Between 340 And 350 Pairs Of Purple Martins

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Between 340 And 350 Pairs Of Purple Martins

It appears my current purple martin colony may attain the largest size I have ever had in the over 45 years I have hosted martins. I have been carefully studying my various housing systems and conducting select nest checks. This is a daunting task since I have 22 systems and 392 available cavities. Presently, I believe I have between 340 and 350 pairs of martins and the estimate I arrived at was 343. That yields an occupancy level of about 88%. SY males are still arriving and trying to establish territory in the remaining empty cavities. So the final total may go higher.

As mentioned previously I have 22 housing systems and 392 cavities. All my housing has round holes as the martins prefer them, there are no entrapments and there are few starling issues which are easily controlled via shooting/trapping. I am using 18 various gourd racks, including circular and crossbar styles and Troyer Horizontals with cling plates and tunnels/porches, Troyer Verticals with tunnels/porches, Super Gourds, and Excluder Gourds with inside/outside porches. There are 340 gourds.

I have four aluminum house systems including two Trendsetters on separate poles and two Trio M-12s and two Sunset Inns with each pair on multi-purpose poles. These comprise 52 compartments.

Next year I may start downsizing my martin colony and reducing the number of housing systems. Though a 300+ pair martin colony is an awesome phenomenon, it is a lot of work and the more martins that are concentrated in an area can increase some of the negative aspects of hosting martins. There are more violent gang rapes of females by ASY males, greater possible food supply issues during droughts, and more incidents of infanticide by single SY males. Every year I build several hundred pre-nests and that is a job in itself!

Fortunately the plastic gourds and aluminum houses I use are well constructed and require little maintenance themselves. I have Super Gourds I bought MANY years ago from the PMCA when they were first available and these gourds still look good. They are almost indestructible though I have replaced some of the access port caps. So using good quality martin housing does help in the maintenance department!

Though a huge super martin colony does attract winged predators and my colony is a magnet for Accipiter hawks and merlins in particular, an interesting “predation paradox” exists. Large colonies can usually absorb predation losses easily and there are so many martins that the predators can’t eat them all. These losses may be replaced quickly. Also, there are “more eyes” watching for predators and the large number of martins helps to “immunize” the individual from predation. It is better to be with several hundred martins when an Accipiter hawk attacks and reduce “your” chances of being caught than be by “yourself” or with a smaller group and increase your chances of being taken!

After this martin season ends, I will start thinking seriously about this issue of downsizing and see where I want to go. I may just eliminate about a third of my housing, but I would still have a super colony! Decisions, decisions! But I know I will NOT be adding any more housing though I may replace systems.

We have a great open location, abundant martin population, few starlings and house sparrows, good quality martin housing, and the martins receive excellent care! They are well protected! We are living in purple martin paradise in northwest Louisiana and nearly anyone can have a large martin colony if the location is open and the martins are protected from competitors and predators.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
TheCav-MO
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:56 pm
Location: Missouri/Macon

I bet that is a sight to see, and hear. Must be lots of work though too taking care of that many gourds every year.
eyeamtheman
Posts: 633
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 3:21 pm
Location: Quitman, La
Martin Colony History: Super colony

Guess the bad drought last year didn't have quite as bad an impact as you originally thought, which is great. And I bet you could find someone happy to drive out to your place and buy what housing you don't wish to keep. I've seen your colony, and yes, it's pretty awesome, but that has GOT to be overwhelming at times. Congrats on your success...
Johnny
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey TheCav,

When I used a lot of natural gourds, the maintenance just got to be too much for me. I grew tired of painting and preparing natural gourds. Though naturals will probably always be my "favorite" martin cavity, I no longer use them. I have found that good quality plastic gourds like the Super Gourd, Excluder, and Troyer Gourds are just as attractive to martins and raise just as many babies.

When the martins fledge their young and bring them back to roost in the evenings, there must well over a thousand roosting in my colony. My gourd racks will be covered with roosting fledglings.

I hope you are having a great martin season.

Steve


Hey Johnny,

Yes, I am about ready to downsize! I just got figure out how I want to do it.

I would probably give a lot of my systems away rather than sell them. I like to help other folks who are interested in martins and I have given other martin housing away in the past. Bob does the same thing.

I know you are doing well this year with your colony! I believe the last time we talked you thought you had between 50 and 60 pairs of martins. You still have much of May to attract more martins to your colony.

