Chicadee Interference

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gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

My family has had a martin house on the northern shore of Lake Ontario since 1967, with a couple of martin houses on an adjacent property dating back even further. These houses have been occupied by martins every year but last year grackles managed to pry a panel loose and took our house over. This year we replaced the old house with a Lonestar Alamo 14 compartment aluminum martin house with starling resistant openings. When the martin scouts arrived on April 13 they settled in the 2 houses next door but not in ours. A day or two after the martin arrival we spotted a pair of black capped chicadees on our martin house and saw them copulate. We immediately checked all the compartments finding, in one, some materials that had been deposited for nest building. We cleaned this compartment, reversed the nest trays to close off the openings and left the martin house lowered. A few days later we saw a purple martin sitting on the top of our pole and tried reopening and raising the house. However, the chicadee soon returned, forcing us again to lower the house and close off the openings. Our plan has been to try raising the house once more in another 7-10 days (while monitoring it closely) in the hope the chicadees will have nested elsewhere by then. Another thought is to set up a chicadee birdhhouse about 40' from our martin house and reopen the latter when the chicadees have committed to the one intended for them. We would hope we could reopen in time for the arrival of the martin subadults.

Does anyone have any other advice?

Finally, are we correct in assuming that allowing the chicadee pair to occupy one of our martin house compartments would dissuade purple martins from taking over other of the 14 compartments, especially given that our present house is new with our old martin house taken over by grackles last year and last occupied by martins in 2017?

gotham
vman
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:42 pm
Location: wisconsin
Martin Colony History: have not had martins for last 20 yrs. trying to re establish a colony
2018 1 asy pair fledged 2

chicadees should not be a problem for martins, they are very small and are not aggressive. I would leave the martin house up , they may get along just fine. As far as grackles, I have only seen them nest in evergreen trees, it sounds like a starling problem, good luck.
Jim
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Thanks for this suggestion, Jim.

Does anyone else have any thoughts regarding, or any experience with, this chicadee issue?

gotham
Habsboy
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 5:38 pm
Location: LaSalle Ontario

The chickadees here are ok but Ive noticed a tufted titmouse entering my gourd rack. From a distance I thought it was a sparrow so I placed trap on gourd and to my surprise it was a titmouse. are these birds a problem for pm? It seems I have a bumper crop of them but only this one was interested in my gourds. I have just a few gourds open as I have only seen a few fly bys and one visitor. should start getting busy in this neck of the woods soon (I hope)
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

On April 28 we finally put up a "chicadee birdhouse", with a 1 1/2" opening reduced to 1 1/8" to accommodate the chicadees while discouraging their predators. Our hope was that this house, located about 35' away, would attract the chicadee pair that had been so stuck on our martin house that we had felt forced to keep it closed and unavailable to them (but also to asy martins, some of which had settled in a martin house 2 lots over).

The next 2 days there continued to be no sign of the chicadees but the house we had put up for them was of great interest to a pair of tree swallows (see photo). Although we already had another pair of tree swallows in a birdhouse about 35' from our martin house we decided to re-establish the original 1 1/2 " opening in the new house and it was promptly taken over by a pair of tree swallows.

Within about 35' of our martin house we now have 2 bird houses, each about 35' from the other and each occupied by a pair of tree swallows. With their being so territorial we hoped they would keep other tree swallows from our martin house and hoped the chicadee pair had by now found other accommodation. We therefore reopened our martin house this morning (April 30). The chicadees promptly returned about 3 hours after the reopening and are joyfully exploring all the compartments!

We now trust that Jim is correct in saying that the chicadee presence is unlikely to dissuade the sy martins from occupying our martin house when they do finally arrive.

gotham
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gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

I now have an embarrassing followup to post. This morning I used a spotting telescope to check out the "chicadee" in our martin house. To my chagrin, I discovered the culprit did have a black bib but had a grey crown rather than the black crown and contrasting white cheeks of the black capped chicadee. In other words he was a breeding male house sparrow! He was sitting on the martin house balconies chirping in an attempt to attract a mate.

