What is killing our Purple Martins - News Article

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Susquatch
Posts: 58
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:51 pm
Location: Ontario/Blenheim

Today, the "Windsor Star" newspaper (Windsor Ontario Canada) carried a story titled "What's Killing Ontario's Purple Martins". The article also appeared in several other major Canadian newspapers. The Windsor article appears to be a story pickup from the Ottawa Citizen (A major paper published in Canada's Capital City - Ottawa, Ontario. I will not include a link for fear of copywrite infringement. But forum members can google "What killing purple martins ottawa citizen" to find and read the article.

Apparently some folks at the university of Manitoba, York University, and Nature Canada are conducting a study that will equip an army (65) of martins with GPS units to follow their travels.

I will not comment on the researcher's qualifications, the credibility of the study or its approach. Members can read and form their own opinions.

However, I do find it interesting to read the writer's report of a major decline in martin numbers in recent years. Several large colony landlords in my area have noticed such a decline. Others major colonies have not noticed anything. My own colony is much too small and too new to be credible or statistically valid. I had one pair last year and I have two this year so far (see also my post on "SubAdults arriving late?").

I thought members would be interested and would love to hear your views.

Funny that The PurpleMartin Organization is not mentioned and does not appear to be involved.

Cheers!
The best way to repay a favour is to pass it on.
Hanover Bill
Posts: 615
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Hi Susquatch;

I just finished reading the article in the Windsor Star. It is certainly an eye opener to any Purple Martin Landlord. The decline in Martin numbers in Ontario is alarming to say the least. Whatever the cause, it must be determined, and steps to correct it must be taken, for the good of all of us.

Kudos to the dedicated people who are undertaking the research project in order to determine what is behind the decline. I'm sure all of us here on the Forum wish them the best of luck.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

Susquatch, including a link to an article should not cause any problems with copyright issues, etc - newspapers like links, they bring more readers to their sites: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-new ... es-decline

York University (Dr Bridget Stutchbury) and University of Manitoba (Dr Kevin Fraser) continue to lead the way on studies of songbird migration tracked with geolocators. We've been very fortunate to work with them both, since 2007, and the work is continuing.

We're glad that Nature Canada is partnering with them on some work in Ontario. Ellis Bird Farm in Alberta has also worked with Dr Fraser: http://www.ellisbirdfarm.ca/resources/g ... -research/ as has a martin group in Camrose, Alberta. There are so many good projects going on!

British Columbia has also done an independent geolocator project: http://www.saveourmartins.org/migrationstudy.html
DornCounty
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .
.
Trio-Jedi

Maybe it's available somewhere.. but is there anyway that population trends are documented via martinwatch? martinwatch takes a pretty sizeable sample.
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

Martinwatch data is not all available online yet - a good source of information is, though - the Breeding Bird Survey data collected by US and Canadian wildlife agencies since the late 1960s.

This link is for Purple Martins: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/at ... 06110&1&12

Click on a state or province for a graph of the data, here's Ontario: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/graphs12/s06110ONT.png
DornCounty
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .
.
Trio-Jedi

Louise Chambers wrote:Martinwatch data is not all available online yet - a good source of information is, though - the Breeding Bird Survey data collected by US and Canadian wildlife agencies since the late 1960s.

This link is for Purple Martins: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/at ... 06110&1&12

Click on a state or province for a graph of the data, here's Ontario: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/graphs12/s06110ONT.png
Thanks louise. I wasn't necessarily asking for public info.. just more curious if as to Martinwatch data was showing the same symptoms.

I run a BBS route here in KS and honestly it is only really valid data for exceptionally common species. But I'm not a scientist.. just an amateur.
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
Jose Rodriguez
Posts: 692
Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:34 am
Location: FL/Belleview

PMCA Member
"Keep Calm and It Will Happen"
Ryan
Posts: 281
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:19 pm
Location: Eganville, Ontario
Martin Colony History: Visitors are rare. Three SY males seen in 10 years.

I was told about that article by two different people in the last couple days. It's nice to see something local going on with the birds.

I'm in a huge area with no martin colonies left. Here though, I believe a big reason is no housing, or the old housing simply falling apart or getting grown up in trees after the previous generation has moved on. Years back martins were plentiful in my town, but so were the houses. Now I don't believe there are any nesting within the county which is 2800 square miles. I've searched for years and haven't found any. In that county, there is only one or two really well built and located houses as well, and those are probably full of starlings or sparrows.

