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Dave Duit
Joined:16 Mar 2019, 00:42
Location:Nevada, Iowa
Original Join Date:Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:02 am

Post by Dave Duit » 20 May 2019, 08:30

This thread is dedicated to all those interested in purple martins. It was created to educate, entertain and enlighten landlords on everything dealing with martins. Each week, two new facts, figures, findings etc... will be added to the end of the thread in a question / answer format. Simply scroll down to see the latest addition. The on going Q&A will number in the hundreds and span over years. We ask that you don't respond to this particular thread in order to keep it streamlined. Thank you.

169. Why do martins use coarse nesting materials ?
Purple martins use larger nesting materials than the smaller barn tree and cliff swallows. Nest-
lings need to grasp larger nest material to strengthen their feet. Coarse material also helps
prevent splaying of their legs. Larger nest material has shown to improve the nestlings health
and reduce stress.

170. Why do the parents eat the large dragonflies while on the porch when their babies are waiting
inside to eat ?
The key word here is "large". If the dragonfly is too big for the nestling, the parents will either
eat part of the dragonfly to make it an appropriate size for the nestling or eat all of it. SY
parents are sometimes inept in their parenting skills and at times will bring in huge dragonflies
for the tiny nestlings. In some cases the weather will only bring out the larger bugs and they
must do with what is available.

171. Are barn swallows better at chasing off a cooper or sharp shinned hawk than martins ?
Martins are more than capable in chasing after a hawk; usually while in the air. Barn swallows
use a different method. Barnies will dive bomb the exact location of a hawk and will not cease
it's strafing until the hawks leaves. Barnies are more tenacious and persistent in nature.

172. Which song bird is number one in the amount of money spent on their species by people ?
No suprise, it is the purple martin. In North America, the public will spent an estimated
$30,000,000 in attracting and accommodating the purple martin species. $30 million annually.

173. How far from a colony will martins travel to feed themselves and their young ?
Five square miles, but it will vary depending on availability of food.

174. Can a beheaded dragonfly still bite ?
Yes, for a few hours.

175. I've heard of the dawnsong and daytime chatter, but what is the "Evening Song" ?
The evening song is a louder vocalization and different from the dawnsong or daytime chatter.
It does not contain the "krieeeker" characteristic sound of the dawnsong. It is sung after the
parents fledged their young and only in the evening when the siblings return to their nests. The
ASY males work into a frenzy for only five minutes trying to out shout or out sing his equally
successful male counterparts. The evening song only lasts for the one or two weeks near the
end of the breeding season as long as the fledglings return to the nest instead of the roost in
nearby trees. As more fledglings are successful and the numbers grow, the evening song will in
turn increase throughout the colony. I feel it is a way for the martin parents to let their
landlords know they are thankful for providing a safe and successful colony to raise their

176. It there a separate species known as the bee martin ?
No. This is in fact an Eastern Kingbird scientifically named the (Tyrannus - tyrannus). This
particular species is sometime seen near martin colonies and can cause problems for the purple
martins due to their aggressive nature.

177. When I do nest changes, why do nestlings always defecate ?
It is natural instinct and an inherent behavior. When a nestling feels stress, hears a loud noise,
are handled, first flight or just after they have been fed, they will defecate. It is good practice
to wear rubber or latex gloves during nest changes.

178. How many times do the parents return to their nest to feed half grown nestlings ?
A nest with 5 nestlings,which is average; will take around 175 to 200 feeding trips per day. Of
course this will fluctuate depending on weather conditions and food availability.

179. Is DNA fingerprinting new to martin research ?
It is a scientific technique in which a small amount of blood is drawn from a nestling to
track it's paternity. It is not new to martin research, but the sophistication of the equipment is
become more readily available to avian scientists. In the future, more precise information will
allow us to better understand the species.

180. Can you explain what the 0 with a small t on top and the 0 with a small upside down t
indicate on a nest check chart ?
These symbols are abbreviated forms and sort of act as a type of short hand on a nest check
chart to show us that the 0 with the t on top is the male and the the 0 with the upside down t
is the female.

