Answers to the decline of the Purple Martin

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

Article from Conservation and Society:
http://www.conservationandsociety.org/a ... ast=Jervis
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

For those of you who may not have read this article,if may suggest........you should!! Dave took the time to post it for us all. Yes it’s quite long,but yes it’s also quite thought provoking about the reality of the future of our martins we work so hard for. Take the time ,read it all not skipping sections and then let it soak in. I think you’ll find that you also think some sort of “action” is required on all our parts as conservators of the Martin. The section concerning the young people of our times being not as interested in becoming landlords makes all the sense in the world and it’s my feeling that ,that is a large threat to our birds future moving forward. That is where the “action required” comes in. Read it all and think about it. Thanks Dave.
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Interesting article.

There may be a wane going on, but I bet it's not a serious problem. One only has to visit a pre-migratory roost and then think about how many of these roosts there actually are to realize how many martins actually exist. I guarantee, well maybe I should not say guarantee, but I betcha there are way more martins now than there ever were prior to man's intervention. All those woodpecker holes were serving the woodpecker, martins?, chimney swifts, titmice, chickadee, nuthatch...etc...come to think of it, was a woodpecker hole their natural cavity...don't think they like being in a situation that is close to other trees, so maybe I don't know what their natural cavity was, but if their numbers were very great eons ago, and if they were as social then as they are now, then what the heck natural situation did they use. Caves?, like the ones in California? Maybe martins contributed their share of guano to our gunpowder needs. Anyway that article doesn't worry me very much... :lol:

I personally believe the risk lies more in the developing countries of SA, with their stay there. Conversion of habitat to farming, for instance. Also even people in North America don't really like the pre-migration roosts and are inducing some of the roosts to move, even cutting down trees on which the martins roost in the hopes they will move. Don't they stay in large groups in South and Central America? And haven't we been criticized by a South American or two on even the PMCA forum for doing too good a job with martins and creating problrms for them, like at that refinery in SA where that liked to roost? I would say there is a much greater threat for their well-being in South America than the wax and wane of site operators in North America.
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

Great! Good point of view Terry ,now maybe that’ll stir some rebuttal and other views also. That’s what I was doing by asking it be read....
1. It should be read
2. Get some differing views and opinions. Thanks Terry.
tor
Posts: 238
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:35 pm
Location: Marlboro County, SC
Martin Colony History: Capacity: 72 Troyers on 3 X Super-24 racks

Good read. Highly recommended.
Location: Marlboro County, SC

2021: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22
2020: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/11 - 71 pair - 298 fledged
2019: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22 - 70 pair - 315 fledged
2018: Capacity: 70 - First Scouts: 2/18 - 60 pair - 270 fledged
2017: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 2/25 - 39 pair
2016: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 3/10 - 32 pair
2015: Capacity: 24 - First Scouts: 3/23 - 4 pair

Purple Martins Of South Carolina
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

PMDavid wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:39 pm
Great! Good point of view Terry ,now maybe that’ll stir some rebuttal and other views also. That’s what I was doing by asking it be read....
1. It should be read
2. Get some differing views and opinions. Thanks Terry.
Aw shucks...you are welcome, my friend! My opinions probably come a bit too easy... :oops:
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

No terry not at all,we can all have our personal take and opinions. I’m hoping that your opinion will spur another’s ,and then another’s and so on and so on........I’d love to see a dozen replies and they will probably mostly differ. Thanks for your input.
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

My opinion will sound much like Terry's. I made a reply a week or so ago on a thread titled "Nature needs us" or something like that where I said almost exactly what Terry said in his post. Martin numbers may be down some over 50 years ago, but I'd imagine that they're exponentially higher now than they were 300-400 years ago.

In regards to the future of Martins, I guess that remains to be seen. I think it' s a hobby that typically attracts older people. I don't know that the average age of landlords is increasing that much, but it might be. More people are living longer so it should go up.

