Supplemental feeding disadvantages...?

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Mitch Booth
Posts: 478
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:23 am
Location: Akron, OH
Martin Colony History: 2012 - 0
2013 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 2 fledged
2014 - 0
2015 - 1 pair, 5 died during week of rain
2016 - 0
2017 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 4 fledged
2018 - 4 pair, 19 eggs, 19 fledged
2019 - 7 pair
2020 -

Hi Everyone,

First and foremost I do not have an active colony. I know many landlords who offer supplemental feeding during cold temperatures. I was wondering if PMCA endorses supplemental feeding or not? I guess I was trying to think of some disadvantages of supplemental feeding. Will they arrive earlier next year being the survived this year? We soft-hearted humans try to help our beloved birds but are we actually hurting the birds long term?

I was just wondering what other thoughts were on this subject.

Thanks,

Mitch
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

I have done it both ways, I have fed them twice in the past 6 or 8 years. I absolutely see no difference due to the feeding. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1)the martins may not take supplemental feeding unless they are hungry
2)the martins don't know what the weather will be like when they leave S. America
3)they probably go by their biological clock, not our calendar
4)I see no advantage to letting them starve to death
5)in a few parts of the country, if you don't feed them, you may lose them and never get them back. I want them to come back
6)After all, their habits have already been changed by man, such as us providing them housing, nesting material, SREH, mite control, etc.

Someone always asks the same question, but I simply think that it helps us keep our martins, and have more for the neighbors.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
CraigMo.
Posts: 1480
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 12:30 pm
Location: Missouri/Lone Jack
Martin Colony History: Active since 2003

Another good question Mitch and I like and agree with Emil's answer.
John Miller
Posts: 4766
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Hi Mitch

This subject can get "heated" at times here.

Mike Scully of San Antonio, a biology teacher, says there are solid ornithological studies among many bird species supporting that if enough landlords -- which isn't likely -- engaged in supplemental feeding, we'd cause birds to pass on "too early" genes. He's neither saying we should or should not, I don't think, just saying what research supports.

My personal opinion...martins are pretty unique birds. They have been coming back too early for as long as anyone has noticed. Audubon observed children in Louisville picking up cold birds off the ground. No one had feed them the year before -- it's just what martins do, and supplemental feeding can save them, and in the worst of weather events help keep regional populations from plummeting some years.

So..I'm doing what I can to keep some early arrivals alive right now...whew...with blanket of fresh snow out there, not easy, but will try.

John Miller
KathyF
Posts: 3518
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

It's a good question and when I first became a landlord, I thought I wouldn't do it because of having an impact on nature. BUT, the first 3 years I've been a landlord, I never tried and the last 2 I wasn't able to get them to feed and this year they have come back earlier than they ever have in the 5 years I've been a landlord.

Feeding certainly didn't bring my martins back earlier this year as they've never had it, so the only explanation is the warmer weather...and who knows what else. I chose to feed them this weekend after reading of numerous accounts of people picking up "buckets" of dead martins. I don't think I could do that.

And "Yes" PMCA endorses supplemental feeding. :wink:
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

The way I see it, it isn't much different from the millions of people that feed backyard birds with sunflower seeds and bird feeders. These birds have not, through decades of "supplemental feeding", changed their migration habits. Why would martins? But more to the point, I think, is the fact that martins must be trained to accept help, otherwise they die, and any of us who have seen them starve to death are not willing to let it happen again. Partly because we lose the joy of our colony, but also because every die-off in purple martins is so significant - it often takes years and perhaps decades in a given area for the population to rebound. So this beloved bird is one that can be helped, by us, through bad weather situations, in much the same way as we fill our seed feeders to help the chickadees, cardinals, doves, when the forecast is snow and ice and bitter temperatures. I don't believe it will alter their migration habits, and if it possibly could, IMHO, I think the ornithologists that study bird movements would have noticed it in feeder birds already.
Mitch Booth
Posts: 478
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:23 am
Location: Akron, OH
Martin Colony History: 2012 - 0
2013 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 2 fledged
2014 - 0
2015 - 1 pair, 5 died during week of rain
2016 - 0
2017 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 4 fledged
2018 - 4 pair, 19 eggs, 19 fledged
2019 - 7 pair
2020 -

Thank you everyone. I agree too and hopefully one day I'll have an active colony that I may be able to help as well. I was just curious as to what people thought. After all I think PM's are one of the only birds that almost nests exclusively in man-made housing.