181. What is the deal with parents dropping insects in the air while their young are following close
behind ?
This behavior serves two fold for the youngsters. First, it encourages the young to learn how to
start fending for themselves while learning to catch insects. It also makes the young build
necessary muscle and maneuverability to avoid predator attacks from quick hawks. After about
the first week of training in this insect dropping ritual, the parents will show their young to
the prime feeding area so the youngsters can get real world skills is catching their own food.

182. How can I get trapped sparrows from using a Spare-O-Door to exit ?
Sometimes sparrows are tough to get out the a Spare-O-Door trap. By inserting a thin wire
through the vent hole or along the side, the sparrow usually exits without any further issues. As
a reminder, do not take your sparrow out and release it a distance from your colony; it simply
does not work. You will need to eliminate the sparrow.

183. If one of the parents in a pair has been killed while the nestlings are young, will the remaining
parent continue to feed the young?
The answer is maybe, depending on if the remaining parent is a SY or ASY martin. The older
ASY would be more likely to continue feeding, whereas an SY's parenting drive and instinct may
not kick in. It is best to observe and only do a nestling swap into another close nest with similar
aged nestling for those adoptive parents to take over. Be careful not to introduce too many
nestlings into an adoptive nest for fear of the young not being able to get enough food. This
option is a last resort. Be sure that the single parent nest has in fact been abandoned by the
parent before an attempted nestling swap into an adoptive parents nest.

184. Why would young martin that fledged 7 days ago come back to roost in their natal
compartments ?
It isn't uncommon to see this behavior. They have either sensed a terrible storm just prior to it's
arrival and sought out a safe place they are familiar. Or, the parents have spotted a predator
in the feeding area and decided to direct their young back to safety.

185. Do the parents carry the same feeding load when rearing their young ?
Yes. This is especially true with ASY pairs.

186. Can a martin colony reach a saturation point ?
It can happen, but is uncommon. The rule of thumb is based on available water, food and cover.
If their is plenty of housing or compartments available, then it comes down to water and food.
If there is an equal balance of these three areas, then there is no need to worry about
saturation. Even in the cases of super colonies of over 100 breeding pair, saturation is rarely

187. Where do the parents sleep at seasons end when their young have fledged ?
In their nest compartment or one adjacent to it. Once they have left your colony, they sleep in
the trees. During their migration south they may stay under bridge overpasses like the long
Lake Ponchertrain bridge. While down in Brazil, some flock to and roost at big oil refineries.

188. Do martins make small food pellets for feeding their young ?
Parent martins are able to compress smaller insects into a small pellet or food ball near the
back of their throat in order to feed their young when food availability may be low. It is
thought that they can form the pellet with their throat muscles.

189. Will left over crushed egg shells from the season be good to use the next year ?
As long as you prepared them properly (cleaned, heated) and stored in a dry location; these
crushed egg shells will last for years. The calcium and nutritional value will not decrease.

190. About what percentage of the total martin houses available in the United States actually have
martins colonies ?
10%. This sounds like a shocking number, but it is true. The other 90% are either infested with
sparrows, starling or stand empty. If proper landlord management was implemented throughout
the United States, this percentage would rise dramatically. Most of the people visiting this
website are responsible landlords and take good care of their colonies; you are part of the 10%.
Sadly, the average person that erects a martin house does not take the time to educated
themselves and lacks the basic information on purple martins. They put up the house and
assume that is all they need to do.

191. If a flood caused the water to rise a few feet from the bottom of the martin house, should I try to
remove the house and relocate it to a safer place ?
No. Leave the house as it is and the parents will continue to feed their young since their instinct to
take care of their nestlings is so strong. The only time you would even consider moving the house is
if the house has been dislodged or if it gets washed away.

192. How long do the migrating martins that choose the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway stay before moving
on to Brazil ?
The early arrivals are the first to continue their migration to Brazil and the later martins follow at a later
time. It is a continuous flow of migration with an average stay of two to four weeks for an individual
193. Martins are monogamous, but how often does bigamy occur ?
It is rare that one male will take care of two nests during a season. It is common for an ASY male to copulate with another female, but she usually has a younger partner. In research done over 28 years, it appears that bigamy occurs 1% of the time.