I agree with Terry that their overwintering grounds being developed is probably more of a threat than lack of housing in the future.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 162 plastic gourds with tunnels, all with Conley II entrances with the Lewis modification. I have 24 Supergourds and the rest are Troyer Horizontals.
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

Ok good reply also brad and I do in fact agree with the two of you on that ,it is an issue. But being the argumentative guy that I am I will say ......yes the de forestation and development is un questionably a problem. However for now given the sheer vastness of what is still available for them there I would guess it would decades into the future before things get per say “critical”. And there is a realization of change beginning for such places so as not to continue destroying them ,at least not at the current rate.So in the meantime of let’s just say of 4 decades and the hyper advance of technology upon the younger generation nowadays,given the studies of them being less and less interested in the outdoors and nature itself I think we do in fact have an up coming issue to a degree of.......who is gonna provide for and take care of our birds. Forty years ,of young folks losing interest across the board year after year for that long represents a problem to me. The the importance of teaching at every opportunity and mentorship is at hand ..now. I am currently teaching one of my own sons all I can about these birds and the “why” of why we must take care of em . I’ve said so much that he’s full of questions now. I bestow the responsibility on all of us to follow suit . David.
BIOteacher012
Posts: 165
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:19 pm
Location: Wisconsin/Montello

Okay......here it goes......since I am a middle school/high school science teacher......I had to put my two cents in. I loved the article. It is definitely thought provoking. So far, I agree with both sides of the argument. In one way, we have a challenge ahead of us as far as working with a generation of young kids that are probably not as used to being outdoors handling birds and cleaning birdhouses. And then there is the challenge of making sure the Amazon rain forests aren't depleted either. Plus, add to the mix of climate change and its affects on insect populations.....the main diet of purple martins. I do believe that all of these challenges need to be monitored and addressed to help ensure future generations of purple martins.

Since I teach for a living, I will spend my energy in this area of the discussion. There is no magic key to swaying a generation of technology loving youth into getting hooked on martin preservation. However.....I still believe that the hands-on approach is the best way to get young kids involved and possibly interesting in the martin hobby. Once they have the chance to see a nest of young martins up close and have the opportunity to hold the babies as nests are changed will they really understand the fruits of the hobby. All we need is a few kids here and there to get hooked from the impacts of a teacher, parent, mother, father, etc. who has a colony and is passionate about letting them help with it. Letting kids help build the birdhouse, help put the pine straw in the nests, help hold the babies, help clean the cavities.....it is all part of the thrill and the passion that rubs off to help get them hooked. I believe it is possible one kid at a time. I believe this because I have this mission ahead of me. I will be teaching a summer school class this June. I am planning to offer a nature class to help get students outside to see the school T14, help with possible nest changes if we are blessed with some martins, and see what goes into the hobby. Not all kids involved are going to be sold on this. But, if I can reach just a few of them......I will have succeeded. We were all kids once. We just need to remember what that was like, and remember how we got hooked........ by watching and doing. :wink:
BrianT
2017 38 nesting pairs, 181 fledged
2016 22 nesting pairs, 113 fledged
2015 20 nesting pairs, 91 fledged
2014 10 nesting pairs, 49 fledged
2013 4 nesting pairs, 15 fledged
2012 Lots of lookers but no nesters
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

Outstanding bio teacher!!! This is exactly what I wanted to get started! You also are very correct ,good job! YALL ALL KEEP IT COMING......
Bird Brain
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:22 am
Location: Highland Village, TX
Martin Colony History: 2017-nothing
2018-1 visitor
2019-nothing
2020-the most visitors/activity by far after making many site improvements. Unsuccessful SY Male visited for 2 weeks.