Mitch
Mitch Booth
Posts: 478
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:23 am
Location: Akron, OH
Martin Colony History: 2012 - 0
2013 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 2 fledged
2014 - 0
2015 - 1 pair, 5 died during week of rain
2016 - 0
2017 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 4 fledged
2018 - 4 pair, 19 eggs, 19 fledged
2019 - 7 pair
2020 -

Thank you everyone. I agree too and hopefully one day I'll have an active colony that I may be able to help as well. I was just curious as to what people thought. After all I think PM's are one of the only birds that almost nests exclusively in man-made housing.

Mitch
The Olsons
Posts: 3200
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:57 pm
Location: North Padre Island, TX

I will always try to save a martin, no matter what it takes. I will not watch a martin or more starve to death. I know it is a heated subject, but I do not think it should be...If you invite the martins to your backyard then you should treat them like guests and take care of them ALL the way...just my humble opinion :grin:
Love it or leave it~~~Astrid :-)
Matt F.
Posts: 3894
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

One observation.
There are some that theorize that supplemental feeding may cause the Martins to return earlier, than they would otherwise.
What seems to counter this, is folks that do supplementally feed, do not seem to have their Martins returning any earlier, than folks with comparable sized colonies, that have never fed their Martins.
If feeding did cause the Martins to return earlier than normal, we would see the supplementally fed colonies, consistently reporting back the earliest arrivals.
This just doesn't seem to be the case though.
KathyF
Posts: 3518
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

Matt - good point. One other point I'll make - I've been watching our local weather reports obsessively the last few days. One thing I noticed last night is that we are 20-30 degrees (varies by day) BELOW our average highs of 63 over the last 4 days and the rest of this week.

Even if the martins were early - they certainly don't have knowledge of changing weather patterns that are not the "norm". :lol:
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
Doug Martin - PA
Posts: 1919
Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2004 10:47 am
Location: Pennsylvania/Fombell
Martin Colony History: First pair in 2009 after 28 years of trying. 3 pairs 2010, 17 pairs 2011 and 35-45 pairs since. Many additional colonies are now springing up around mine in an area once completely void of Martins. I offer 50 compartments at my site consisting of primarily Excluder II gourds on Gemini racks. Also a wooden T-14. I utilize electric fence type predator guards on the base of the poles. Supplemental feeding is crucial in maintaining my colony. I platform feed throughout the season as needed. My site tends to be a stop over point for additional birds as they migrate further north.

All the landlords in Western PA supplemental feed.

They are late this year due to the cold weather. Feeding them does not make them come early. Age does however.
Supplemental feeding plays a major role in western Pennsylvania. Finally got my 1st pair in 2009 after 28 years of effort. 3 pairs in 2010. 17 pairs in 2011. 35 pairs and 150 young in 2012 & 2013. Plus a new 22 pair colony right down the road from me.
TX Rehabber
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2010 2:38 pm
Location: Texas/Rowlett

I’ve been reading for sometime the posts regarding “supplemental feeding” for some time now and there are some very valid points on the subject. I would like to add my “2 cents”.

Thousands of Rehabilitators across the Country have been taking in “Thousands” of sick & injured birds migratory and non-migratory and providing “supplemental feeding” for however long there have been Rehabilitators. The whole idea is to provide medical care, warmth and food
until they are healthy enough for re-release.