194. What is sexual dimorphism ?
It is the physical difference in appearance between a male and female. This is exhibited only in
the SY or ASY martins in their plumage.

195. What is tradition shift in nesting behavior ?
Tradition shift is the gradual change in nesting behavior over time. An example would be the behavior
seen in the eastern purple martin from hundreds of years ago when their nests were in hollowed
woodpecker holes, tree cavities to that of 100% man made housing such as gourds, and wooden or metal
housing. The other two tradition shift species are chimney swifts, who nested only in huge, hollow trees
and barn swallows, who nested in the mouths of caves or other rocky niches.

196. What are the native competitors of martins for housing ?
Eastern bluebird, tree swallow, house wren, and great-crested flycatcher may be attracted to your martin
housing. You can house both purple martins and other native species at your location, but the native
competitors should not be allowed to nest in the martin housing.

197. Are martins considered complete neotropical migrants ?
Martins travel from North America, as far as southern Canada in the summer to South America as far as
Brazil and Argentina in the winter. The full migration can take 2-3 months to complete as birds rest and
feed along the way. Martins are true neotropical migrants.

198. Do martins sometimes feed at night ?
Martins are considered diurnal insectivores, meaning they are daytime insect hunters. Martins may forage
for insects near dusk, but they always sleep during the night.

199. How do the terms "interspecific" and "intraspecific" relate to purple martins ?
Interspecific is defined as between two or more different species. Example: There is
interspecific nest competition between martins, starlings and sparrows. Intraspecific is defined
as within one species. Example: Two male martins were in an intraspecific fight with each other over their
chance to mate with the female martin.

200. Do martins obtain a sticky substance in their mouth to aid in their ability to capture flying insects?
It is arguable, since different sources have stated that yes and no to this question. Regardless of this
questionable sticky substance, the martin is one of the best aerial insectivores.

201. Is it normal for adults to fight with fledglings prior to tucking in for the nights sleep ?
What we are viewing is the fledglings crowding in for the night. This behaviors sets them up for the
best spot to accept food near the entrance the next morning. Other behavior viewed is when subadult
bachelors are discouraging the new fledglings from sleeping in their original nesting cavity. In doing so,
these sub adult males are in turn focusing on next year in their desire to reduce the competition for
prime nest location and therefore best chance for successful reproduction. This is all part of the big
picture in the continuation of the species.

202. Does the embryo in the egg always stay heads up ?
The lower half of the embryo is heavier than the top half and therefore always rests on the bottom of the
eggs fluid. This allows the head to float to the top of the egg. The chalaza, or membrane chord turns
each time the egg is moved by the parents. The parents move the egg from time to time in order to
ensure that the chalaza never settles and stops the chance of the chalaza adhering to the inside shell.
The landlord can help the parents in their rotating behavior by simply keeping a dry nest and including
slideout trays. Slideout trays allow for weekly nest checks without touching the eggs. Landlords should
never touch martin eggs. The ONLY TIME this would be allowed is when babies are hatching and a half
egg shell may have flipped over onto an unhatched egg. Easily remove this half shell from the
capped egg so that the unhatched capped egg baby can break out of the shell. Typically the parents
either remove the shells from the nest or eat the shell for calcium needs. It is uncommon to come
across a capped egg.

***** The first 202 questions and answers have focused on general martin information. The next 65
questions and answers will generally focus on attracting martins. ***************************************

203. Do cliff swallows and martins get along ?
These two species are buddies. In fact, research has shown that the older ASY martins and older cliff
swallows are the first to alert each others species that there may be a predator in the area.

204. In 2005, what was the overall North American growth rate of martins ?
United States Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the growth rate up to the year 2005 was 1.29 %.
Remember that is the overall rate; there are areas in the US where the rate has declined and other
areas the rate has increased.