"Climate change?" "Old, white, southern, men?" Sound familiar? "Climate change affects bug populations, the martin food source?" " When the old, southern, white man dies, the martins might die too?" "The old, southern, white, man might not be able to pass along his martin hobby to future generations?" I couldn't finish reading it. Fear mongering propaganda and fake news. Once you see it, you can never un see it. I'm gonna grab my gun and my bible, hop in my carbon spewing pick up truck, and go Walmart shopping.
Why do Americans only flee blue states? Why don't Americans flee red states?
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Brad Biddle wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:55 pm
My opinion will sound much like Terry's. I made a reply a week or so ago on a thread titled "Nature needs us" or something like that where I said almost exactly what Terry said in his post. Martin numbers may be down some over 50 years ago, but I'd imagine that they're exponentially higher now than they were 300-400 years ago.

In regards to the future of Martins, I guess that remains to be seen. I think it' s a hobby that typically attracts older people. I don't know that the average age of landlords is increasing that much, but it might be. More people are living longer so it should go up.

I agree with Terry that their overwintering grounds being developed is probably more of a threat than lack of housing in the future.
I di-unt read that thread you refer to, Brad, but my goodness, wonder if my great grandpa maybe didn't stray down into your country many years ago...cause we agree on many things... :lol:
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

You never know!
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 162 plastic gourds with tunnels, all with Conley II entrances with the Lewis modification. I have 24 Supergourds and the rest are Troyer Horizontals.
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.

Good conversation with everyone. It is nice to see insightful thoughts and exchange ideas and opinions. I work as a teacher in my life outside of martins and I', always trying to get a handful of kids involved with anything nature related. I have a public satellite T14 colony that is used to educate the public. Whenever I do my weekly nest checks, someone usually stops by and starts asking questions about the martins. These impromptu mini educational opportunities are where the real action happens. Many people are truly interested in nature, but not everyone chooses to go beyond the listening aspect and move on to take action to make a better world for the wild creatures. Thanks again for the conversations.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
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.

Finally got time to skim thru this article.

It's a well thought article. I found it most interesting that the Martin landlord trait that usually must be present is the ability to kill nest competitors. This is an often overlooked requirement of owning a successful colony. I remember being somewhat horrified to see my original mentor with lines crossed off in bands of 5 with all the starlings he had trapped and killed. At first I could not understand this passion for killing other birds. Hosting a Martin colony is not for the faint of heart however. At times it can be brutally barbaric.

I started out thinking (like most) you could pull out nests of starlings and sparrows to get rid of them. Thinking how bad could they really be? Then you witness a clutch of bluebirds, tree swallows or Martins getting murdered by these competitors that have absolutely no mercy and seem to do it just for the heck of it. You then must be tougher then them before they do their damage to the birds you love. Guess you just get used to it.

So I can see this next generation dropping the ball as landlords. They are not as well inclined to build or fix things. Seem way less in touch with nature due to electronics. But they sure like to kill on video games so maybe we should sell them on that idea of becoming a S&S sniper lol. Maybe we just need a video game where you start a colony, score points, then build and protect a Martin colony from predators. Hmmm sounds like fun to me. How about it PMCA....... Perhaps this will bring young folks to the Purple Martin arena.

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.
PMDavid
Posts: 503
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: 2018 1 lone nut and lots of visitors
2019 6 pair -21fledged
2020 18 pair -60 fledged
2021......to be seen.
24 natural gourds on a satellite rack,9 other gourds scattered around
2-12 compartment trio houses
Rarely see a sparrow or starling,but when I do they don’t last long!
Will have a second satellite rack for the 2022 season and phase out the houses,the martins here strongly prefer natural gourds.