I have taken down the martin house once more, cleaned out all the compartments and reversed the nest trays to block the SREH's. My plan now is to await the arrival of the subadults, presumably in another 2-3 weeks (judging from their northward migratory progress as reported on the scout arrival map) and only then reopen the martin house. If the house sparrow(s) is/are then still a problem I am not sure what I will do. In Canada we don't have the access to guns, removing shooting as an option. I suppose I could try the alternative I have seen on this forum-namely trapping. I am not sure, though, what one is supposed do with the trapped bird.

I will later post the eventual result of all of this. It used to seem simpler when my wife's family just put up a martin house before their arrival on April 15 and left the martins to themselves. Although this approach had seemed to work well I now suspect that a lot of problems were not appreciated. Since we decided to put up a new house this year we have been inspired by the PMCA, which we joined for the first time, to try to become true purple martin landlords. There does seem to be some urgency to becoming involved as we have noted a decline in the number of purple martins coming to our area and the wildlife authorities in Ontario confirm this.

gotham
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Despite our having kept our martin house closed the lone breeding male House Sparrow has been persistent, staying in the immediate area. About 24 hours ago he redirected his attention from our martin house to the nest box we had recently put up and that had been taken over by a pair of Tree Swallows. He began sitting on its roof, with his beak, as seen through binoculars, opening and closing as he vocalized trying to attract a female. He has since been entering and exiting the nest box and appears to have driven off the Tree Swallows (or killed them-we haven't opened the nest box).
As guns are not really an option in our location in Canada, we looked into recommendations re the trapping and euthanizing of House Sparrows but finally decided this was pretty complicated. We have now elected, reluctantly, to surrender the new nest box to the House Sparrow with the hope he will commit to it and not bother our martin house when we reopen it upon the arrival of the martin subadults. Although this will mean we will be providing housing for the reproduction of a predator bird species, we believe he will establish himself in the immediate area in any event and, in the circumstances I have described, this seems to us to be the best compromise.

gotham
deancamp
Posts: 406
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

Is there not a nest trap that will fit your house that would trap him as he enters the house? There are you tube videos of using a plastic bag over the house and then catch him in your hand. Then you can pull his head off, crush his skull or use ether to put him to sleep. If you don't want to buy a trap, how about putting the plastic bag over the house after you see him enter. You succeeded in getting him away from the Marrin house, don't give up on seeing his demise.
jhcox
Posts: 464
Joined: Thu May 26, 2016 9:23 am
Location: tennesse
Martin Colony History: Started colony in 2014. First pair to stay and raise young in 2018.

Hey Gotham I have an idea for you the small mouse traps work great but be advised only set and use them when you can be there to watch and make sure no other native birds try to enter. If he gets a mate wait until they commit to the alternative box house and start to build there nest or even laying eggs then place the trap in the house. Catches and kill all in one action. JHCox
deancamp
Posts: 406
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

At a minimum I've heard of people poking holes in the sparrow eggs so they continue to set on them, but they won't hatch.
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. Even though I am a physician I don't think I could bring myself to pull the head off the HOSP. I might consider a mouse trap as long as I could confirm enough of a commitment of the HOSP to the nest box that there wouldn't be a significant risk of inadvertently killing a benign species.

I did open the nest box today after the HOSP exited and, fortunately, found no Tree Swallow carcasses. Perhaps because he has not yet obtained a mate, there was no nest building material and just a lot of bird poop.

We can't take any further action at the moment as, unfortunately, we now have to go back to the city for a couple of weeks. We hope our return here will be in time for the subadult arrival.

I did take some photos today of the Purple Martins in the old unmanaged martin house on the lakeside property adjacent to ours (see photo). Despite the dilapidated condition of that house their colony, made up of the asy's that nested there last year and returned on April 13, is going great guns (while our brand new Lonestar Alamo martin house with perching rods and nest trays sits empty). This gives us hope their subadults will have survived the migration and will return to our area and that some of them will settle in our new house. When we get back I may try bringing a battery powered CD player and playing the Dawn Song.

