A new discovery - getting them to gape!

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Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Well, this is a new discovery for me, anyway :lol: I found a baby, about 13 days old, on the ground yesterday evening. He/she looked fine - no apparent reason to be down. But I decided to keep him overnight, and feed him crickets. So, the usual difficult thing - force the mouth open, shove down some food. About every half hour until dark I gave him 4 or 5 crickets. When their parents feed them, they gape, which shows the parents the bright inside yellow of the mouth and is an indication that they want food. And down goes the dragonfly into that waiting space. When they are full, they stop gaping. So, when hand feeding a bird, in the first place its difficult, and in the second place you don't know when they've had enough. Well, for some reason this morning after forcing a few down him, I decided to whistle to him -- maybe sound like a bird ? (I'm not a good whistler, so it in no way mimicked a martin, but it was a whistle.) To my astonishment, he gaped for me. Another cricket - I whistled as I brought the cricket towards him, and he gaped again. Wow, it is so easy when they do that. I've just come in from feeding him this way again, and he ate about 10 crickets. He gaped for every one of them, and when he was full he didn't gape. This afternoon, when the babies are sleeping, we'll put him back where I think he came from. By then he'll have had a couple more feeds, and I hope this method continues to work, because WHAT A DIFFERENCE it made for the stress level of this landlord as well as the bird :grin:
Guest

very interesting...thanks for sharing.
sharon
Laverne
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

Oh My Goodness - Mary!!!

It does work! I'm not feeding any babies at present - but, when we do nest checks, Mike whistles at them to get them to "gape"! You know how they always lay there like they are attempting to be invisible. They don't take very pretty pictures when they're like that. Mike whistles and up come the heads with mouths open... I'm so dense, though, I never made the connection between feeding and this little trick! Probably because trying to feed an injured or starving baby has always taken me to the brink of stressed out!

How amazing! What a simple way to get a nestling to behave in a much more normal manner! Thank you so much for pointing this one out. This simple solution will make my next rescue attempt much more pleasant. There have been times when the struggle with a nestling's clamped shut mouth has brought me to tears.

Thank you, again! Anybody still doing nest checks, give this a try! It really works!!!
Sincerely,
Laverne
Sparky
Posts: 1889
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 11:04 pm
Location: Texas/Katy

That's pretty neat. I remember once on a wildlife show (I think it was the old "Wild Kingdom" show), the scientists were using a puppet mimicing a bald eagle to feed some young eagle orphans.
I have thought about coming up with a PM puppet, just in case I had to perform an emergency feeding as you are doing just to see what their reaction would be. I think it would be quite fun actually! :grin:
I'm a "nestcamaholic" Is 18 hours a day a bad thing? (I have 2 this year, luckily I have 2 eyes!)
Laverne
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

Hey Sparky.

I had thought on the puppet idea for a while, too. It was the story on the Whooping Cranes that got my gears to grinding. Maybe just a long pair of tweezers with a Purple Martin mask on them. But, the whistle - - - I almost wish I had a nestling to test this out on.

No, I'm just gonna take Mary's word for it - along with my own experiences for "photographic" purposes. I'm calling Margaret (rehabber). I don't think she knows about this one, because she commented on how sometimes she has to tube feed nestling martins.

Mary, you should call or email the PMCA directly and let them know about your discovery. It could prove to be a very valuable tool for all PM Landlords. Can you tell, I'm excited!
Sincerely,
Laverne
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Laverne, I'm denser. I sat there this morning, talking to him in a soothing, loving voice, which my 2 year old great-niece would have found comforting, but which was probably quite horrifying to that little bird. DUH DUH. I know what you mean about the frustration of trying to force feed - you want to help them so much but its as if they are determined to starve - easier to understand when we see ourselves as they probably do - a big threatening predator. Anyway, each time I fed him after my previous post, he gaped if I whistled - you're right, it does work. He is now back in his nest, with his 5 siblings - although we need to do a quick nest change tonight - mites - and I didn't have any nesting material on hand when we replaced him earlier. But he went back in well-fed, and hopefully will be OK.
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Hey Laverne, I guess your last post was the same time as mine. So you'll see, it continued to work for the time I had that nestling. Helping nestlings is SO MUCH easier if they all behave as this one did, and as you have experienced during nest changes. I'll add this bit of info - in my supergourd hanging on a shepherds hook, with six babies, I frequently peek in at them, so they're not particularly afraid of my old mug looking at them. So I took a piece of egg, extended it through the hole, and whistled. I could see several of them gape, although they were too far back to take the egg. So, its interesting that they have this instinctive response, since I don't recall hearing the adult martins make any particular call when they bring food in. Also, when I had the nestling in the bucket, once I started whistling, I didn't even have to lift him out, which I had previously done to force-feed - he could stay in the comfort and safety of his temporary home and take food from me. A great experience.
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Sparky - I had thought of something similar as well - in fact, I have tried in the past putting my hand in a black sock or glove - but that didn't make a difference, perhaps because I was using my "soothing comforting" voice :oops: at the same time :oops: DUH again. A puppet would be interesting to experiment with, in case the response to a whistle isn't the same with all babies. Certainly worth a try - I would like to experiment with a long, light, black glove. And, if someone could do a martin noise, instead of mine which I think is more like a house finch (very unmelodious) :lol: , the results would probably be much more certain.
Joe D. Bryant