205. Do martins dive bomb people ?
Martins will strafe both animals and humans. The swallow family will dive bomb usually as a
gesture of protecting their nesting site. No human has ever been killed by a martin, so you can
relax. It is not a wise idea to allow your neighborhood cat to jump into the air while trying
to snag a dive bombing martin. Remove the cat from the area as on rare occasions the cat is

206. How can I determine if a nest is constructed by a martin or sparrow ?
A martin nest is made from material such as straw, hay, slices of corn stalk and weed stems
which are formed into a neat nest cup. If you have deep 12 inch compartments, (which is
suggested), the nest is always built near the back of the compartment. The ASY martins will
sometimes build a safety mud barrier near the front of the nest for added protection. A martin
nest will not have a tunnel leading back to the nest, nor will it have material above its nest. A
sparrow nest will usually fill the entire cavity with a tunnel leading to the center of the nest. A
sparrow nest can be made from about anything from feathers, gum wrappers, cigarette butts,
straw, etc... If you are a beginner in the martin hobby, it is a good idea to google search
images of martin nests as well as sparrow nests to notice the differences. You may ant to take
a look here:
Sparrow nest

Purple martin nest
https://www.purplemartin.org/uploads/me ... st-209.jpg

207. Why do martins use green leaves prior to laying their eggs ?
A few theories are being developed by ornithologists. The first theory is that the leaves have a
cooling effect for the nest on hot days. Tree leaves produce cyanide gas which will discourage
parasitic activity. It may also regulate moisture for the eggs. It is also believed that drying
leaves will repel blowflies and other parasites that prefer dark, wet areas.

208. Will bluebirds use a martin cavity ?
If there is no available bluebird boxes in the area a bluebird will utilize a martin cavity. It is a
good idea to discourage bluebird from establishing a nest in your martin housing. This is
especially important to landlords trying to start a new martin colony; since the bluebirds will
try to defend their nest from incoming martins.

209. What should I do if a bluebird wants to nest in my martin housing ?
Provide nesting boxes immediately in the area. Bluebirds are a desired species and we need to provide
them with appropriate nest boxes.

210. How close or far should I place a bluebird or tree swallow nesting box to my martin house ?
Place the nesting box within 25 feet of your martin house and face the entrance toward your martin
housing. This will encourage a pair of bluebirds or tree swallows to take up residence in the box and
they will discourage other tree swallows or bluebirds from occupying your martin housing.

211. Is it necessary to place a martin house near a pond or lake in order to start a colony ?
No. These locations may be desirable by martins, but it is not necessary. There are some very large
colonies that are successful and nowhere near a pond or lake. Martins will travel some distance to
drink and bathe.

212. Do martins nest in tree cavities ?
Hundreds of years ago this was true. The Eastern purple martin (Progne Subis-subis) is 100% reliant on
man made housing. But, the Western species of purple martin (Progne Subis-Hesperia) live in holes in
cactus and the Pacific northwest martin (Progne Subis-Arboricola) live in tree cavities and are slowly
moving into man made wooden martin houses.

213. What would happen if there were suddenly no manmade martin houses east of the Missouri River ?
Within a few years, the progne subis subis (Eastern purple martin would most likely go extinct.)

214. Would a martin ever use a cavity such as a stop light for their nesting needs ?
It is possible, but it would not be the martins first choice since it is not enclosed.

215. Do purple martins (progne subis-subis), martins east of the Missouri river ever nest in South America ?
No. The reason they do not is because their nesting grounds are in the US during their breeding season.
During the winter they migrate to South America and since they are not raising a family they don't need a
nest. There are martin sub species of South America that do nest only in South America.

216. Which purple martin sub species nest in South America ?
The Southern Martin known as the Progne Elegans which nests and breeds in Argentina and Bolivia and
winters in the western Amazon basin. The Brown Chested Martin known as the Progne Tapera nests and
breeds in the grasslands of South America up to Panama, they make their nests in bank burrows. The last
sub species is the Grey Breasted martin known as the Progne Chalybea which nests and breeds in
northern Mexico and south to Central America and Argentina. Their migration area is small.

217. Is it a good idea to offer clean, baked crushed egg shells to martins ?
It is an excellent source of calcium to help them build strong eggs for hatching as well as replenish
calcium for bone formation. In addition to crushed prepared egg shells, it is good to offer them crushed
oyster shells or grit.

