A Different Approach To Placing Decoys To Deflect Raptor Attacks From Purple Martins

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4239
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

A Different Approach To Placing Decoys To Deflect Raptor Attacks From Purple Martins

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sat Nov 30, 2019 6:08 pm

A Different Approach To Placing Decoys To Deflect Raptor Attacks From Purple Martins

Every purple martin season our two northwest Louisiana personal colonies, mine and my neighbor Bob, are attacked by migrant Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiters) and merlins (small falcons), during February and March and mainly in April.

Minimizing such raptor attacks is difficult when the majority of the attacks are on martins flying to and from the colony or sometimes on martins that may be looking for nesting material on or near the ground. I rarely see any Accipiter or merlin grab a martin off a house porch or gourd rack. Nearly all these attacks are on airborne martins.

One approach I have used for several years to deflect these aerial attacks by the migrant raptors is deploying purple martin and mourning dove decoys on poles scattered around both our colonies. The poles vary in height from as low as three feet to over ten feet above the ground and are between 10 and over 50 yards from our gourd racks and houses. The decoys are realistic looking from a distance and definitely attract attacking raptors. The Cooper’s hawks will hit both martin and dove decoys while the smaller sharp-shinned hawks and merlins have so far only attacked the martin decoys that I have seen. When a raptor is “busy attacking a decoy”, the real martins have a much better chance of escaping. I have observed numerous attacks by Accipiters and merlins on my martin and mourning dove decoys and the real martins escaped high in the sky. I have seen Cooper’s hawks in particular make spectacular stoops at almost 90 degree angles from several hundred yards high up over our colonies and strike martin and mourning dove decoys placed over 50 yards from the housing. It is most exciting to watch this!

For 2020 I am thinking about trying something a little different relative to decoy placement. This will be in conjunction with my current method of attaching decoys to poles and scattering them around the perimeters of our martin colonies. Occasionally an Accipiter or merlin will come from high up and “pass over” my decoys scattered around the perimeters of our two martin colonies. The raptor may enter our colonies and go after a martin that bolts out in the open right in the path of the hawk or falcon.

Now what is this different approach to decoy placement? I may place several martin decoys on poles and then attach the pole to a gourd hub five or more feet ABOVE the system. Higher up the better! This may be a highly visible attractant to diving hawks or falcons that miss the other spread out decoys. I prefer to have the decoys not directly on a house or gourd rack but away from it as much as possible. This may better keep a raptor “busy” with the decoy at a greater distance and give any martins more chances to escape. However, other landlords have attached decoys directly to their gourd racks/houses and this has worked well for them.

I have included several photos showing some decoys placed on poles above the gourd racks. These decoys are about five feet I guess above the top of the racks. However, I really prefer even taller poles and may try that to give even more distance between a raptor attacking a decoy and any fleeing martins underneath. What I am trying to present is a decoy out in the open ABOVE the gourd rack that is highly vulnerable to any attacking Accipiter or merlin and obviously the slowest martin around!

There are two photos of a “flying martin” and this would be a “really slow” one! I attached some fake wings made from aluminum trim coil to the decoy. I tried this approach last season and both Accipiters and merlins hit the “flying martin decoy”; the decoy was on a pole and placed about 30 yards from my martin colony. The other photo shows a martin without wings that is perched on the pole and above the gourd rack.

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PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

flyin-lowe
Posts: 2639
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

Re: A Different Approach To Placing Decoys To Deflect Raptor Attacks From Purple Martins

Postby flyin-lowe » Sun Dec 01, 2019 9:04 am

Nice work, as always......I always have mixed feelings when I come home and see my decoys "messed up". I am hopeful that the attack on the decoy saved a martin but I also don't like knowing I have the predators in the area. When starting a new colony I didn't have any bird feeders at my house as I didn't want to draw any extra attention. Now that I have a decent number of martins again I might put the feeders back up, the more eyes and alarms in the area the better. I don't think adding feeders now will draw in any more predators then the existing colony already will.
2019- Currently 31 complete nests (27 with eggs or babies) 94 babies hatched and 19 eggs still to hatch) 6-22-19
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.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4239
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: A Different Approach To Placing Decoys To Deflect Raptor Attacks From Purple Martins

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sun Dec 01, 2019 2:34 pm

When I lived in north Florida at my last address, I fed wild birds in my backyard. The resident Cooper's hawks not only attacked the "seed eaters" but inflicted heavy losses on the parent martins as they tried to feed the babies during May and June. The bird feeding station did not "lure" the Cooper's hawks away from my martin colony.

This was in 2004 and I moved to Louisiana and started my new colony in 2005. This last martin year in Florida was a complete disaster because of the Cooper's hawk attacks during May and June and numerous babies starved to death because the parents were either killed or were so terrified that they were unable to feed their young adequately. I was not retired at the time and had to leave my martins at the mercy of the hawks for many hours daily. All that carnage greatly influenced my decision to move!

Right now, my neighbor Bob feeds wild birds in his backyard. Initially we saw many cardinals, native sparrows (migrants), mourning and Eurasian collared doves and other "seed eaters" coming to feed. Well, it didn't take long for the migrant Accipiter hawks wintering in our area to discover this bountiful food source! Both sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks are attacking these birds daily and it appears that many of the birds have either been eaten or have abandoned the feeding station. At one time there were many beautiful cardinals feeding, but no more. Just a few brave and terribly paranoid cardinals come in to feed. The doves come in quickly, drop down for a quick "bite to eat", and then leave. There are still small flocks of native sparrows that try to be as "invisible" as possible when feeding on the ground. I have found the plucked feathers of doves and cardinals in the area and have seen both sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks "staking out" the area. I watched a large female Cooper's hawk hotly chase a Eurasian collared dove for about 100 yards and both disappeared behind some trees. Don't know what finally happened!

I like to watch birds feed at a feeding station and Bob will probably continue feeding them even after the martins arrive for the upcoming season. The Accipiter hawks and merlins are going to attack anyway just like they have done since we established our two personal martin colonies years ago. I really makes no difference if wild birds are being fed or not.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season


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