Dehydration taking its toll :(

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Post Reply
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.

I have lost 7 chicks out of 18 to dehydration so far. I tried to save them but couldn't.

I have several other chicks that are dehydrated & I know they will not make it :(.

The parents just can't seem to find enough bugs to feed them. I have been flipping at least 400 crickets, twice a day, & hand feeding the chicks, but it just doesn't seem to be enough to keep them alive.

I also have 3 nests with eggs I know will not hatch. The cold snap back in May hit them shortly after they were laid.

I've lost 2 SY Females & 1 ASY Male.

What started as a great season is slipping away.

We've had a lot of rain this season. Temps have been warm & very humid here. There should be bugs, but there aren't many other than tons of flies.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
Thais G
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon May 05, 2014 6:37 pm
Location: CT/Darien
Martin Colony History: Started at unsuitable location in 2008. Many lessons learned since. Two tentative locations: Rogers International School and the "Fish Church" (downtown.) One pair in 2015; no fledglings though. No pairs 2016.

Hi Toy, do you find your dead birds in the cavities? I am wondering if I could have lost my pair to some other reason than the SY male pestering... although I do not think so.

Would I find dehydrated birds inside the compartments? on the ground? (I have not looked on the ground, I just assumed they left.)

So sorry about your losses...

Best,
Thais
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.

Thais G wrote:Hi Toy, do you find your dead birds in the cavities? I am wondering if I could have lost my pair to some other reason than the SY male pestering... although I do not think so.

Would I find dehydrated birds inside the compartments? on the ground? (I have not looked on the ground, I just assumed they left.)

So sorry about your losses...

Best,
Thais
Thais:

The adults I found dead....2 were female & in the cavities. I would guess egg binding or heart attack due to the males chasing them so much attempting to breed. It happens. The adult male....guessing it was a hawk.

The dehydrated chicks we usually find in the nests. Some will jump & then die on the ground. Dehydration is usually caused by lack of food.

I would guess your pair left due to the aggression from the SY Male you have.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
DornCounty
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .
.
Trio-Jedi

I just can't see how you would be having a dehydration issue right now. Surely there is something else going on.

Even in a spring with no rain there are still insects from water sources like ponds, lakes, & Rivers. Even the high altitude insects that ride the winds get pretty thick.

Is there a serious widespread drought up there?
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
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.

I have to agree with Dorn....sounds like you've got something else going on - I'm betting some type of predator is terrorizing your martins and they're just too traumatized (or dead) to feed...either hawks or owls.

Are you doing any monitoring at night? Might be worth setting up a game camera or something.....
You mentioned you've had rain, so there have to be bugs around. Another thought...unless they're spraying insecticides around your area. Not sure how you'd find that out....
"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
DornCounty
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .
.
Trio-Jedi

KathyF wrote:I have to agree with Dorn....sounds like you've got something else going on - I'm betting some type of predator is terrorizing your martins and they're just too traumatized (or dead) to feed...either hawks or owls.

Are you doing any monitoring at night? Might be worth setting up a game camera or something.....
You mentioned you've had rain, so there have to be bugs around. Another thought...unless they're spraying insecticides around your area. Not sure how you'd find that out....
yeah I had thought maybe a serious insecticide issue too. But man it would have to be majorly widespread usage.
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
pmlover
Posts: 806
Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:30 pm
Location: OH/New Concord

It is definitley not dehydration We have had the same weather here that you have.
You don't see that when the pms go out of sight the amount of insects that get. Ive watched them get over 200 within 2 minutes they are a fast and furious jet fighter. Somethingelse did in your birds and im very sorry for you
Dick
2015 69 pairs 418 eggs 396 fledged
2019 I have 148 openings now
2016 100 pairs 600 babies fledged added another t-14 and have 126 openings now
2015 Jun 24 360 babies and 58 eggs also found one that had died
2017 632 babies 11died and 20 were killed by hawks
2015 74 pairs and 9 eggs 5/14
2010 3pairss
]JOINED PMCA JUNE 6,2018
2018 651 babies 5 hawk kills 11 floater kills 25 died in houses and 610 fledged

2014 80 pairs 283 babies 282 fledged one died
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.

