released some fledglings for my wildlife rehaber.
Think I found a great way to do it and have posted it on here before, but wrote it up for my rehab people.
couldn't figure out attachment, open for comments and suggestions.
Method for releasing rehabilitated purple martin fledglings.
I’ve been blessed with releasing purple martin fledglings from Wildcare, my local wildlife rescue.
I’ve read on PurpleMartin.org that fledgling martins are taught to eat insects on the fly by adults. Assuming this to be factual and thus tossing a fledgling martin randomly into the air does not increase it’s odds of surviving.
When I’ve been asked to release fledglings it tends to be late in the season and most of my birds are gone. A behavior at my colony is that there are very few birds around in the evening, I presume they are at a mini roost somewhere nearby. But in the mornings, I will have as many as 20 birds visiting for several hours. My recommendation is to release in the morning so they have time to fly around and make it to the mini roost with their foster parents.
My first release I placed the fledglings in a wire cage at the bottom of the martin poles and let them communicate with the adult martins for 30 minutes to an hour. Then I literally tossed them into the air. Most just took off on straight line and I never saw them return.
Another year all my birds were gone but I knew of a mini roost of a few hundred birds by a lake and took a handful of birds there. I again tossed them into the air thinking they would stay with the hundreds of birds. When I tossed them, they again took off on a straight line to nowhere and I saw no adults following.
On the martin forum I’d read of stuffing a rag into the entrance when checking nests close to fledging to prevent premature fledging. I started doing this late in the season and using a ladder to nest check rather than raising and lowering the housing and risk frightening them into premature fledging.
That spawned my current release technique which has worked quite well.
Pick up birds to be released after last feeding by rehab. At dawn I place 5-6 birds per gourd, stuff a rag into the entrance and place on gourd rack. Fledglings are vulnerable to hawk attacks so place them on the most protected side.
Raise gourd rack and leave them until the visiting birds return to site. You can hear them communicating. It is important to have entrance blocked, for at least twenty minutes to keep them from panicking and flying out of gourd from fear. You can tie a string on rag and pull from the ground or I just climb up a ladder and quietly pull and lower ladder and leave it on ground so as not to make noise.
This method seems to allow the fledglings to leave on their own time and without fear. It also seems to allow for some communication because when the fledging takes off, he immediately joins with the adult birds, and flies WITH them rather than off on a straight line away from the colony.
There is always a brave one that pops his head out, chirps a couple times and takes off. Conversely, there is always one that comes out and sits on the porch for an hour and doesn’t want to fly. I’ve seen adults fly by and knock them off the porch like “come on, let’s go!”
Hope this helps and always open to ideas.