neighborhood martins come in to help celebrate the babies being born or learning to fly! It is entertaining to watch the squabbling as apartments are picked out and defended, and it is heart-warming to watch a pair of martins cuddling on the porch and taking turns feeding their young. One parent will watch the babies while the other gathers food.

Being a landlord is not as simple as putting up a house and forgetting about it. Predator guards must be in place to protect them from snakes and raccoons. Additionally, owl guards, starling resistant entrances, and nest checks help ensure a successful colony.
An open site with a 50 foot clear fly-way is preferred so the martins will not be ambushed by hawks.

If you have an open site and are willing to spend some time loving and protecting them, the martins need you. They have come to rely on human provided housing and will pay you back with lots of joy. There is nothing like the happy dance of seeing your first returning martin that has wintered in South America and is coming home to you.

Here are some pictures of my year so far:

Thomas Wiatt

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