I live in town with tons of lights on all night long. There are no predators other than an rare hawk that flies over town. I haven't seen an owl in years, or any other wild animals in town other than rabbits.

When I say we have no bugs I mean no bugs. We sit outside & there are no mosquitoes, no bees, no big gnat swarms, only flies. Normally when you drive around your windshield is splatted with bugs. Not this summer. Hardly any on the windshields. We've had no June bugs or Mayflies here this year either. We should be seeing bugs under street lights at night. None.

The rain we've had has been pouring driving rain, not the slow soaking rain. Even tho we've had all this rain they say we are still in drought.

We watch the parents bring in food & all we see are tiny bugs being brought in. Almost no dragonflies, like there should be. If it were predators they'd eat the chicks or take them & they can't get in the holes. The chicks are dehydrated. Wrinkled stomachs, keel bones sticking out, thin across the chest & back.

Our small town is surrounded by corn & soybean fields. I am guessing it's the pesticides they have been using that has depleated the bug population.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
DornCounty
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .
.
Trio-Jedi

that is really odd Toy. To have that massive of a bug die off one would thing aerial insecticide would have to of been used on a massive scale.

Kansas is all wheat, bean, and corn fields. Interesting. Have you contacted any local state biologists? They may be interested in your report.
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
Doug Martin - PA
Posts: 1920
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.

Toy,

On the other hand I have never seen so many dragonflies gathered so quickly by Martins around here. The insects have been abundant here.

However I have had a few nest failures as well. Seems a few females have been gang chased until they have disappeared as well. This is a yearly problem however.

Have you changed out your nests and examined the contents. I have a very fast beetle looking bug this year in the nests and blowfly are also bad. Also a fat blood sucker that is not a blowfly that looks like a little black balloon. Wet nests provide a perfect place to grow these critters.

Seems I have similar issues here too but on a smaller scale. Most caused from wet nests. If you are seeing a lot of flies these are likely coming from the Martin nests. Look with binocular carefully and see if they are coming from your housing.

Doug

Doug
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.
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.

Doug Martin - PA wrote:Toy,

On the other hand I have never seen so many dragonflies gathered so quickly by Martins around here. The insects have been abundant here.

However I have had a few nest failures as well. Seems a few females have been gang chased until they have disappeared as well. This is a yearly problem however.

Have you changed out your nests and examined the contents. I have a very fast beetle looking bug this year in the nests and blowfly are also bad. Also a fat blood sucker that is not a blowfly that looks like a little black balloon. Wet nests provide a perfect place to grow these critters.

Seems I have similar issues here too but on a smaller scale. Most caused from wet nests. If you are seeing a lot of flies these are likely coming from the Martin nests. Look with binocular carefully and see if they are coming from your housing.

Doug

Doug
Doug:
We have changed nests 2-3 times & saw a few blowfly larva at the first change. In past years they were worse. Nests get messy when chicks are sick, poop is runny, so we change them out. Nest were not wet from rain.

Normally late afternoon when the sun is starting to go down you can see large hatches of gnats, flying ants, etc. You normally would see moths, millers, bettles, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, etc. We see hardly any this year. Just lots of house flies. While those who live close to the forests have plenty of bugs. I just don't get it. Only 2 things I can think of...could be the farmers using industrial chemicals & the gas companies draining the rivers/creeks & polluting. There has been no spraying of our small town, so I know it's not that.

I expect to lose another chick today or tomorrow. Nest check this morning found him dehydrated too. 2 nests lost all their chicks, others more than half their chicks. I also had many eggs damaged during the 3 nights of below freezing right after eggs were laid. What started as a great year has dwindled away :(.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
philsand
Posts: 74
Joined: Mon May 18, 2015 9:54 am
Location: Eastern nc

Martins travel far for food. The insects they are finding may have been exposed to insecticides. May not be dehydration primarily.
One advantage of having many Martin landlords is we, as a group, may detect subtle changes in the environment before it is generally known.
Post Reply