Those of you that provide supplemental feeding, IMHO aren’t doing anything different than what we do. These are “Adult” birds and know how to feed themselves and seek shelter. You are only providing extra food and sometimes extra warmth and housing, until weather conditions change and they are able to continue to care for themselves, naturally.

If supplemental feeding changes the way any bird would or would not migrate early or late or change the way any bird would naturally feed, then we as Rehabilitators are doing great harm to all species whether it be birds or mammals. IMHO

The real harm comes when the general public takes babies from nest or find them on the ground whether they are hatchlings, nestlings or fledglings and hand raise them thinking as soon as they can fly, they can be released into the wild. . Some believe that the baby birds have to be “taught” how to fly. This is also false. To quote a very “well known” 30 yr permitted rehabilitator: “Birds are born knowing how to fly; it’s just having the right equipment to do it with”.

Martins, Flycatchers, other Swallows, etc., learn from their parents and other adult birds how to catch food on-the-wing. As Rehabilitators, we can’t teach these birds how to do this, but instinct does “kick-in” and when they are in large flight cages outside, anything that flies into the cage or is released into the cage, doesn’t have a chance. Our fledgling Martins are always released into established Colonies.

There are three criteria for release that must be met by juvenile birds:
1. They must be able to recognize 3 types of natural food and feed themselves.
2. They must be afraid of people.
3. They must be able to “waterproof” themselves.

Raptors must be able to kill and consume their prey on 3 consecutive days.
Vultures must recognize different types of “road kill” and consume it.

Otherwise, birds ONLY recognize humans as their food source, will not hunt, starve and die of hypothermia if wet.
Penny Halstead
Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
972-225-4000

LANDLORD BY PROXY
State & Federal Sub-permitted Rehabilitator
2009 - Received 150 Nestlings/Fledglings for Rehab Released: 102
2011 - Received 173 Nestlings/Fledglings/Adults for Rehab Released: 133
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

I'm the Grinch that stole Christmas around here.

What really got me started on this was a statement that those who "love" their purple martins must necessarily feed them, or words to that effect.

Besides the inherent loopiness of the statement, it completely miscasts the reality of the species and does not reflect the conditions under which the vast majority of the martin populations actually breed.

A couple of statements to clear up the disinfo....

1) There is no question in songbirds that the timing and direction of migration is primarily genetic, ie inherited from the parents.

2) There is no question that a certain percentage of any given population of purple martins have ALWAYS returned too early and perished.

The timing and direction of migration differs with different martins populations in different areas of the country. In any given region it is maintained by a finely-tuned dance of death vs successful reproduction. Those coming too early are obvious, those coming too late and not finding a cavity or losing young to heat are not so obvious.

If we could feed every martin in the whole population it would indeed be a catastrophe. Can supplemetal feeding of a significant part of a songbird population alter the inherited migration patterns? Yes, and I have given studies.

There are regions where in recent decades no martin colonies can exist WITHOUT supplemental feeding. The martin populations in these areas are necessarily small. For example, based upon looking at hundreds of area housing sites, I can conservatively estimate that there are at least 300 breeding pairs of martins within a four-mile radius of where I sit typing this. At least nine out of ten of these pairs will be breeding in sparrow-infested housing.

Possibly more martins in just one small part of my city then are found across some whole states up North. The reason for this is simple.... climate.

As for the efforts of rehabbers; this is mostly an ethical issue. Except possibly in the case of a few critically endangered species, the efforts of rehabbers have no noticeable effect on the population of any given species anywhere. Partly this is because, just like resposible martin landords, qualified rehabbers are so few relative to the whole wild bird populations. Also, in most cases, the ultimate fate of the rehabbed birds after release is unknown.

For example, two years back in winter I found a starving and injured juvenile red-tailed hawk on the ground in some woodlands. Several of its flight feathers were broken as if it had been in a scuffle of some kind,
its breast bone was prominent, indicating starvation.

