Purple Martins Are Flying High in Cyberspace

Reprinted from: Purple Martin Update 8(2)
Kent Justus
47 Morrison Court
Little Rock, AR 72212
[email protected]


A web junkie admiring the Purple Martin Conservation Association's home page at http://www.purplemartin.org. One of the outstanding features of this site is the scout-arrival page, where the northward migration of the Purple Martin is updated daily and landlords can submit their scout reports electronically.

The Information Superhighway ... Cyberspace ... The Net. Ten years ago, it's likely that you wouldn't have known what any of these terms meant. However, they are words that we hear all of the time now thanks to the technological innovation we know as the Internet. It is estimated that over 60 million people now have access to the Internet worldwide. Incredibly, studies show that the number of people with Internet access is actually doubling each year. That's amazing! As the Internet continues to grow at a rapid pace, the amount of information on Purple Martins is also growing by leaps and bounds, as one might expect.
As recently as five years ago there was not very much Purple Martin information available on the Internet. Now, there are several online resources including personal web pages, forums, and newsgroups that disseminate Purple Martin information and the number continues to grow. I remember several years ago I wanted to obtain the proper dimensions for a martin house so that I could build one. The only source of information that was readily available to me was the encyclopedia and later I discovered that the dimensions listed were all wrong. I recall that it said the entrance hole for martins should be 2-1/2". After building the house and watching a few martins go in and out of the entrances I noticed that the holes were far too large. I was dismayed because I didn't have access at the time to more accurate information. However, in this day and age of technology and the Internet, highly accurate and reliable Purple Martin information is available to you at home through your personal computer.

What is the Internet?: The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that communicate with each other by speaking the same language, if you will. Individuals with home computers access the Internet by dialing up via a modem and telephone line to their local Internet Service Provider (ISP). The newest part of the Internet is called the World Wide Web (or WWW). Information on the WWW appears in the form of web pages, which can contain text, graphics, and multimedia such as sound and video. A web site refers to a collection of web pages on the WWW and the authoring software language used to create the pages is called HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. A really cool feature of the Internet is that web pages contain links called hypertext links which appear as underlined words that are usually a different color than the main text. If you move your computer mouse over a hypertext link, the mouse pointer changes to a hand. Then you can just click the mouse and follow that link to another web page somewhere on the World Wide Web. The link may be to another page within the web site you are currently visiting, or to a page halfway around the world. Through the power of the Internet, there is no limit to the amount of information that is readily available, and you don't even have to leave your own home to access it.

Hardware, Software, and Service Required to access the Internet: Minimum requirements to access the Internet are a computer with at least 8 Megabytes of RAM (Random Access Memory), a modem that receives data at a minimum speed of 14.4 bps (14,400 bits of information per second), a telephone line to plug into the modem, an Internet Service Provider (ISP), and an Internet browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. Once you have these components loaded and working, you're ready to surf the net!

How to load a Web Site: The first thing you must do to access web pages is to dial up to your ISP and then open your web browser. There are a couple of ways to load a web site. The first is to type in a URL (uniform resource locator) in the address box in your web browser. Internet URL's usually begin with "http", which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. By typing in a URL and hitting "enter" you are instructing the computer to retrieve the web site you are looking for. Another way to find web sites is to locate them through a search engine. You type in a "key word" such as "Purple Martin" in the search engine's window and it searches all of the web sites in its directory that contain those key words. After the sites are listed, you may select one by clicking on its hypertext link and the web site will load on your computer. One of the best search engines for information on birds is called Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.com). After loading it, bookmark it as a "favorite place," or store it in your address book for future reference. Following are some outstanding Internet web sites on Purple Martins. I hope that you can find the time to view each one online for a wealth of Purple Martin information.


Canadian Wildlife Service Hinterland Who's Who / Purple Martin (http://www.ec.gc.ca/cws-scf/hww.fap/pmartin/pmartin.html): This web site, sponsored by Environment Canada, contains photos and general Purple Martin information such as appearance, breeding distribution and populations, range map, migration and wintering range, nesting behavior, food consumption, research and management, and a suggested reading list. Published under the authority of the Minister of the Environment for Canada.

Chuck's Purple Martin Page (http://ro.com/~yankee): Engineer Chuck Abare of Alabama has one of the most extensive martin web sites currently available. Chuck has included photos of his own gourd rack design, which is popping up in martin colonies all across the country. There is also a wealth of information on acquiring, preparing, and hanging natural gourds. Individuals looking for someone with lots of experience in dealing with the hardware involved in the martin hobby, including poles, winches, and other mechanical innovations for martins, can contact Chuck via e-mail for advice.

Danny's Purple Martin Place (http://www.brightok.net/~dfrazier): This new web site is very neatly laid out and organized. Webmaster Danny Frazier of Oklahoma has created sections with topics dealing with attracting martins, taking care of your site, martin fundamentals, bits and pieces, and Purple Martin resources. Danny is a new landlord and shares the secrets of his quick success.

Hirondelles Noires (http://pages.infinit.net/prosubis/index.htm): One of the few online sources of Purple Martin information written entirely in French. Has general martin information such as identification, migration, competitors, and tips to attract martins to a new site. Also features an electronic comments form. Very neatly organized for French readers. Carol Arcand manages this site from Quebec, Canada.
Mikey's Purple Martin Page ( Webmaster Mike Cantrel operates this Purple Martin web site which contains information on topics such as martin migration, housing, nesting activities, adversaries, diet and offspring, questions and answers, pest control, and a large gallery of images. The site also features an electronic scout report and comments forms and links to other Purple Martin web sites.