I will report further upon our return to Wellington.

Gotham
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gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

We returned to our country place on Lake Ontario, and our new martin house, on May 19. As our HOSP was not to be seen and it had been 2 weeks since we had lowered and closed our martin house to keep him out, I reopened and raised it and, even though it was early afternoon, began playing the Dawnsong. On 3-4 occasions that afternoon several purple martins, including one adult male and female pair, came to investigate and landed on the house but, unfortunately, did not stay.

When I went out at 6 AM the next morning I discovered the male HOSP had returned and was sitting on a balcony! I lowered the house, placed a mouse trap, baited with mixed bird seed in peanut butter, in each of 2 compartments and blocked the entrances to all of the others by reversing their nest trays, while keeping the house lowered so as not to attract the martins. When he saw me leave the HOSP then returned to the martin house but was wary enough not to enter either booby trapped compartment and finally left for the rest of the day.

Today, May 21, I went out at 5:30 AM, removed the untouched mouse traps, opened all the compartments, raised the house and started playing the Dawnsong. About 7:00 AM the single male HOSP again returned to the martin house and the little SOB has spent much of the morning going from balcony to balcony and perching rod to perching rod. On a couple of occasions he has flown to the nest box on our property that he commandeered a couple of weeks ago from a tree swallow pair and it is obvious he now resides there as there is nest building material sticking out from the opening. Because of this I don't think he intends to nest in the martin house but I am concerned that his choosing the house as his preferred perch will ensure we fail to attract martins to our new house.

I am very frustrated by his persistence over the past 6 weeks, by my inability to catch him in the mouse traps and by the fact he will likely prevent our becoming martin landlords this year (the scouts arrived in our area April 13). I am thinking of buying a bag made of strong netting, waiting for nightfall, when the HOSP should be in the nest box, and then placing the bag over this nest box and securing the opening of the bag tightly around the nest box pole. Once he is caught in the bag I will then have to come up with a way of dispatching him (probably them, given the nest building and that I saw him take time out this morning to copulate with another HOSP on a nearby tree branch). This has all been very disappointing.

gotham
wmfamily
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:32 pm
Location: St Louis

Unfortunately you need to control the sparrows. There are many ways and you can use an in-house trap or one of the Van Ert traps (https://vanerttraps.com/). They look a lot like a normal bird house but will allow you to trap them live and dispatch them without too much trouble. Relocation isn't an option since they will either bother other birds in a different area or beat you back home. If you catch something other than a sparrow they can be easily released. Whatever trap you use you need to keep an eye on them while they are set. Hopefully you can catch the sparrow and have some martins soon.
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

On Wednesday (May 22) I tried my "bag over nestbox" plan to eliminate the HOSP. As I could not find a big enough fine mesh bag I bought a large transparent 3 mil thickness plastic bag. At 5 AM, when it was just light enough for me to see, but early enough to be confident the HOSP(s) was/were in the nest box I pulled the bag over the birdhouse and had to do it quickly as the culprit started to exit as I did so. I then pulled the neck of the bag tightly around the nest box pole to trap him within the bag. The thickness of the plastic (which I had chosen so he could not peck his way out) made this more challenging than expected but I thought I had succeeded and tied the neck of the bag to the pole. Despite the semi-darkness I could vaguely see him and could hear him flapping around in the bag for a couple of minutes. However, there was then silence and I could no longer see him despite the fact it was quickly becoming lighter. I then reexamined where I had tied the neck of the bag to the pole and discovered there was a fold that had not been encompassed within the tie and that this had allowed his escape. I pulled open the nest box and found no other HOSP and only a large nest (which I later removed).

Shortly thereafter I saw him back on the lowered martin house, going from entrance to entrance,frantically trying to get into a compartment, each of which had its entrance blocked off by a reversed nest tray.