This sort of thing is typical of hawks, MOST of the young raptors in any given population starve to death or are killed by other raptors during their first year and only a minority survive to become adults. I did bring this hawk to a raptor rehab, so presumably it got a second chance, whether it ultimately made good after release I dunno.

Mortality (death) is a normal part of wild bird populations, in very many cases carrying off more than half of them each year. Martins also naturally suffer that sort of mortality.

Mike Scully
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
John Miller
Posts: 4766
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Mike, Mitch

I think we ask the wrong question on this issue -- whether supplemental feeding will cause more birds to come back even earlier.

The questions I ask are:

Should I do a small part to help maintain a more stable population of martins in my region of the country, so that we can keep human interest in the hobby alive too?

Should I try save my early martins so my housing fills and the martins that come in the following weeks will help found new colonies at new sites?

Since I think purple martin tradition is something very special, I answer yes to these questions. It's not about saving five or six birds. It's just more.

John M
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Good points... 8)


But....

[/quote]It's not about saving five or six birds. [/quote]

Yes it is, if you're saving five or six birds.



As practiced, supplemental feeding is essentially so small-scale as to be harmless to the species. This is unlikely to change anytime soon. It is satisfying to humans, who develop an emotional bond with their martins,.

This can go on forever I know :roll:

Mike Scully
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Doug Martin - PA
Posts: 1919
Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2004 10:47 am
Location: Pennsylvania/Fombell
Martin Colony History: First pair in 2009 after 28 years of trying. 3 pairs 2010, 17 pairs 2011 and 35-45 pairs since. Many additional colonies are now springing up around mine in an area once completely void of Martins. I offer 50 compartments at my site consisting of primarily Excluder II gourds on Gemini racks. Also a wooden T-14. I utilize electric fence type predator guards on the base of the poles. Supplemental feeding is crucial in maintaining my colony. I platform feed throughout the season as needed. My site tends to be a stop over point for additional birds as they migrate further north.

Scully,

Probably the only thing detrimental to the process of supplemental feeding is you confusing people here that it causes harm.

If it is so "insignificant" then let it go and let people make up their own mind, without you making them think it is wrong or will cause a catastrophe to the species.

You are doing no good to the species by offering no more than an opinion as to what it may cause. Post your comments on a starling forum. Not on a forum structured to nurture, manage and help educate people on the management of the species.

I suggest you spend some time in a region that uses extensive supplemental feeding and study behavior, population and arrival times for years before you come to your conclusions.

I have been around it for almost 10 years. I don't claim to be an expert or a scientist. I do have a brain however. It's not done to make anyone "feel good" up here, it's done to keep them alive during extended cold periods.

I could be rude but I won't do that. :) You are insulting some people with your comments and confusing others. I will leave it at that.

If you check on the PA scout map for western PA they did not come early this year from feeding them. They will be late this year due to the cold. Not early because they were fed.

Doug
Last edited by Doug Martin - PA on Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Supplemental feeding plays a major role in western Pennsylvania. Finally got my 1st pair in 2009 after 28 years of effort. 3 pairs in 2010. 17 pairs in 2011. 35 pairs and 150 young in 2012 & 2013. Plus a new 22 pair colony right down the road from me.
bwenger
Posts: 1037
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2005 7:24 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Espyville/Pymatuning Reservoir Area
Martin Colony History: Taking care of 11 active public colonies and trying to start two more in northwestern PA. Also attempting to restart another one in southwestern PA, in Collier Township's Hilltop Park. In 2017, not sure what happened but the ASY male returned and then a couple of weeks later he was gone. It could have been weather related. No other birds showed up. I had a starling nesting at the Public site that I had trouble getting rid of.
In 2018, we fledged 629 martins at all of the sites.

Supplemental feeding

We may not want to forget on how supplemental feeding may effect the different areas of the country and at different times. Now this is coming from a martin wannabe that maintains two public colonies that have been in existence for over a decade. This will be my seventh year of trying to start my own colony.