A few cold springs have probably hurt numbers and all of the old colonies were un-managed and not as understood as we know now with the large amount of info and further studies.

It will be nice to see how the GPS info plays out.
Home site: 12 cedar chalets - Plus two satellite sites which are also empty.
2010- 1 SY male on and off for a couple weeks
2011- 0 visits
2012- 0 visits
2013- 0 visits
2014- 1 SY male stopped in here and there for two weeks.
2015- 0 visits
2016- 0 visits
2017- 0 visits
2018- 0 visits
2019- Break-through year. Had a SY Male stop in on June 7th and stay all day, every day until end of June and built a nest. Hoping he returns in 2020 because I'm getting tired of updating this list.
John Balga
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:13 pm
Location: Essex, Essex County, Ontario
Martin Colony History: 2012-69 pairs
2015- 3 pair at new home colony
2016-6 pair at home colony-1 ASY FEMALE banded from Andy Troyer colony
2017-17 pair at home colony
2018-38 pair at home colony
2019-47 pair at home colony

Susquatch,

I just wanted to shed some light on your Windsor Observation as well as bring this post to your attention. The Ontario Purple Martin Association/Ontario Purple Martin Working group as well as the Holiday Beach Migratory Organization were involved in the Walpole Island Purple Martin Geolocator project with Patrick Kramer (York University) Kevin Fraser( Manitoba University) as well as the PMCA through John Tautin in getting this project going. WE WORKED TOGETHER TO CAPTURE THE MARTINS AND BAND THEM AS WELL AS PARTICIPATE IN THE TRAINING PROGRAM.

The post is found on our website:
http://essexpurplemartins.ca/first-geol ... e-maartin/

If you have problems finding it just go to the Ontario Purple Martin Association front page.

I believe Patrick and his assistant left Walpole Island to go to Ottawa thereafter.

The Ontario Purple Martin Group has been involved for over three years now in bringing this to the forefront. I believe it just takes larger groups longer to muster the forces to realize what we have been noticing since this was brought to everyone's attention in 2005. Prior to this endeavor bank swallows, chimney swifts and barn swallows have taken the lead and they are now just addressing the martin.

The purple martin working group (Walpole Island) has been involved in reestablishing colonies and looking for roosts:
http://ontariopurplemartins.ca/ontario/

OPMA have banded over 1000 adults and fledgling in the last week from Niagara Falls to Morpeth to Forest to Holiday Beach to Norwich and Essex County to see how many may return next year and to see how colony our numbers have been effected. This has been an unusual year for weather, martin returns and insect numbers for the martins travelling to Ontario. Members say that their numbers are down but we notice too that the fledgling numbers seem to be down in certain areas as well. We have been fielding questions from people all over Ontario including Nature Canada.

We too are searching for the causes but we are still no further ahead at this time and can only guess at what the reasons may be. Every colony in Ontario seems to have its own set of difficulties: predator issues, HOSP concerns as well as weather related anamolies.

Hope this clarifies another point of view as to how all are involved along with PMCA in searching for clues to this problem. Many thanks to Patrick and his crew for a great job at Walpole Island.

Let us know if we can be of any help to you in Blenheim as we do band martins in Charring Cross and Morpeth.
John Miller
Posts: 4768
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Sounds like the Ontario Purple Martin Group is doing a great job, but if overall numbers of managed colonies are dropping, this might account for a drop in numbers at some managed colonies, despite their best efforts.

Only 10 to 20 percent of fledglings return to natal sites, according the banding studies.

One of the best ways to help assure one's colony remain strong and healthy is to help one's neighbors.

Whether this is the cause of decline in Ontario -- I don't know -- but it's the most simple answer.

Now about helping neighbors. I've had some simple field day or "open house" events each year, some more successful than others in attendance. One key is getting the local newspaper to run some notice in advance to try to reach a very scattered audience of folks who do have interest. It's harder than ever -- fewer people read papers and getting stuff on-line may help, but I doubt "purple martin" is a top search term. Call, bug and do what one has to do to get out an advance notice in the local paper at least; probably easier in smaller communities, and then just show off the martins. They sell themselves.