National Wildbird Refuge: Project Swallow (http://www.gnofn.org/~swallow): This attractive web site contains information about the famous Lake Pontchartrain Causeway martin flocks in southeast Louisiana, just north of New Orleans. Webmaster Carlyle Rogillio has created this site to raise awareness of the spectacular flocks of martins that roost under the causeway bridge during the Spring and Summer months. Project Swallow initiated the "Save the Swallows" program, which enlisted the help of the Causeway Management to erect 6,700 feet of fencing to eliminate collisions between automobiles and martins as they swooped in to roost. Prior to this construction, it was estimated that 12,000 martins were being killed per year by automobiles. This site also explains how donations made to Project Swallow will further benefit Purple Martins.
North American Breeding Bird Survey (http://www.mbr.nbs.gov/bbs/bbs.html): This is an awesome web site containing over thirty years worth of data on North American breeding bird survey results and analysis. Also contains Christmas bird counts for species that regularly winter in the continental United States. After loading the home page you may choose from several powerful analytical tools. The Species Account link transfers you to the species information section which contains links to species-specific information such as life history, identification, distribution maps, pictures, and songs. There are excellent population trend maps for Purple Martins based on breeding bird surveys from the 1966-1996 time frame.

Purple Martin Conservation Association (http://www.purplemartin.org): The only web site available that is sponsored by a national Purple Martin organization. This is the site where martin landlords turn for the most accurate and reliable martin information currently available online. James R. Hill, III, founder and Executive Director of the PMCA, is the webmaster for this great site with electronic scout report and colony registration forms, tips on attracting and keeping your martins, range map, and the most up-to-date scout reports on the Internet. This site is continually evolving.

Purple Martin Headquarters (http://www3. vantek.net/pmh): This new Purple Martin web site is a joint effort between Steve Kroenke and Kent Justus. The site contains martin life cycle information, housing reviews, colony management techniques, competitor control, swallow species profiles, featured landlord, troubleshooting, and is especially strong in the area of martin predators. Read about predator/martin interactions with accounts of Merlin and Mississippi Kite tail-chases observed by the authors on their martins. The site also covers information on Purple Martin subspecies and contains color range maps, scout maps, and lots of images. A complete listing of martin resources, including books, pamphlets, organizations, and online services is also available.

The Purple Martin House (http://www.sound.net/~deadbird): This web site is managed by Vic Jodts of Kansas City, Missouri. There is a ton of information with topics varying from original featured articles, a color scout-report map, a video clip of Vic's colony, information on various martin organizations, information on available martin literature, and a unique service called "The Purple Martin Hotline." In Vic's own words, the hotline is a group of seasoned, hard-working martin landlords who have volunteered their expert services to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Just send your questions or comments via e-mail to the hotline and you will receive responses from the eight panel members.

Purple Martin Sanctuary (http://www.purplemartin. com): This site is managed by Stephanie Wieclawek of Ontario, Canada. Much of the site is still under construction, but there are some outstanding graphics and a color range map. Sections will include information on competitors, predators, nesting cycle, martin description, and much more. The site also has a good list of links to other interesting web sites.

The Purple Martin Site (http://www.neun.com/Martin/): Webmaster Warren Light has created this site in frames and has included information on martin housing, a color range map, nest-site competitors, enemies, information about the Nature Society, electronic scout report and comments forms, information on the Trio line of martin housing, and many links to other martin web sites.


The Purple Martin Forum (http://www3.vantek.net/pmh/forum): This is a new Purple Martin discussion group/message board that is accessible by anyone with Internet access. Many knowledgeable and experienced martin landlords post information to this forum on martin behavior, housing, colony management, troubleshooting, and how to successfully attract martins to a new site. The forum has its own search engine so that readers are able to access all articles that contain the word(s) they are looking for such as "SuperGourd" or "Starlings."

Nature Conservancy Birding Boards / Purple Martins: This message board is a service available to America Online subscribers and is sponsored by the Nature Conservancy. To access the forum click on Interests/Hobbies/Birdwatching/The Birding Forum/All Birding Boards/Birding By Species/Purple Martins. Terry Anne Suchma of Chicago posts information and fields questions on this forum, which is now in its fifth year.

Prodigy Birding Boards / Purple Martins: Another online message board available to Prodigy subscribers where up-to-date and accurate Purple Martin tips, information, and articles are posted, and questions submitted from readers are answered. To find the bulletin board, jump Hobbies/Bulletin Boards/Birding/Purple Martin Society. The Purple Martin Society of Illinois is represented on this forum by Terry Anne Suchma.


As you can see from the lists above, there is quite a bit of Purple Martin information that is currently available to you via the Internet. Most of the web sites mentioned in this article have been created by highly motivated individuals that are eager to share their knowledge of martins with others on the World Wide Web. However, martin education and information sharing isn't the only thing that happens when individuals begin communicating via the Internet. Many lifetime friendships are also formed because the power of the Internet can bring individuals together that would have never been able to meet before, and this is all possible through the technology that we know as the World Wide Web and the Internet. A few years down the road it is conceivable that nearly everyone in this country will be accessing information from the Internet. Soon, the speed of information gathering on computers will be even faster and martin enthusiasts will have the ability to become experts just by reading the online information that is available to them. But even now, just turn on your computer and you will find that the most up-to-date and cutting edge Purple Martin technology and information is just a mouse click away.

Kent Justus is a telecommunications supervisor with ALLTEL Corporation in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Copyright 1998 by Purple Martin Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.

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