Martins pair for season... or life?

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tboydshirt
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:42 pm
Location: sugarcreek,ohio
Martin Colony History: new in 2017, but ready for lots of birds. 44 gourds and 40 t14 style holes
2019 more visitors than in the past and a long suffering SY male. each year enhancing the site and hoping for the future.

I've been taught that as a rule, if a species exhibits sexual dimorphism (males looking different from females) they will mate for a season at most. but species with males and females looking the same (Canada geese, angelfish, etc.) tend to mate for life.

So, is there evidence like banding which shows whether martins are mated for life, or battling for mates yearly? The fact that "scouts" arrive earlier and are mostly male leads me to suspect that there might be an annual battle for mates.
Spiderman
Posts: 796
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:19 am
Location: Gladewater, Texas

I think the evidence will show that Martins only mate for a season.
2008 - 33 PAIR - FLEDGED 96 YOUNG
2009 - 51 PAIR - FLEDGED 166 YOUNG
2010 - 45 PAIR - FLEDGED 146 YOUNG
2011 - 33 PAIR - 128 HATCHED, 97 FLEDGED
2012 - 37 PAIR - 119 HATCHED, 101 FLEDGED
mwren
Posts: 120
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Location: OH/Athens
Martin Colony History: I have had my martin colony on the dam of one of my ponds for nine years. The colony has grown each year, but I am now concentrating on helping friends and acquaintances who have shown interests in martins. My colony consists of three T-14's with 8 Troyer gourds attatched to each T-14, a Troyer gourd rack with 12 gourds, and another gourd rack with 18 Troyer gourds for a total of 96 nest cavities. I am having serious predation issues with hawks and owls and am experimenting with various hawk guards and "screens". Established successful supplemental feeding last season during late march and had a blast flipping mostly meal worms and some crickets. Faculty from Ohio University are using my colony as a research site to study parasites that target cavity nesting birds. In exchange for access to my bird trail nest boxes and martin housing, they are banding all birds involved in their study.

The martins select a new mate each season. DNA testing has also shown that all eggs, and babies in a clutch need not be from the same pairing.
Both males and females are known to take advantage of breeding opportunities presented in "colony life'.
Mike "Bird" Wren
Dave Duit
Posts: 1849
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

I'm paired for life. lol.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
James Strickland FL
Posts: 2249
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2003 8:04 pm
Location: Reidsville NC
Martin Colony History: 2017 Had a lot visitors no Matins nesting, hoping 2018 will be different.
2018 Had 1 pair
2019 had 30 pair

I can not confirm it, I have had several pairs that have shown up year after year and the male would go right in the same gourd or house and a female would come to the same place. Now that seems unusual that these birds did not know each other. As my parents would say to much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.
PMCA MEMBER
Chris B
Posts: 379
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:10 pm
Location: AL/Toney

I think the barnies on my front porch are a returning pair, and the few TS which are back around seem to be paired up also.

No PMs yet but I think it will be any day now, hopefully after the Sat night storms they are calling for. Bring up some bugs please Mr. storm.
2014 8 gourds, 3 pairs nested. Ended w/ 24 total
2015 24 gourds, 22 nests. Lotsa birds!
2016 24 gourds and good activity.
2017 32 SREH gourds. Great activity.
2018 40 SREH gourds. Good finish despite big storm damage. No more dangling gourds.
2019 56+ SREH gourds, all on 3/8 rods. Birds did very well.
2020 56 SREH gourds.
TheSmiths
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon May 12, 2014 1:02 pm
Location: Western KY
Martin Colony History:

Tried to attract PMs since 2004; began more ernest attempt in 2014.

Current housing consists of two modified Trio M12Ks and a round gourd rack.

2018 — 3 pairs

2019 — 6 pairs

2020 — 12 pairs; barred owl late in season


Monitor FILs colony as well as colony at park.

~15 years of providing housing for bluebirds, Carolina wrens, house wrens, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, great-crested flycatchers and northern flickers.

tboydshirt wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:52 am
I've been taught that as a rule, if a species exhibits sexual dimorphism (males looking different from females) they will mate for a season at most. but species with males and females looking the same (Canada geese, angelfish, etc.) tend to mate for life.
I've not heard that rule before. Off the top of my head I can think of two sexually dimorphic birds that tend to mate for life, the eastern bluebird and the northern cardinal. You can read about the eastern bluebird here.

