Purple Martin Update With Photos

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

Purple Martin Update With Photos

Our two personal purple martin colonies I (mine and my neighbor Bob) are doing well but they have endured a significant challenge from Mother Nature. This has been the coldest spring I have ever experienced and the first week in May was a potential egg disaster with record low temperatures. Hundreds of eggs in our colonies may have been adversely impacted by the cold weather and only time will tell if they hatch as usual or do not and the martins re-nest later. Several years ago we had a freeze during April and many eggs did not hatch but the martins re-nested. As of May 10, 2013 only a few pairs of martins have small nestlings. I usually have many more babies at this time.

This season I have 392 cavities and Bob has 244. We are using a combination of commercial plastic gourds, including Troyer Horizontals with tunnels/porches and with cling plates, Troyer Verticals, Super Gourds and Excluders. We also have various aluminum houses including Trio M-12s and Castles, Trendsetters, Coates Watersedge systems, and Lone Star Goliads. Our housing has round holes, can be lowered/raised by either winch or rope and pulley, and each pole is protected from rat snakes with net traps.

As of May 10, 2013, we probably have close to 500 or more pairs of martins between our two colonies. I believe I have over 300 pairs and Bob is possibly approaching 200. Bob erected 36 new gourds on two systems back in mid-April for the SY males and he attracted a bunch of them. However, I will have a better idea of our martin occupancy levels around the first of June.

SY male martins are still arriving and causing considerable stress to the permanent residents which fight these males all the time. The SY males readily enter unguarded nests and claim the cavity; it makes NO difference to the SY male if there are eggs or nestlings inside! When the rightful occupants return, a vicious battle often occurs and the SY males are always evicted even though they may fight hard. When small martin nestlings are in the cavities, some SY males will commit infanticide and throw the babies out and try to claim the territory and female.

I took some photos of my martin colony. The first three photos show sections of my colony and the remaining ones focus on individual systems.


Here is one section of my colony.

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Here is another section.

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And finally another section.

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This photo shows my 24 Gourd Super System. It is currently 100% occupied by martins. I use a combination of Troyer Horizontals and Excluder Gourds and try to have the holes facing different directions or spaced apart. This hanging arrangement may help to minimize nest domination issues though not stop it.

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This photo shows my Gemini gourd rack with 24 gourds. It currently has 22 pairs of martins and two gourds are being dominated by aggressive ASY martins. I like using a staggered approach with a Troyer Horizontal, then a vertical type like a Super Gourd or Excluder. I like the look and this can sometimes reduce nest domination since martins may tend to control multiple gourds that are similar.

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This photo shows my 36 Gourd Super System. I believe this rack currently has about 33 pairs of martins. There is still some nest domination going on. I am using a variety of gourd styles with horizontals and verticals suspended in different directions where applicable.

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This photo shows one of my 18 Gourd Deluxe racks with a variety of gourd types and cane pole perches attached by plastic zip ties for more perching space. This rack is currently 100% occupied by martins. All my Deluxe type racks have cane pole perches attached to the gourd hanging rods. This additional perching space may make these type racks even more attractive.

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This photo shows my new K 24 Gourd rack with Troyer Horizontals with tunnels/porches. I also have cane pole perches attached to the hanging rods. These cane poles provide more perching space. This system has some nest domination issues but I believe there are around 20 pairs of martins in residence. When I took this photo, a pair of cardinals decided to land on the top perch!

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This photo shows one of my AAA 16 Gourd racks with a variety of gourd styles. It is currently 100% occupied by martins. I have two more AAA systems and both are fully occupied by martins.

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Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
phldave
Posts: 513
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:44 pm
Location: Iowa/Pleasant Hill
Martin Colony History: Started trying in 2012 and still trying

Steve,

Great looking set up. I can tell you really love martins. Send some of those hell raisers up my way. I have a new site with 12 vacancies. Can't wait for the excitement.

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

Hey Dave,

Yes, I like my purple martins a lot! I do many things for them to ensure they are successful and happy!

We are being invaded by SY males today and they are constantly looking for trouble! Vicious fights are occurring between SY males and between SY males and ASY males. The martins battle all the way to the ground and they stay there, rolling over and over in the grass.

I wish I could send a bunch of these trouble makers to you! They are eager to establish territory and find a mate.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
pmcharter1
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:59 pm
Location: iowa/madrid

Dave,
nice set up, how in the world do u you keep up with nest cks with almost 400 cavities???, i have 32 cant keep up, especilly with supplimental feeding this spring as cold as its been, im scrambling eggs as we speak as its going to get in the 30s in iowa the next few days for lows. you have an impressive colony,thank you for doing what you do to ensure their survival
Donnie Hurdt MN
Posts: 1717
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:14 pm
Location: North Prairie, MN

Steve, I can relate to you about the cold spring. Just a few minuts ago we had a iceball/snow shower come through here. Temp is in the 30's Yesterday morning the ground was white with frost. I havent even put up any martinhousing in my yard yet, but will do so this weekend the subbies are starting to arrive here in Mn. I should open up my Chimney Swift towers too.
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................ :-(
rrmartins
Posts: 1420
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:04 am
Location: Round Rock, TX

Very nice setup, looks like a great colony you have there.
2019
T14
7 pair
25 fledged
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey pmcharter1,

Yes, it is impossible to conduct detailed and frequent nest checks on my 392 cavities! I try to focus on select checks to look for problems or if I notice that something may be wrong.

One of the negative aspects of having a mega super martin colony is that the landlord will often have a difficult time conducting nest checks. There are just too many cavities and too many martins.

I hope you have wonderful martin season in spite of the terrible cold weather that has not only plagued the north but the south, too.

Steve

Hey Donnie,

I just don't see how folks up north can survive those cold snowy winters! I have lived in the Deep South all my life and I can sweat better than I can shake! I don't think I could make it through one of your winters, Donnie!

I remember the excitement when you posted you had attracted your first pair of martins a couple of seasons ago. I was so happy for you. Hopefully you will be able to attract some martins this season and share the good news with us.

I have seen a few chimney swifts in our area. I feel sorry for the swifts as they have such a hard time finding a place to nest it seems. Many folks don't have the "appropriate" type chimneys or they cap the tops to keep the swifts out.

Steve

Hey rrmartins,

Thanks for those nice comments. My martin colony set-up has changed a lot over the years as I have added, changed and replaced housing. It seems I do something different every year.

I hope you have a wonderful martin season.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
pmcharter1
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:59 pm
Location: iowa/madrid

Steve, your housing is amazing, love what you do.im in the middle of a gourd transformation, to add to my colony, , i started a project, all tunnells are done, gourds vented, but i designed my rack, waiting for my welder buddy to show up sat and weld mt 3/8ths threaded rods to my collar that slides over my 2'' square pole that fits in the ground adapters, i wont be as big as yours-ha, but ths will add to my trios, 12 gourds each pole .
pm charter1
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