John M
Susquatch
Posts: 58
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:51 pm
Location: Ontario/Blenheim

I am so glad I started this thread. What a great series of responses and what a wonderful group of people you all are. I have learned so much. And so much more to learn.
The best way to repay a favour is to pass it on.
Susquatch
Posts: 58
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:51 pm
Location: Ontario/Blenheim

John Balga wrote:The Ontario Purple Martin Group has been involved for over three years now in bringing this to the forefront. I believe it just takes larger groups longer to muster the forces to realize what we have been noticing since this was brought to everyone's attention in 2005. Prior to this endeavor bank swallows, chimney swifts and barn swallows have taken the lead and they are now just addressing the martin.

The purple martin working group (Walpole Island) has been involved in reestablishing colonies and looking for roosts:
http://ontariopurplemartins.ca/ontario/

OPMA have banded over 1000 adults and fledgling in the last week from Niagara Falls to Morpeth to Forest to Holiday Beach to Norwich and Essex County to see how many may return next year and to see how colony our numbers have been effected. This has been an unusual year for weather, martin returns and insect numbers for the martins travelling to Ontario. Members say that their numbers are down but we notice too that the fledgling numbers seem to be down in certain areas as well. We have been fielding questions from people all over Ontario including Nature Canada.
I am actually located between Wheatley and Blenheim not far from Charing Cross Road. But like many places, the city on my mailing address is the nearest post office which is in Blenheim.

I did not know that there was an Ontario group focusing on Ontario issues. Thank you for that info. I have bookmarked the web sites and will stay tuned.

For the record, I am a relatively new landlord but an avid (big hairy) outdoorsman - hence the nickname which I have carried for all of my adult life. That said, I have envied purple martin landlords for 50 years - I just never owned a home in an environment that could host a condo until just recently. At my last home, I had a next door neighbour with a big colony - until he re-roofed his home (see another post). A close friend in Kingsville has had a colony for years. This is just my second season in Blenheim but things are going well in large part due to the advice and help I have obtained from this website and my general knowledge. I have always enjoyed hosting swallows of other types and a plethora of other birds and animals. My martin colony is growing quite quickly and I am even contemplating another condo for next year. Life doesn't get better than that!
The best way to repay a favour is to pass it on.
John Balga
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:13 pm
Location: Essex, Essex County, Ontario
Martin Colony History: 2012-69 pairs
2015- 3 pair at new home colony
2016-6 pair at home colony-1 ASY FEMALE banded from Andy Troyer colony
2017-17 pair at home colony
2018-38 pair at home colony
2019-47 pair at home colony

Patrick Kramer sent me two references on this topic worthy of follow-up reading.

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-new ... es-decline

http://www.thewhig.com/2014/07/13/purple-martin-mystery

Way to go Patrick on your work in Ontario....
Matt F.
Posts: 3895
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Those big Martins houses built by Peter Huszcz at the Nepean Sailing Club, are absolutely awesome!
John Balga
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:13 pm
Location: Essex, Essex County, Ontario
Martin Colony History: 2012-69 pairs
2015- 3 pair at new home colony
2016-6 pair at home colony-1 ASY FEMALE banded from Andy Troyer colony
2017-17 pair at home colony
2018-38 pair at home colony
2019-47 pair at home colony

I came across another article on perhaps another possible reason for their decline.....

http://www.windconcernsontario.ca/wind- ... re-canada/

HAVE A LOOK AT THIS CONCERN WITH THE ADVANCE OF WIND FARMS IN MARTIN AREAS.
sheila&dwayne
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:17 pm
Location: Bonnyville,Alberta,Canada

We have put up 6 houses now and will have 2 more next spring in and around Bonnyville. One new house had eggs in 10 days of being put up and in 2 years they are near full occupancy. Some of the locations are adding second houses. I think we could fill every house we put up. The martins have been nesting in metal roofs of businesses in town.

For those that are interested in the Purple Martins here they will be successful in attracting them. If you give them what they want your in. The problem is getting people interested and committed. you can't just put up a house and walk away, they do need our help(we have a massive HOSP problem). So we are trying up here in NE Alberta to help our Martins.