Thanks Doug, glad to see yet another reply! As Dave Duit has said ......he works as a teacher and is in close contact with kids. To me even though we can all reach individuals ,they are one at a time. With a class full of kids that’s around 30 at a time. I would say that gives good odds on reaching some of them and sparking an interest. Even would you believe high school kids ,as a lot of those are already part grown and a lot of em are hunters and shooters,around here they frickin close school on the Friday prior to opening of squirrel season,reckon them kids shoot? There is bound to be some sort of outreach to schools to be cultivated here. As a first step ,something like a field trip to a landlords house with a nice colony setup at say the morning social time when all the birds are around would be neat. Maybe preceded in the classroom by an education presentation about martins,followed by a field trip to the colony. I have three sons and two of them at this point would be interested in having martins one day when they have a suitable place. Thanks for your response David
tor
Posts: 238
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:35 pm
Location: Marlboro County, SC
Martin Colony History: Capacity: 72 Troyers on 3 X Super-24 racks

This will be a good excuse for me to add 2 more Super-24 systems for next year :grin:
Location: Marlboro County, SC

2021: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22
2020: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/11 - 71 pair - 298 fledged
2019: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22 - 70 pair - 315 fledged
2018: Capacity: 70 - First Scouts: 2/18 - 60 pair - 270 fledged
2017: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 2/25 - 39 pair
2016: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 3/10 - 32 pair
2015: Capacity: 24 - First Scouts: 3/23 - 4 pair

Purple Martins Of South Carolina
randyM
Posts: 105
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: 2006 - SY pair, unsuccessful nest attempt, 3 houses = 52 cavities

2010 - ASYM + SYF pair - male disappeared after storm, female fledged all 4 young.

2015 - Lone SYM stayed month of June...added 8 gourds = 60 cavities

2016 - 1 nesting pair (ASYM + SYF) 2/3 eggs hatched 2 young fledged.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched, 16 fledged, 16 banded - 2 banded SY returned in 2018 (12.5%), added housing: 11 houses w/gourds, 4 gourd poles = 376 cavities

2018 - 10 nesting pairs, 46/52 eggs hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded - 3 banded SY returned in 2019 (10.3%)

2019 - 32 nesting pairs, 145/160 eggs hatched, 139 fledged - 87 banded - 12 banded SY returned in 2020 (13.8%).

2020 - 35 nesting pairs, 180/199 eggs hatched, 178 fledged - 150 banded.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of existing martin colonies across the country are well managed vs those where the houses are just put up and left alone. In the rural area where I live, I am aware of about a dozen martin colonies, of which only three are actively managed. Most of these dozen colonies have been active with nesting martins for at least the past 10 years, and the unmanaged sites also have sparrows and some starlings nesting each year. Most of these unmanaged sites have less than 20 nesting compartments, while the managed sites have 50+ nesting compartments. I also know of about a dozen bird houses that are in farmyards or small towns that are solely occupied by house sparrows and starlings. I've visited with a few of these folks about martins, sparrows and starlings, and most folks don't care what type of bird is nesting in their housing or don't have the time or interest in controlling "pest" birds to increase their chances of attracting martins. I would guess that less than 10% of all bird housing in the country where martins nest is well managed, however I'd also venture to guess that the vast majority of martins produced across the country each year are from unmanaged martin colonies. Perhaps it might be a good idea for mentors to suggest to those interested in having a martin colony, but unwilling to kill pest birds, to put up housing with starling resistant entrances and let the martins and sparrows battle things out instead of discouraging people from putting up housing unless they are willing to put in lots of time and effort to manage a colony "the right way". If the only people we mentor are those that are interested in strictly following the protocol for a well managed colony, we may be missing the boat on getting more folks (especially youth and urban folks) interested in martins and nature in general. Going forward, would it be better to have fewer colonies that are well managed across the breeding range, or have more total colonies that, on average, are less well managed...........?
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.

randy M,
Excellent observations about unmanaged colonies. My Iowa organizations mentors are responsible for teaching new landlords of the importance to maintain colonies and follow protocol. Good landlords are good mentors. After we initially assist new landlords to get established, we follow up in the months ahead and encourage either continued good landlord practices or use positive constructive suggestions to ensure future good landlording. I do understand that this is not the norm across the country, but that little effort in helping others follow good practice is just common sense. I know where you are coming from. As good landlords see unmanaged colonies it makes us cringe. All we can do is offer good advice and hope they follow through with their promise.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Post Reply