218. How do I make egg shells at my home to give to the martins ?
After cracking the eggs open, save the egg shells. Under running water use your finger to rub the inside
of the egg shell halves to clean them out. Place your egg shell halves faced down on a plate in your
microwave for about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Take the shells out of the microwave and place them in a plastic
bag to crush them into tiny pieces. You can store them in the freezer until you are ready to serve them up
to the martins on a raised platform feeding tray. The martins will love you for providing the egg shells. If
you wish to purchase egg shells already prepared, check out the thread in the forum under
announcements to buy them online.

219. Are nestlings able to eat crushed eggshells ?
The parents will pick out the smaller pieces of eggshell and take it back to the compartment to give to
their young. It has the same benefit for the nestlings as for the adults.

220. Is there a best way to feed the martins eggshells ?
A raised feeding platform near the colony is ideal. Some people choose to scatter the eggshells on their
driveway. This methods may increase the chances for ground predators to capture the martins while
they are on the ground or driveway.

221. When do martins arrive in the U.S. on their journey north for their breeding season ?
It can vary about a week from year to year, but the scouts start to arrive in the southern tip of Florida and
Texas around the first week of January.

222. Do martins nest in Canada or is that too far north ?
Martins do in fact nest in Canada and it is not too far north. Martins do not nest in the Northwest
Territory in Canada. The majority nest in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A thin line
extends just over the US-Canadian border as you continue to go toward the east coast. The northern
most colony is 10 or 15 miles northwest of Lesser Slave Lake. It is about halfway up into the Alberta
province. To my knowledge this is the northernmost and also westernmost colony of the eastern martins.
(Progne-Subis- subis).

223. Is the "dawnsong" unique to the purple martin ?
The purple martin is the only species that will sing this "dawnsong". While circling above the colony,
a predawn musical song is performed by the purple martin.

224. What is the difference between the "dawnsong" and "daytime chatter" ?
The dawnsong is continuous in nature sung with a chee chur chee, chu cheer cheer, chur cheer cheer
cheer. Dawnsinging will be lacking the pre warm up song of the three year or older males, which always
ends the song with a crisp punch series of notes that have the kreeik-er sound. The typical repeated
dawnsong has 9 or 10 notes with the same rythmic sound over and over. This is a learned vocalization.
The easiest way I can share the daytime chatter is for you to listen to the following video: You may have
to cut and paste.

225. How early in the morning could I expect to hear the dawnsong being sung by the martins ?
Around 4:15 AM when the first hint of light may appear.

226. How long will they sing the dawnsong ?
Roughly one hour after the singing starts. When the colony starts waking up and exiting their homes to
perch on their porch they will start their morning ritual of absorbing the new days sunlight.

227. When in the season do the male martins start singing the dawnsong ?
The day in which the nest is completed, just prior to egg laying.

228. What is the purpose of the dawnsong ?
The ASY male martins sing this song to strengthen their colony by attracting more sub adult males and
females. They older males want to pull in the younger SY males to ensure a stronger growing colony.
More importantly, is pulling in SY females for a chance to extra copulate and therefore further their own
genetic line. As the SY males become ASY males, they will do the same dawnsong for the same reasons.

229. Are martins a monogamous species ?
Martins have only one mate per breeding season. They do not pair for life. It should be noted that once
egg laying has started, older males will seek out younger females for a second chance of copulation.

230. Can you explain "mixed reproductive strategy" ?
This is basically what has occurred in question 229. Once a male has established a mate and the female
begins egg laying and incubation, it shows that the paternity of his offspring has been assured. At that time
he will extra copulated with other females unattached in the colony. Sometimes this is forced copulation and
appears that the female is being forcefully attached. It is rare for a death to occur during this period.

231. How far can the dawnsong carry ?
During clear calm mornings the dawnsong can carry miles in each direction.

232. For a subadult returning to seek out their first season nesting site, why does the dawnsong carry
so much power in the allure of nesting at a site?
It is attractive to the subadult male because it indicates a good nest site is open. They instinctively
understand that the older males singing the dawnsong will defend against other adult male martins not
attached to the colony. Plus, the presence of adults is equivalent to a sign stating that nesting attempts
are likely to be successful at this colony than that of an untested site. Lastly, there is safety in numbers.