Info about purple martin breeding behavior can be found here. Banding has provided evidence that most purple martins change mates each season.
Last edited by TheSmiths on Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
TheSmiths
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon May 12, 2014 1:02 pm
Location: Western KY
Martin Colony History:

Tried to attract PMs since 2004; began more ernest attempt in 2014.

Current housing consists of two modified Trio M12Ks and a round gourd rack.

2018 — 3 pairs

2019 — 6 pairs

2020 — 12 pairs; barred owl late in season


Monitor FILs colony as well as colony at park.

~15 years of providing housing for bluebirds, Carolina wrens, house wrens, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, great-crested flycatchers and northern flickers.

Accidental post...
GFB
Posts: 65
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2018 5:05 pm
Location: Ontario NY
Martin Colony History: I Started my first colony with my father in the late 1960's. Started building custom vinyl Martin houses last year 2018 and was successful with 10 birds fledged and it looks like several dozen birds are hanging around. Time to expand.
2018: 1 T-14 and 6 gourds. Fledged 10
2019: 2 T-14's and 6 gourds. Fledged 70
2020: 2 T-14's and 6 gourds. Fledged 111

Interesting read on pair bonding. I always wondered if it was the same female that came back with the ASY male.
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.

I always found it interesting when birds first arrive. It seems the male is quicker to find a new mate as females arrive a bit later. There seems to be strong loyalty to the gourd they nested in the previous year by both sexes. So I believe some pairs may possibly stick for several years. But inevitably because they seem to separate during the non breeding season they lose their pair bond. Seems some of the fighting between females is when the prior season mate returns to find a new girl in her gourd. Without banding it would seem difficult to support my observations. But I believe some pairs especially in smaller colonies may renest together in successive years.
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.
tboydshirt
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:42 pm
Location: sugarcreek,ohio
Martin Colony History: new in 2017, but ready for lots of birds. 44 gourds and 40 t14 style holes
2019 more visitors than in the past and a long suffering SY male. each year enhancing the site and hoping for the future.

Thanks for the replies, and my question probably is best addressed by actual banding studies. I got the dimorphism angle from a professor while working on my masters degree long ago. it seems to hold here with our geese who arrive each February with their last year brood tagging along. the pair first drives off their offspring, then together drive off any other geese which try to land on their pond.
I'm surprised to hear that cardinals mate for life because we feed them through the winter, and multiple males tolerate each other in winter at the feeder, but starting about now only the males start defending territories ferociously with song, and sometimes knock down drag out battles.
TheSmiths
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon May 12, 2014 1:02 pm
Location: Western KY
Martin Colony History:

Tried to attract PMs since 2004; began more ernest attempt in 2014.

Current housing consists of two modified Trio M12Ks and a round gourd rack.

2018 — 3 pairs

2019 — 6 pairs

2020 — 12 pairs; barred owl late in season


Monitor FILs colony as well as colony at park.

~15 years of providing housing for bluebirds, Carolina wrens, house wrens, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, great-crested flycatchers and northern flickers.

tboydshirt wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:52 am
Thanks for the replies, and my question probably is best addressed by actual banding studies. I got the dimorphism angle from a professor while working on my masters degree long ago. it seems to hold here with our geese who arrive each February with their last year brood tagging along. the pair first drives off their offspring, then together drive off any other geese which try to land on their pond.
I'm surprised to hear that cardinals mate for life because we feed them through the winter, and multiple males tolerate each other in winter at the feeder, but starting about now only the males start defending territories ferociously with song, and sometimes knock down drag out battles.
How about a study using light-sensor geolocators? https://www.purplemartin.org/uploads/me ... tr-794.pdf
"Only 1 of 12 pairs that were tracked remated after migration". I know I've read an older study (that likely used bands) but I can't find a link at the moment. If interested, you can find additional published research under the "Research" tab in the forum menu bar.

