Martin Found in Belly of Bass

Reprinted from: Purple Martin Update 1(2): 23

Ralph K. Bell

Clarksville, Pa. –– The fact that Purple Martins nest predominantly in boxes (at least in the eastern United States), where they are safe from certain types of common predation, does not assure them a greater chance for survival over other species. All species which feed upon flying insects are very vulnerable to weather conditions, as was strikingly evident this past summer [June 1972] during Hurricane Agnes, with its effect upon the martin population especially noticeable. And there are casualties from other causes as well, which even up the odds; I would like to mention one which I'm sure would never occur to any of us.

A friend of mine, Everette Cleaver, was fishing at a farm pond in June 1968. He caught a 12-inch Large-mouthed Bass and noticed that it had a large lump in its stomach. Upon cutting the fish open, he found that the "lump" was a freshly-swallowed, adult Purple Martin. Everette had four martin boxes of his own, so there was no likelihood of mistaken identity. Fish often jump out of the water for large insects, and one can only surmise, that just as the martin skimmed the water to get a drink [or to splash-bathe], the fish made the right jump at the right time ... and what a mouthful it must have been!


[Editorial comment: It is also possible that this martin ended up in the stomach of the bass because it was embroiled in a hot, territorial dispute and tumbled into the water from its martin house at the water's edge. It is not uncommon for a pair of fighting martins to tumble together off a house's porch and hit the ground (or water) beneath the house and continue to fight all tangled up with each other. I have observed this several times at the PMCA's research site on the shore of Edinboro Lake and have held my breath, expecting a bass or a muskie to swallow them as they floated and fought. – James R. Hill, III.]

(Reprinted, in part, from The Redstart, the journal of the Brooks Bird Club, April 1973 issue.)

Copyright 1988 by Purple Martin Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.

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