Mary, your experience post is very interesting. Wonder how playing Daytime Chatter would work to replace whistling; whatever, this sure adds a new meaning to "Whistle While You Work". :) Thanks
Guest

Mary -

I just came in from feeding 4 babies.....I wish I'd known about whistling before I did it - but I may go back out there and try again. These little guys are just coming over the hump from starvation and I'd love to get a few more crickets down their little throats!!!

THANKS!!! I'll let you know if it works for them!!!
Guest

Funny, I always whistlle when I 'm about to lower my houses to do nest checks. They ignore me completely when I'm going about my every day business- the moment I whistle (close or far) the alarm call goes off .



.
Guest

Well, they didn't gape, but their heads came up....probably because I had just fed them. But mom sure answered the whistle - and came home in a hurry. I'll try again when I feed them in the morning. :grin:
Laverne
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

Mike and I whistle to our colony all the time. Walking from the house to the barn, we pass by the housing and they get a whistle. Our version of the ASY Male when attempting to attract a mate. It is four notes that similate that familiar call.

But, when we were doing nest checks (counting noses) we always encountered nestlings prone and still. Rarely, we would open an access hole to a nest full of babies with their beaks pointed to the sky looking for food from Momma or Daddy. But, one day Mike whistled - just one note to them and their heads came up and their mouths opened. We tested it several times - it even worked when I whistled. You know like when I'm calling the dog.

You have just got to try this - it may save you and your suffering little charge a lot of pain and agony. Please remember this trick the next time you have to deal with feeding a baby Purple Martin. It will help you and the baby tremendously.
Sincerely,
Laverne
Guest

Two high notes and a low note - just like Mom - and they gape!!! High, pause, High, Low. High, pause, High, Low. One, One,One-Two.

This was the best feeding experience I've had since I tried to bring these 4 babies back from the brink.....


And, they are doing great!!

Thanks again, Mary!!

Deborah

PS - maybe this should be on the archives under emergency procedures along with freezing crickets and feeding meal worms after you pinch their little heads off!!
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Deborah, I'm really pleased to hear that it worked for you as well ! And congratulations on bringing your little ones back to good health. My whistling isn't that fancy - not sure if I can do Hi Low - I'll have to learn how, maybe I'll use Daytime Chatter like Joe suggested - learn from the genuine source...... Another note on this same subject - today I had a 20-day old down - again don't know why - he didn't seem to be too underweight - I put him on my weight-watchers scale (may as well use it for something 8) since its got grams on it, and he was nearly on the mark weight-wise for his age which I compared on my notes and on the age-progession pictures. Anyway, whistling didn't work on him (at least my kind - maybe the proper Hi Hi Lo sequence would have. He hunkered down and tried to look invisible - he did squawk at me but it was more a fight reaction than hunger - but of course I shoved crickets down whenever he did. So, perhaps at a certain age they won't respond to the fake "mom" call. I'm so glad it seems to work on the younger ones, though - at least it makes the task easier for helping some of them.
Laverne
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

I would be more inclined to believe he wasn't hungry.

Hello, again, Mary.

I found a fledgling on the ground a few weeks ago. He had a hurt wing. I found him on Friday evening and I kept him until Sunday evening when I finally took him to the rehabber. Didn't know about whistling then, but, I would "chew-chew" to him and he would open his mouth and snatch a cricket out of my fingers. Or maybe he was trying to bite me - - -

We shall continue to test this technique, Mary, until we know all-l-l about it!!!

Thank you, again!
Sincerely,
Laverne
Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Hey Laverne, you may be right - he was pretty feisty, so perhaps wasn't hungry at all. I thought about why he was down, and we had a little earlier done a nest check - we have our housing up and down often enough that I don't worry about it when they're under 24 days old as a rule - so maybe the nest check made him jump, but it was a few hours later that I found him, so I thought he might have been hungry. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what people report as they test this technique. I would recommend two attempts before force-feeding any nestling - first, try the whistle technique, Hi, pause, Hi Low, as Deborah said (or any whistling noise, as I made) and then try putting food (crickets/mealworms) in the bucket with the nestling - one time several years ago, after several attempts at force-feeding, I thought the baby and I both needed a break, and when I came back after 20 minutes or so all the bugs were gone, and the only place they could have gone was down his throat. He fed himself. So, before resorting to the intrusive, highly stressful procedure of force-feeding, these two things are certainly worth a try.
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