Good luck.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Donnie Hurdt MN
Posts: 1722
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:14 pm
Location: North Prairie, MN

Steve When you downsize, please send your overflow martins my mailing address would you? :) I could sure use some around here. So far this spring I have seen only one ASY male at my site and that was a couple of weeks ago. I am not giving up hope, I diddent get my subbie pair till the end of may last year so there is still plenty of time.
PMCA member and Martin fanatic....
2011 A pair of subbies fledged three young but none returned in 2012 :-(
2015 One Pair of subbies came and stayed a few nits but got chased away by Bluebirds and Tree swallows. :-(
2017 0ne pair of subbies nested and fledged 4 young
2018 Tree Swallows AGAIN chased away any martins that wanted to nest :evil:
2019 Same old story................ :-(
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Donnie,

I remember last year when you shared that great news with us that you had a pair of martins! I was real happy for you.

I believe you still have time to attract martins in your area and you probably have all through May and into June.

This evening we had a bunch of SY martins trying to roost. Maybe some of these martins will be heading farther north to your area.

I would be more than happy to send any overflow of martins from my colony to your site!

Good luck and keep us posted on how things go this season at your colony.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Paul Stein
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2004 7:28 am
Location: Georgia/LaGrange

Steve, always enjoy your posts and updates. I currently have 17 pair with 19 gourds total available. The noise wakes me up in the morning (not complaning) and I have several times thought what it must be like around your place!!! I am sure all the predators must be able to hear it from way off. Thanks for all you do for the martin population. I am sure a lot of people benefit from all the birds you and your neighbor raise each year. Paul Stein
tonyg
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:16 pm
Location: Olpe, KS
Martin Colony History: 22 year landlord, 14 at current residence..offering 9 racks and a homemade T-8 for 166 total cavities. 160 Pair in 2018 Racks consist of a Deluxe 12, AAA 16, Starburst 16, 2 K-18 Series, Super 24, 2 Gemini, Multi-purpose/two trio’s/4gourds and a T-8..Great hobby to be involved in..

Steve, first off, I can't phantom having and seeing that many Martins in one colony. The sight and sounds have to be from another planet. We are gonna have to re-categorize your colony from super to something like Super-duper-duper colony. :) Great numbers! I know there is a time when you have to say, enough is enough, and will have to down size. But you have given 45 yrs of your time to these wonderful birds and if they could speak, i'm sure they would tell you 'thank you" time and time again. As always, enjoy your posts..Tony.
22 year landlord..9 Rack Systems for 2018 and my home built T-8 for a total of 166 cavities..160 pair in 2018 ..SUPER COLONY!!! Love You Bev... Fan of those St. Louis Cardinals!!!!!
Scott D.- La
Posts: 823
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:35 am
Location: Louisiana

Congrats on the good number's Steve. It does not appear the drought impacted you as bad as you first thought it might. As for as downsizing..................hum.....................We will have to wait and see on that one :)
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Paul,

Our martins have been dawn singing though these vocalizations have been slowing down since more of the martins' eggs have hatched. It is so loud around my colony in the morning darkness that I can hear the vocalizations through my close house windows. It is these nocturnal vocalizations that may bring in a most uninvited guest: a barred or great horned owl. Owls can easily pick up these vocalizations from long distances.

During the day the martins are just as loud much to the delight of Accipiter hawks and merlins! Migrating raptors have NO difficulty keying in on these vocalizations and then seeing all that food!

I appreciate your kind remarks! We do raise many martins at our two personal colonies and at our satellite sites. I hope that these martins seed many colonies in northwest Louisiana and east Texas and bring the joys of hosting martins to other folks.

I hope you are having a great martin season.

Steve

Hey Tony,

Thanks for those kind words! Even if I eliminate a third of my current colony, there will still be PLENTY of martins! I will still have my hands full taking care of these martins.

I know your colony is doing well this season based on your martin updates. All that upgrading of gourd racks has paid off!

I hope you have a great martin season and raise many babies!

Steve

Hey Scott,

I am still puzzled about the terrible drought of 2011 and what impact it has or has not had on this martin season. Initially I did not see as many SY martins in April. But during the last week of April and now into early May, we have had a large influx. There are a number of single SY male martins trying to force their way into full or almost full gourd racks and houses. A lot of fighting is happening and there are many vulnerable martin nestlings which are at risk from these SY males.

I am still seriously thinking about downsizing, but I could always change my mind. I mainly want to consolidate my various housing systems into fewer ones and that may mean using more Geminis and Super Systems to substitute for the many smaller racks I have. I just need to get focused and determine what I want to do!

I know you are having a great martin season and please let us know how things are going.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
rrmartins
Posts: 1435
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:04 am
Location: Round Rock, TX

Pics please
2020
T14
7 pair
25 fledged
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