martins in garden!

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barbiejoe
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:16 am
Location: Branson MO

martins in garden!

Postby barbiejoe » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:48 am

I don't have a long experience with martins, but maybe 6 years or more. I have never seen them in my garden. A couple of days ago, I had two pairs hanging around in the garden, both on the fences and on the ground.
We have had some cool mornings and a cool spring, but it was 50 degrees or more when I saw them in the garden. Does it mean they are desperate, hungry, need extra feeding? They do all have hatched babies in my housing.
Barbiejoe
After 3 years, I gave up and put two gourds out, hoping to get other birds to nest. I did. Had one pair of tree swallows and ONE pair of purple martins. The PM had 4 hatchlings. One died in the nest and one was found on the ground two days running and died that night. Two flew successfully.

Rafke77
Posts: 85
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:35 am
Location: Plymouth, IN.
Martin Colony History: 2019 The beginning

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Rafke77 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:06 am

I noticed this exact thing a few weeks ago.

https://www.purplemartin.org/forum/view ... d831db1e3f

I took a video of it as well, it was interesting. Sometimes they would land, sometimes just fly very low and slowly over it.
As mentioned in that link, it was suggested they were getting mud. But during my last nest check, I did not see any mud added. I will work on getting my video uploaded.
-Rob
2019 .....

Rafke77
Posts: 85
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:35 am
Location: Plymouth, IN.
Martin Colony History: 2019 The beginning

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Rafke77 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:05 pm

Here is a link to my video, I apologize for the occasionally out of picture and bouncing. I was balancing my binoculars on my deck rail and trying to hold my cell phone squarely up to one of the lenses.

https://youtu.be/iIrqIlQE-bQ
2019 .....

Hanover Bill
Posts: 567
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Hanover Bill » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:37 am

I also used to think the Martins never went to ground except to gather nesting material, but the longer I am at this the more I realize that their behavior is adapted to conditions. I see them in my garden and mulch pile pretty often. Also always thought of them as high flyers and feeders, but I notice when the weather is cold they fly and feed right close to the ground over my big field when the sun hits it. They must be feeding on insects that are rising out of the field when the sun hits it.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Brad Biddle
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Brad Biddle » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:44 am

Here's what I saw in the video. A couple of Martins gathering nesting material, one female enduring "forced" mating, and a hoard of males following a couple of females with the intent of forced copulation. You see the one female get mated on the ground and then sit there for a few seconds. When you see that, keep an eye on her. I've seen them get driven down on wet grass, get their feathers wet and be unable to fly. I've even found dead females on the ground and I know that's what caused it.

There may be some feeding going on, but that looks like a typical morning of early or late nest building. I say early or late because when they're full steam ahead nest building there won't be as many other Martins following them around.

They definitely feed low at times too. Especially during cold snaps. I don't think that's what they're doing in your case though.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 102 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.

Rafke77
Posts: 85
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:35 am
Location: Plymouth, IN.
Martin Colony History: 2019 The beginning

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Rafke77 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:24 pm

Thanks for the info Brad! I would not have recognized that as mating, but now I know what to look for. Now I'm guessing half of what I see as fighting might not be.

They were flying all about that morning, but they just oddly seemed to be attracted to that dirt section of his garden. Like I said in my previous post, there was just a little compost, corn pieces, some cauliflower, etc. Is it also possible they found an easy meal of the insects gathering over the rotting food? As for nesting material, during our last nest check there was nothing out of the ordinary besides my original handfuls of soft pine needles, straw and leaves.

-Rob
2019 .....

Brad Biddle
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

Re: martins in garden!

Postby Brad Biddle » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:24 pm

I've never seen them eating insects while sitting on the ground. I'm not saying it's completely out of the question, but I don't think that's what they were doing. They may have been picking grit from the soil. Small rocks that stay in their crop to help them grind their food. Have you ever offered them any egg shells or pullet sized oyster shells? I've always used oyster shells, the pullet size, but the particle size on much of the pieces is too big for a Martin. I put out 5 dozen egg shells in a bare spot in my garden about a month ago and they were gone within a week. I've got a local deli to save me their eggshells for a week. I had to go pick them up every morning. They used around 12 dozen eggs per morning for breakfast. I've been washing them, then drying them at 225 degrees in the oven for 3-4 hours. It takes a long while to get the membrane dried out and brittle. Last week I put out a good pile of them in a different spot than I did the first time. They were picking them up as soon as I got far enough away for them to feel comfortable flying to the ground. There were as many as 15 at a time on the ground. I was amazed that they knew what they were after only giving them some once before. They eat them and feed them to nestlings.

When I was in the commercial hen business, at one of our contract farms, I use to see Martins feeding on houseflies pretty regularly, early in the season, on cool days. The grower had a dumpster and put his broken eggs in it. That attracted flies. Lots and lots of flies. The Martins would buzz by that dumpster eating flies all day. So, they are definitely opportunistic feeders. If the insects are staying close to the ground, they feed close to the ground. Early in the spring they feed low, across our pastures quite often.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 102 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.


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