I'm not well versed in waterfowl. There have been a number of studies conducted on the northern cardinal some of which can be found online. This one centers on testosterone but it addresses the behavior you've observed. I don't know how much interest you have in the northern cardinal but there was a gynandromorph found last year that is female on the left and male on the right (photo courtesy Shirley Caldwell). I've been wondering if this has been documented in purple martins and, if so, on which side the female portion developed.
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tboydshirt
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:42 pm
Location: sugarcreek,ohio
Martin Colony History: new in 2017, but ready for lots of birds. 44 gourds and 40 t14 style holes
2019 more visitors than in the past and a long suffering SY male. each year enhancing the site and hoping for the future.

Thanks for the info. I read/skimmed that lengthy article, and think now that both sexes will have strong imprints to the site of their previous nesting but not to their previous mate. Apparently the second year birds are not so strongly imprinted too the exact location. I'm still trying to get martins here and putting my main hopes on those second year birds. I have made about as many changes as I can here including opening an entire tree row of tall pines which were between my pond and the houses. wish me luck
Ransom Graham
Posts: 31
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:13 pm
Location: Newton, NC

No, and I dont know any other way to put it; but
especially in large colonies during the nest building phase multiple males will often gang rape a female who has landed on the ground.
John Barrow
Posts: 948
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:12 pm
Location: Corpus Christi / Sandia , Texas

I don't know how much interest you have in the northern cardinal but there was a gynandromorph found last year that is female on the left and male on the right (photo courtesy Shirley Caldwell). I've been wondering if this has been documented in purple martins and, if so, on which side the female portion developed.
The Smiths,
Louise and I hosted a PM at our site in Port O'Connor for two consecutive years, after which we sold the property and gifted out our systems to landlords in the area. We called the bird Two-Tone. We had some difficulty in sexing the bird due to the fact that it appeared to be a male on one side and female on the other. Expert PM biologist, Gene Morton, saw pictures of the bird and thought it might be half male and half female, but the only way to determine that would entail killing the bird. Folks could likely call it a heavily plumage subadult male, but its arrival preceded subadult timing. It never gave any vocalization associated with males. Louise and I disagreed on its sex after our individual observations. During the course of both seasons, Two-Tone mated with an ASY male, laid eggs and successfully fledged young. Attaching a photo of Two Tone.
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~~TEAMED WITH A MARTIN GODDESS~~

Member/Mentor-PMCA. I do regular nestchecks and participate in PROJECT MARTINWATCH!! Coordinated 3 geolocator studies-2009, 2010 & 2013. State and Fed licensed bander (retired Jan., 2020)
Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

She returned and nested the following year, too - and then we moved, so had not further knowledge of how she was doing. We also looked into melanistic plumaged birds, meaning birds that were kind of the opposite of leucistic, and appear all dark, but with no color/purple.
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

John Barrow wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:47 am
I don't know how much interest you have in the northern cardinal but there was a gynandromorph found last year that is female on the left and male on the right (photo courtesy Shirley Caldwell). I've been wondering if this has been documented in purple martins and, if so, on which side the female portion developed.
The Smiths,
Louise and I hosted a PM at our site in Port O'Connor for two consecutive years, after which we sold the property and gifted out our systems to landlords in the area. We called the bird Two-Tone. We had some difficulty in sexing the bird due to the fact that it appeared to be a male on one side and female on the other. Expert PM biologist, Gene Morton, saw pictures of the bird and thought it might be half male and half female, but the only way to determine that would entail killing the bird. Folks could likely call it a heavily plumage subadult male, but its arrival preceded subadult timing. It never gave any vocalization associated with males. Louise and I disagreed on its sex after our individual observations. During the course of both seasons, Two-Tone mated with an ASY male, laid eggs and successfully fledged young. Attaching a photo of Two Tone.
Hi John and Louise, long time no see! I don't recognize many names in the little bit of browsing of posts. Is Jamie and Chuck still around? I can think of other faces but not the names that go with them...hope this doesn't post twice... :grin:
Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

Terry! how nice to see you here again! I have not seen either of them post here in years, but they are both on facebook, and PMCA has a martin group there, too. Some other 'old timers' are here, though - Emil of course, to name one. Do you have any martins these days?
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