Fledging as we speak, Keep those houses going up and enjoy.
madattiver
Posts: 263
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 8:44 pm
Location: SK/Saskatoon
Martin Colony History: 12 unit North Star + 4 gourds
2014 - 1 pair
2015 - 1 pair
2016 - 1 pair + 1 sub male (until my female died)
2017 - 6 pair

What kind of houses are you putting up over in Ab? More of bob's north stars? Or something different?
Adam
Fifth Year Landlord
Sid T
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon May 05, 2014 1:23 pm
Location: WA/Snohomish

OK, here is my simple solution to the lack of martins, I live in Snohomish County, Washington. My solution, one word, bugs, lack thereof.

I built a 16 unit house and followed all the rules in its design. No martins came to live this spring. There seem to be martins along the coast and in some of the islands in BC. but not to far inland. Snohomish County is not very far inland. Some readers have answered my inquiries as to why not here with a variety of opinions and I thank them. But I believe it is the lack of food.

The farms around here have changed a lot in the last years. Gone are the small farms with their fence rows and unfarmed field corners. Gone are the small irrigated orchards. Gone are a lot of the small woodland copse. Grazing life stock of the small farmers seem to have gone with their manure piles in the tall grasses. Gone are a lot of the small swamps, the beaver ponds, the marshes and the dead trees that all birds depended on for food, nesting and protection from predators. These wet areas were where a lot of insects bred. Now it seems the farms are combined into large tracts, a thousand acres without a fence, the swamps, ponds and a lot of the wet lands have been filled in and now farmed over. Commercial farms spray their entire fields with round-up or something else that kills all the weeds and ground cover prior to planting. The spray also kills the bugs.

As I drive the graveled county roads I see beautiful totally manicured fields of grain and vegetables. But no weed patches or fence rows that provided cover for wild life and the insects that the martins and many other birds depended on for food. The cultivated crops do not seem to produce the insects. So to me the simple solution is lack of food, combined with the loss of habitat. The simple solutions are often is the best solutions. So to me what is killing them is starvation and loss of habitat.

Now we need a solution to produce, in quantity, food for all birds and wildlife. And it is not just the purple martins that are disappearing. The pheasant, quail and other game bird populations are shrinking too. In the big circle irrigated alfalfa fields the hens will lay their eggs and try to produce a covey of chicks. But if she leaves her nest to eat or drink and that big circle irrigation sprayer comes around and drenches the eggs with cold water that will kill that nest and its clutch of eggs. The hen will unknowingly set on the eggs but they will not hatch. The few chicks that manage to hatch will not find the small bugs they need to live on. The game birds are going also. Years ago I read a book by a lady whose name I have forgotten. The name of the book was "The Silent Spring." Are we getting there yet? JMHO Sid.
On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of those who on the dawn of victory, sat down to rest.
sheila&dwayne
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:17 pm
Location: Bonnyville,Alberta,Canada

We are using Bobs design for all the wooden houses up here. The Martins love them and bungalows too.
ToyinPA
Posts: 2126
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

Sid T wrote:OK, here is my simple solution to the lack of martins, I live in Snohomish County, Washington. My solution, one word, bugs, lack thereof.

Commercial farms spray their entire fields with round-up or something else that kills all the weeds and ground cover prior to planting. The spray also kills the bugs.

As I drive the graveled county roads I see beautiful totally manicured fields of grain and vegetables. But no weed patches or fence rows that provided cover for wild life and the insects that the martins and many other birds depended on for food. The cultivated crops do not seem to produce the insects. So to me the simple solution is lack of food, combined with the loss of habitat. The simple solutions are often is the best solutions. So to me what is killing them is starvation and loss of habitat.

JMHO Sid.
I agree. That spray is nasty stuff & the commercial variety is even stronger. Same reason we've lost over 50% of the Monarch Butterflies. No milkweed.

A normal summer you would drive down the road & your windshield would be plastered with bugs, you'd see they sky filled with them in the evening sunset, they'd swarm around street lights at night, you'd keep swatting them away as you sat on your porch, you'd hear bugs calling to each other at night, lots of bees & wasps would be buzzing from flower to flower.....not here this summer or last. Add in the gas companies draining down the creeks & rivers where many bugs hatch & well the scene plays out.

I am the only one who has a colony other than the Amish in my whole county. I just had that confirmed by a guy who bands birds & works for the Game Comission. I often wonder if I didn't flip crickets & make sure they had food on bad weather days if I'd keep having a colony.

We've become our own worse enemy, be it pollution or chemicals. We've past the time to take action. Our planet is a royal mess.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
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