233. Is the purple martin the only swallow that sings the dawnsong ?
No, other swallow species sing the dawnsong for the same reasons. Of course the song will sound
different depending on the particular species.

234. Where does most of the dawnsinging take place ?
Martins will vary the altitude of their singing depending on factors that will best suit the quality results
they are seeking such as, humidity level, wind speed, surrounding acoustics and land layout of the area
they occupy. If conditions are perfect, they will sing at a height of 500 feet.

235. Will an adult female sing the dawnsong ?
No. The female stays near the nest by her clutch of eggs and has an established family.

236. Why do prospecting martins scouts look over and inspect my houses and then move on ?
There is no one reason, but here are a few possibilities. Your housing might need to be relocated on your
property because it is either too close to tall trees or too close to your house. It may be that the trees
have grown over the years and obstructed a clear flight path to the martin housing. It may be the simple
fact that they are stopping over and are continuing on to their original colony. The most likely reason is
a high infestation of sparrows and starlings that have overtook the housing.

237. I can't shoot starlings and sparrows at my location within city limits. How can eliminate these pests ?
You are allowed to trap year round, there are many sparrow and starling traps you can purchase online.
Next, if you have a feeding program through the winter, don't put out seed such as millet. Millet will
attract unwanted birds such as sparrows, opt for black oil or striped sunflower seed.

238. Why do martin houses have to include the function of lowering the house on the pole ?
Martin houses should be maintained and monitored because it may become infested with sparrows and
starlings. You must eliminate sparrow and starling with trapping or shooting. If you use a trap, you MUST
monitor the trap in case you accidentally catch a martin in its own nest cavity. If you catch a bird other
than a sparrow or starling, it must be released immediately. Undue stress for a long period of time can be
deadly to a martin.

239. What is he duration of a martins stay at my colony ?
From the time they first arrive until they leave for their migration back Brazil, it is 4 to 5 months. The ASY
pair will leave first, usually one to two weeks after heir young have fledged.

240. Do martins return to the same colony each year ?
Yes, this is known as site fidelity. About 15% of the SY martins will return to the site in which they were
born; the remaining 85% will seek out new housing. This ensures a good viable genetic base and cuts
down on inbreeding. ASY martins will return year after year, unless you had severe problems at your
site; such as uncontrolled sparrow and starling take over, serious mite infestation or major predator
attacks by owls and hawks.

241. When is the best time in the day to monitor my martin houses ?
The ideal time is mid afternoon. The mid afternoon is peak time for martins to forage for insects. Try to
be quick and thorough in your nest checks to minimize the time the parents are off the nest. It also
allows for the parents to keep on their busy feeding of the nestlings.

242. Is there a bad time to do nest checks ?
When temps start dipping below 60 degrees or there is a cold rain in your area. If the nestlings are not
feathered or if there are incubated eggs, a cold chill is hard on the young and unhatched. Common
sense tells us that cold weather can even be tough on the adults and if you can wait until the weather
warms before you do nest checks; it is better for your colonies health.

243. If I had a single pair of martins fledge young, will I be guaranteed more martin pairs the next year ?
Not necessarily. It is a commonly held belief that a person would most likely get more pairs the following
year; this is not true. Just because you had a successful pair the first year doesn't mean your colony will
grow fast. It takes some time for a colony to grow. It will help if you provide more than a single unit and
offer some variety in housing styles.

244. Do the previous years nestlings all come back to their natal colony to breed their second year?
Research has indicated that about 10-12% do return to their natal colony. The remaining 88-90% will
expand in the surrounding area within miles of your colony. In their search for new housing, it ensures
that inbreeding would be less likely. Genetic diversity is a strength in the animal world.