A short history of this area. Hurricane Agnus came through here in 1972 and killed off just about every PM in the eastern Ohio and western PA area. Most of the old farms in the areas have wooden martin houses that are falling apart with neglect. After the hurricane went through, they must have got tired of fighting the starlings and sparrows for years, without seeing any martins, since the martins were just not here.

It has taken decades to get a population that we now have. Doug Martin and another local landlord, Bob Allnock have been trying for 25-30 years to get martins at their locations. They have great locations, there were just not enough martins around to start new colonies, until recently. They now have colonies, thanks to some of the local diehards, Roy Bauder, Duke Snyder, Ken Kostka, Andy Troyer and the PMCA itself.

From what I have been through, just being a regular landlord wanting to help the PM population, I have done more supplemental feeding in the month of May, than I have done in April.

Memorial Day weekend of 2008, as I was just taking over the care of the sites, we came across 50-70 PM's lined up on branches and the housing huddled together, 10-15 on the ground, barely able to fly, and did they come to life to take supplemental feeding after 30-40 tosses. I believe that was one of the first times that they had ever been fed. Not only did they eat 400-500 crickets that day, they also consumed about 3 dozen of eggs. The next day when we showed up, they knew who I was. They fed again vigorously that day, and by the next day, the weather changed and they were on their own. Not all of them fed those two days, but we collected them that day and in the next couple of days, from the ground or from the housing. The birds that survived went on to have a very successful nesting year. Had it not been for those feedings, there probably would have been over 100 less fledges that year, as well as 50 or so adults that may not have made it.

In 2009, the Midwest, including Pa, had a very bad year, weather affected us again, this time in late June and early July. Thousands of nestlings died in the nests due to days of rain and wind. This caught most landlords by surprise, and little feeding had been done during this time.

Last year, we were feeding martins on Mother's Day weekend. That was the first time that the second colony at the Wildlife Management Area started taking crickets. We went on to have a very successful year.

We definitely do not want to hurt the long term survival of the species, but in the northern states, it seems that feeding birds on those bad days, are just worth it for the general health of the species, as well as for the landlords.

Now whether the Southern landlords have these weather problems to the same extent as in the North, I am not sure, but it seems that the number of martins available to start colonies in the South seem to be so much higher than in the North.

Looking to start my own colony after keeping some birds alive last year by supplemental feeding! :grin:

Bill
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Probably the only thing detrimental to the process of supplemental feeding is you confusing people here that it causes harm.

If it is so "insignificant" then let it go and let people make up their own mind, without you making them think it is wrong or will cause a catastrophe to the species.

You are doing no good to the species by offering no more than an opinion as to what it may cause. Post your comments on a starling forum. Not on a forum structured to nurture, manage and help educate people on the management of the species.
Opinions were asked, I gave mine, and as on prior occasions gave supporting arguments backed by what is pretty much the common level of knowledge in Ornithology.

Neither have I told anyone NOT to feed, just attempted to put the practice in a larger context.

Certainly there is a powerful selection pressure among martins to return early, apparently for a competitive edge in finding nest sites. If we accept that the time of return is genetic, and therefore by definition inherited from the parents, how then is artificially enhacing the survival of early arrivals NOT changing the gene pool?

Unless.... the level of feeding is insignificant relative to the numbers of martins as a whole, as it appears to be.

If one lives in an area of the country where martins are subjected to massive weather-related regional die-offs on a regular basis, it must be accepted that the species is not well adapted to that area and that its continued presence there will extend only as long as the martins in that region are artificially fed, and only in those locations where such feeding is practiced.

I dunno how this simple logic somehow makes me "anti-martin" or whatever.

Mike Scully
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

I agree with Doug on this.

About the common level of knowledge in Ornithology, I have serious doubts about some of that, to quote those people leaves a bit to be desired on a purple martin forum, such as taking a wounded sparrow or starling to a rehabber which occured a few years back.. I have my own beliefs after having martins for about 43 years.
This reminds me a whole lot of the sevin debate.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
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