Eggs/hatchlings with no nest material

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Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

So I previously posted on this forum that I’m new to purple martins. As previously posted the condition of the houses makes it very difficult to do regular nest checks, but I did one today. What I found has me a little worried. There were 7 eggs and a hatchling in one nest box but there was no nest material in there with them. There is an empty nest in the box next to it and another nest on the other side with 3 older fledglings in it. Should I leave the little hatchling in there with no nest or move him and the eggs next door to the empty nest? Or is it normal for martins to lay eggs/raise young in an empty nest box? I’m trying to attach a photo but don’t know if it’s going to work.
Whippy
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged

ECW,

Whatever you do, DON'T move them. The parents will not find them if you do.

Martin nests vary with individuals pairs. I have nests that are abundant with material and I have other nests with minimal material.

Keep an eye on them but don't move them. Look for parasites as well as you may want to apply a 1/4 teaspoon os sevin dust if you see or suspect mites or fleas. With cavities close together it allows parasites to travel between compartments.

Hope that helps a little bit.

Coolwhips
Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

Thank you! I left them where they were. Hopefully some of the other eggs will hatch. I’ll keep checking on them.
Whippy
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged

They'll be fine. Most likely you have a young pair.

Next year go ahead and pre-nest the cavities as it gives them a head start and, a lot of times, they'll bring in just a few leaves to add to the pine needles you put in for them. Don't make any changes now just let them ride it out. They should be fine.

Let us know how things turn out.

Coolwhips
Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

I haven’t heard of pre-nesting the cavities, but like I said, I’m new to all of this. I cleaned all their old nests out and left them empty this year because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. So what should I make the nests out of for next year? Just pine straw or leaves?
Whippy
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged

Cleaning out the old nests is a good thing and adding white pine needles are soft and they dry out fast. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of Sevin dust and it'll help control mites and fleas. So when they arrive net year and they spend the night, the parasites will begin to die and t hey can use all of their energy mating and taking care of their young rather than scratching all the time.

If you add Sevin dust now, be sure to go easy and don't use more than 1/4 teaspoon per cavity. Put it on the edge of the nesting chamber if there is or is not any nest material. Chances are there is some parasites if you have not treated this year so have a close look on the next nest check to be sure.

Pre-nesting is not a requirement it's just a way of lending a hand. Landlords who are first starting out will pre-nest with pine needles and add some leaves to make it look like their colony has been used before. I pre-nest for both reasons... to show occupancy as well as to assist in nest building. Most of the time they will bring in a few leaves and add them to the needles and start laying. I've had some remove a good portion of the pine needles and add their own stuff. Martins have very many differing personalities so you can't just assume Martins do this and that Martins do that as far as nesting is concerned. That's the fun part of it all.

There is so much information on this website that'll it'll blow your mind. If you have a question, ask it. If you're just curious about certain stuff chances are it has been discussed and you can search the site for that information. I'm in my 5th year and am by no means an expert but, hanging out here for those 5 years, along with my personal experiences, has helped me and my Martins tremendously.

Coolwhips
Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

Thank you for all the tips! I have a lot to learn and to improve on for next year. I’ll be modifying my houses to have 6, 6 by 12in cavities instead of 12, 6 by 6in cavities per house, adding starling resistant door plates, and hopefully getting some newer poles that will actually go up and down so I can do regular nest checks. I can use diatomaceous earth instead of seven dust too right? I think I read that somewhere. I didn’t see any mites when we looked today, but I’d rather go ahead and be proactive about it.

I don’t know if you could see my previous post but we have two established houses that were here when we moved in. One is on a 4 by 4 post up so high I can’t get to it to do nest checks. The other is on a broken telescoping pole so it’s an ordeal to get it up and down. We put up a new house this year thinking we’d replace one of the old ones but decided to just add it so our colony could hopefully grow. They haven’t moved into the new one yet, and after doing more research I realized it will have to be modified some too. There were tons of birds when we first moved in last year and even now it seems like there are so many birds hanging around in the houses to only have two nests with young in one house. I’m also thinking of adding some gourds but I may wait until year after next to do that. Are there any red flags jumping out to you about what I’m planning to do?
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

I would think you could add nesting material to the nest. I know people do nest changes to get rid of potential pests. What would be the difference? I believe I have seen posted to not use Diatomaceous Earth.
Whippy
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged

ECW,

The only red flag I sew is diatomaceous earth. Some use it but most don't since the dust from it can cause harm and/or death to the babies. You just can not go wrong with Sevin unless you use way too much.

Be prepared next year to change all of your posts to a post system that allows the raising and lowering of your houses via a winch. You'll need to be able to treat them, pre-nest them, clean out nests of invasive species such as sparrow and starlings, check your eggs and babies.