I have now decided to follow a suggestion made by a forum member (see above) and will try an insert sparrow trap. Yesterday I called the PMCA and purchased the Hilltop Specialties Deluxe Universal Sparrow Trap, which is compatible with my Lonestar Alamo martin house with SREH's. While waiting for its arrival the PMCA officer I spoke with recommended that I open one of the martin house compartments, remove the nest tray and allow the HOSP to begin building a nest. This should foster a commitment to the compartment, making it more likely the HOSP will enter after I install the trap (he was earlier wary enough not to enter when I tried putting a mouse trap in a compartment). To further encourage the sparrow to enter I was advised to take some of the nesting material and place it on the floor of the trap.

Today I have seen the male HOSP, now accompanied by a female partner, back on the lowered martin house, with the two of them going in and out of the one open compartment. As there are now two of them I realize it will be essential that I trap the male. If I only succeed in catching the female the male will be back with a new partner.

One last point to make is that I had earlier mistakenly believed that the fact the HOSP had been building a home in my nest box meant he was only interested in perching on my martin house and not trying to nest there. However, the PMCA officer I spoke with told me the HOSP's interest in the nest box provided no such reassurance and that it was not uncommon for a cavity nester to nest in multiple cavities.

I will report on my (hoped for) success with the insert sparrow trap after it arrives. Even if I am now too late to attract a martin pair I want to establish, this year, an effective approach for eliminating HOSP's, in case I need to do so in future years.

Gotham
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Since my last entry, on May 23, I continue to await the delivery of the insert sparrow trap ordered through the PMCA.

In the meantime, on May 25 I noticed the HOSP pair in a tree near an old, I thought unoccupied, second nest box on our property. Suspicious, I took this last of our nest boxes down and discovered that it, too, contained a nest. The male HOSP and his partner had, therefore, built nests in both of our nest boxes and were, nonetheless, trying to do so in our martin house as well. The sparrows then did fly away and I was hopeful that, with the martin house closed and the two nest boxes gone, they would vacate our territory.

On May 26, with no sparrows in sight, I reopened our martin house and played the Dawnsong. One martin did visit a couple of times but did not stay.

The next day the HOSP pair returned and briefly entered one of the compartments. I immediately took the house down once more. With that the HOSP's fled and, so far, have not come back!

On May 28 I put the martin house back up, opening only two of the compartments as a compromise, thinking this might provide a slight chance of still attracting some martins, while limiting the sparrows to two compartments should they yet return.

Early the afternoon of May 29 I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a ASY male martin, accompanied by a female, had landed on the balcony of one of the two open compartments (see photos). The male then "scrunched" down, repeatedly trying to wriggle through the SREH, while the female perched on the balcony side, egging the male on by occasionally pecking his tail. He could only get about half way through the opening and then had to back out before trying again. After multiple attempts the pair flew off but soon returned and went at it again. Watching through binoculars I found the whole experience frustrating and felt like going out and giving the guy's behind a push :) When they again abandoned the attempt and flew off I went out and opened all the compartments and played the Dawnsong. The male came back and tried unsuccessfully to enter one of the newly opened compartments. When he left once more I, in desperation, used a metal file to enlarge slightly the one SREH he had made such a concerted attempt to get through, making sure I left no sharp edges.

Despite the lateness of the season I will continue to try to attract the purple martins. If I strike out, and the Canadian purple martins fail to get through the SREH's, then next year I am thinking of replacing one of the SREH panels of my Lonestar Alamo martin house with a panel containing three of the larger round entrances. If starlings then get into the house through one of these I would close these three openings by reversing the compartment nest trays, leaving eleven compartments with the SREH's for slimmer martins. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

I will let you know how things finally turn out but it has been one thing after another and "it's not looking good".

Gotham
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gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Early yesterday morning (May 31) the male HOSP was back, sitting on one of the martin house balconies!

I immediately went out and again closed off most of the entrances, leaving 2 open, on the slight chance I might still entice one martin pair to settle in our house. If the sparrow revisits, my hope is that he will commit to one of the chambers left accessible. If he does, then that is where I will place the insert sparrow trap when it arrives.