245. I have an established martin colony and I'm afraid I would have enough housing next year. What is the
best strategy ?
I f you have a 12 room aluminum house with 10 pair from the year before, it is time to expand if you want
to grow the numbers in the colony. At 50% occupancy a house it technically full and it would be wise to
consider erecting more housing. You can manage the numbers in a positive direction by offering more
compartments every few years.

246. Should I put out nesting material for martins ?
Many landlords like to prenest the compartments and cavities with soft white pine needles. The needles
wick moisture away. Some martins enjoy the prenest because they spend less time building the
nest and have an opportunity to forage for more bugs. It is not necessary to put out nesting material
outside the cavities, but if you have a finely manicured lawn it may be a benefit for the martins to have
material to build their nest. Small green leaves are lined in the nest just prior to egg laying. You might
want to consider planting an ornamental small tree with small leaves for the martins in the future.

247. What kind of nesting materila do martins prefer ?
Martins will use nesting materials found in your area of the U.S.. Course material that you would normally
rack up in your yard is what is normally found in nests; weed stems, course grass straw or hay stems, bits
of corn stalks, etc... Soft white pine needles are a favorite. It should be mentioned that nest changes
should be done between ages 10-20 days old for nestlings if bird mites are found in a nest.

248. I have had martin housing up for four years and no luck in attracting martins. Should I change the
location of my martin housing ?
Patience is a key ingredient in getting martins started at your location. Take a good look at your housing
set up; are the conditions and requirements ideal ? Is the housing at least 40 feet from tall trees and
within 100 feet of your house ? Are you keeping the starlings and sparrow clear of your area and housing?
It might be a good idea to add more housing and add variety in the type of housing such as metal
houses, gourds, T14, etc... Try using the dawnsong CD in the early mornings. Smear a little mud on the
outside of the entrances; it will appear as if there was successful nesting the year before to a new martin.

249. How close can I setup my martin houses ?
There is not a minimum or maximum distance between houses. It is important that the pole is strong
enough to handle winds and weight of the housing. Normally, landlords set up the housing about eight
to ten feet apart, but can be placed 30 feet apart.

250. Is it ok for bluebirds or tree swallows to take up nesting in my purple martin house ?
No. Once bluebirds or tree swallows have established themselves in your housing, it is extremely
difficult to attract martins to a new colony. If there are tree swallows or bluebirds in your area, it is wise
to put out a few bluebird boxes to allow them to nest in "their" housing, not your martin houses.
For detailed information on dealing with tree swallows, please visit our link "Chuck's Purple Martin
Page" and scroll down to "moving tree swallows" or you can visit :
or visit:
https://purplemartinplace.com/tree-swal ... -a-35.html

251. Will a bat colony interfere with a martin colony ?
No. In fact, bats have never been observed entering a martin house or gourd. They do fly within feet of
the martin housing at night picking off mosquitoes, but they never interfere with the martins. So, you
can have both a bat house and a martin housing in your yard at the same time.

252. I'm considering moving my two martin houses, which I have had martins nest in for the past five years
from their current location to another location near my garden. Is this a good idea and what should I do ?
Your intentions sound good, but in reality this is a bad idea. There is a good chance that you could lose
your already established martins in relocating your housing. You should erect new housing near your
garden and leave the established housing in its original location. After you get ASY (after second year)
martins to fledge young a minimum of two years at the new site near your garden, you may move the
old houses one at a time (year) to the new location. If you don't follow this protocol you may suffer bad
results in losing your martins. Martins have very strong site fidelity and tendencies upon their migrating
return to know exactly where their housing should be within feet.

253. I have a 12 compartment martin house in which a single pair took up residence. But, that pair was
aggressive toward other incoming new SY martins that also wanted to stay at the 12 compartment unit.
How can I get the aggressive pair to allow newbies to set up house ?
Put up more housing. The aggressive pair can't control more than your 12 compartment house if the
newbies stay their ground.

254. Is it good or bad to make ones presence in the yard during the egg laying portion of the season ?
It is encouraged that you spend time in the yard to discourage sparrows and starling from attempting to
throw out eggs during this time. Sparrows and starling are driven to carry on their own agenda to spread
their own kind and eliminate threats of other species. It also discourages other predators to linger in the
area, such as cats, owls, hawks etc... Cats seem to know when baby birds are hatching and will hang out
under your martin housing in hopes to grab a baby that may have fledged too early or tossed out by a
sparrow. It is good to remember that martins are people oriented birds. Hang out near your martins, just
don't stand under your martin houses all day.