Anything you wish to add to your colony can be added now. If you are wanting to add a gourd rack, go ahead and add it so the Martins will have time with it this year and remember to move into it next year. A lot of Martins you are seeing now may be SY birds looking for a place but not yet breeding. Of course leave the current houses, if being used, where they are. If the one on the tall square post has no tenants, you should be able to switch out the posts. But for the sake of the integrity of any possible eggs or babies, leave it if unsure.

I'm really hoping others will add their thoughts in here as well. I always miss something and others will have a different angle at times.

Have you posted pictures of your houses on here? Pictures always help.

Coolwhips
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.

If it were me I'd add some nesting material under those eggs & that chick to prevent splay leg. Pine straw/needles or dried leaves will work. If you can't get any try dried grasses. Make a nest bowl with your fist towards the back & place the eggs & chick in it. It's most likely a nest with one or both SY parents.

Do NOT use diatomaceous earth. It can be inhaled by the chicks & cause lung damage. Sevin 5% powder/Dust, just a little in each corner will keep mites away.

If you have any European House Sparrows or Starlings hanging around shoot or trap them & dispose of them. They are the only 2 birds in the USA not under Federal protection. They will destroy martin eggs, kill chicks & adults. If any are nesting in your houses do NOT remove the nests. Trap them. To trap ...place trap inside & add some of the nesting material they had in the nest. Make the entrance hole smaller (too small for a martin to get in) by using cardboard or thin wood or hard plastic well fastened to the opening. Removing a HS nest only makes them more aggressive & they will take it out on the martins. The PMCA store sells traps of all sizes to fit different houses.

You will definitely need to change out your poles, so you can lower all the houses to do nest checks, etc. Pre-nesting with pine straw/needles/dried leaves helps them have a nice dry warm place when they first arrive. Most will add to it before laying eggs. Also make the entrances look used by pre-nesting & smearing just a little mud around the entrance. This gives the martins the idea it was used before & is OK. When you see them bringing in green leaves that's an indication they are ready to lay eggs.

Eggs shells or oyster shells are good to offer as well. They provide the much needed calcium for egg development & later for the chicks. Parents will feed small pieces to chicks to help with bone growth, etc. Eggs shells can be rinsed & baked at 250 degrees on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20 minutes. Let cool & crush to around 1/4 inch in size. Pulleted oyster shells can be purchased at feed stores. Place them on a raised surface for them to get to. Many use a pole with a aluminum pan, plastic tray (we use a Frisbee screwed to the top of a cloths line post), etc., attached. Drill a couple holes in it to let any rain out.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

A lot of good information already posted. Don't forget your predator guards.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1755
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.

deancamp is correct when he says don't use Diatomaceous Earth. DE can become airborne in the nest as they move around and it is a lung irritant that is harmful to the martins.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

WOW I’m glad I mentioned the diatomaceous earth! I definitely won’t use any of that! I forgot to mention we are planning to get predator guards too. I’ll have to get my husband to look into what it would take to convert the poles.
I know there are multiple nests and fledglings in the house with the 4 by 4 post so I’ll leave it for now and work on replacing it for next year.
I’ll check on the little hatchling again tomorrow and add some nesting material to the cavity as was suggested.
I keep a close watch on the houses especially since we’ve been stuck at home for months, and I haven’t seen any starlings or barn swallows at all. I will be getting the starling resistant door plates though to discourage any that may come around.
I haven’t posted pictures of my houses. They’re in pretty rough shape and I wanted to get them fixed up a little.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2935
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I treat with 7 so don't have to do nest changes very often but have done them and the martins don't mind. They might take a second look the first time they land as it will look different, but many members on here do nest changes every year. If it were me I would get a small box or something that you can build a small nest in, place the babies/eggs into it and then put it into the cavity. I wouldn't make it real big but enough to give them something to help with their legs and to keep warm if you happen to get a cold windy rainy night. Every once in a while I will get an SY pair that will have almost no nesting material. One year I had some only bring in a few green leaves and then lay eggs.
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Ecw15177
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:45 am
Location: Mobile, AL

Thanks! Using a little box is a great idea. I have seen some people with removable nest boxes for each cavity. Is this something I should look into doing for next year also?
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.

Ecw15177 wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 3:14 pm
Thanks! Using a little box is a great idea. I have seen some people with removable nest boxes for each cavity. Is this something I should look into doing for next year also?

Most companies that make martin houses now have nest trays. They can be cardboard, plastic or wood. Check the PMCA shop. They make it nice for doing nest changes & cleaning at the end of the season.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
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