As for that HOSP (see photo taken earlier), he flew off as I approached yesterday, has not returned and has left me with no opportunity, so far, to trap him. The son of a gun has largely ruined our season and is wily enough that he now seems to make a brief appearance just often enough to rattle my cage!

Gotham
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gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Yesterday I put into effect some advice kindly offered by "Toy in PA".

I bought anti-slip grit tape in a 2" width, cut it to the 3" length of my martin house balconies and applied the tape to each balcony floor. Any martins trying in future (hopefully) to get through my crescent shaped SREH's will now be aided by a balcony surface providing traction :).

I also followed Toy's advice to open two of the compartments facing east and two of those facing west, in addition to the two I had already left open facing north, towards our house. The rationale for doing this is to allow the martins more choice, and in Toy's experience some martins have had a preference for a compartment facing in one direction while others for one facing in a different direction. Toy downplayed the risk the HOSP, if he returned, might then be less likely to commit to one compartment, making him more difficult to trap, and felt an insert trap (which arrived from the PMCA today) could still be made to work. So far the HOSP has not come back but, based on my experience with him to date, I am expecting him.

The final recommendation of Toy's I put into play yesterday was to gather old pine needles, straw, tiny twigs and a few soft green leaves and then, after using my wife's hairdryer to blow the mix dry :), placing a handful on the floor of each open compartment. Hopefully, this "pre-nesting" may make the house look more appealing and less new and barren.

Although it is late in the season, even this far north, on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, I still hope these measures, coupled with the frequent playing of the Dawnsong, will result in a martin pair settling in and helping me start a colony.

Gotham
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

A week has elapsed since my last post. In that time we have frequently played the Dawnsong and several times this has attracted purple martins. On June 8, on a couple of occasions, 2-3 martins landed on our martin house balconies and perching rods (see photos showing 2 martins on the higher balcony and a 3rd on the lower). Unfortunately, however, they only stayed a few minutes and then flew off without trying to enter the compartments. Today, one landed on a balcony but then immediately left. It seems they were drawn by the Dawnsong but then left when they found there was actually "no one at home".

It was probably too late for these particular martins, who seemed to be ASY's, rather than subadults, and who had almost certainly already found accommodation elsewhere for the nesting season. As the martins coming to this area may be used to the round entrances that seem to be universal around here I may try next year replacing one 3 hole panel on my Lonestar Alamo martin house with one containing the round holes, leaving 11 compartments with the crescent shaped SREH's. If starlings then entered we could clear them out and then replace that panel with the one we now have with the SREH's. Next year we will also play the Dawnsong from the moment the scouts arrive ( we didn't get the CD this year until about 5 weeks after their arrival). We will also again follow the recommendations made on this forum by "Toy in Pa", as noted in my last post.

As for the HOSP, he returned June 9 but only stayed for a few hours. We now have to return to the city as my wife is to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to deal with a torn meniscus. Even though this may require us to be away for 2-3 weeks, with the martin house unmanaged, we decided to leave it up and open.
Gotham
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ToyinPA
Posts: 2091
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.

Gotham:

Don't give up. SY Males are still migrating. I had a few new ones visit & move on since my last post to you. You may return from your wife's knee surgery (wishing her the best) & find a pair has moved in.

Even if you don't get a pair this season let the housing up until the season has ended, as you may get visitors looking & they may decide they like your houses next season. I let my houses up into mid/late October, as I often get a few stop over on their way south.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
gotham
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:36 am
Location: Wellington, On, Canada (our summer place)
Martin Colony History: Wife's family martin house shore Lake Ontario since 1967. New martin house 2019 (Lonestar Alamo aluminum 14 compartment with perching rods and nest trays).

Hi Toy,

Thanks for this further advice and encouragement. I especially appreciate it as I have found this season to be a great disappointment. I used to take the presence of purple martins in my wife's family's old small house for granted-see photo- and would really like to reestablish a colony.

Thanks, too, very much re your good wishes re my wife's upcoming meniscus surgery.

Sincerely,
Gotham
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