255. I've been trying for martins for 5 years without any takers. A friend offered an old martin nest from the
previous year to put inside my martin house compartment as a decoy. Will this work ?
The answer is that it can't hurt. As mentioned in other posts, wide open fly zones, sparrow control,
dawnsong CD are your best available tools in attracting martins. But, if a young martin happens to peek
in at your newly acquired decoy nest, the martin may assume that there was a successful nest the year
before and decide that this might be a good place to start a family. If you have sparrows in the area they
may try to destroy the decoy nest, so you must eliminate the sparrows in the area.

256. It sounds crazy, but will martins use Canadian geese droppings as nest building material ?
As strange as it may be, martins will use geese droppings as an alternative to mud while constructing
the "mud dam" portion of the nest. The mud dam is found near the front of the nest as is thought
to serve as extra protection from predators trying to gain entrance, it secures eggs from rolling out to
the front and it is thought to aid nestlings in exercising their feet as they walk across the hardened
surface of the dry geese feces.

257. How many cavities should I put out for a martin colony ?
Don't provide more housing cavities than you honestly take maintain for a healthy colony. If you are
willing and able to control sparrows and starling and do weekly nest checks for over one hundred
cavities that is up to you to decide. If you do not have any martins and you wish to start a colony it is
suggested that you provide between 6 and 12 cavities.

258. I have two pairs of martins after five years of trying. How do I grow my colony in the years ahead ?
Now is the time to ensure that you follow all the basics of being a good landlord. from now on you must
not allow sparrows or starlings into your martin housing, (trap and shoot these pests). Add predator
guards such as pole baffles and owl cages or owl guards if necessary. Keep trees trimmed over the years
so they don't grow too close to the houses, 40 feet away. Do weekly nest check for capped eggs and
check for bird mites and treat accordingly. A good, well kept and maintained colony equates to a
successful healthy colony. Martin pairs which successfully fledge their young will almost always return
to your colony; this is called site fidelity. Continue each year playing the CD dawnsong until you have
reached a minimum of five pairs. Suppliment feed during wet and cold weather with crickets, mealworms,
or no oil used scrambled egg small pieces on a raised tray or platform near your colony.

259. I heard that martins will not occupy a martin gourd or house the first year it is erected. Is that true ?
False. Martins will take up residence in a martin cavity the first year. Landlords who do attract a martin
in their first year should consider themselves lucky; as some landlords wait years before their first pair.

260. Do bug zappers hurt or help martins ?
The zapper by itself will not hurt a martin. But, in using a zapper you will be competing with the martins
by eliminating their food source. It is advised that you NOT use a bug zapper near a martin colony.

261. If I put a decoy martin or my perches, will it help me start a martin colony ?
It will not hurt. Your best bet is to play the dawnsong, smear a little mud on the outside of the entrances,
have a big open fly zone and offer a variety of housing. The decoys do help in minimizing hawks from
successfully preying on your martins if you have an already existing colony.

262. I there any other things to consider when erecting a new martin house other than open fly zone, forty
feet from tall trees and within one hundred feet of my own house ?
Be sure there are no hedges and bushes or plants near the base of the pole; it attracts snakes and
raccoons. Many people fail to consider the protection from storms and high winds. Try to place your
housing where the winds will least effect your martin houses. We know that it should be 40 feet from tall
trees, but you can place the housing so the trees take the blunt of the strong winds and in turn saves
your martin houses. Always provide a sturdy pole, you can never go wrong by using a stronger pole than

263. I attracted a pair of martins, when should I stop playing the dawn song ?
Continue playing the dawnsong even after you attracted a pair, but turn down the volume. This will not
scare away the pair, but it will continue to attract second year martins or older displaced martins.

264. I had five pair that raised and fledged their young; but two weeks after they fledged they left.
Why wouldn't they stay around when there are plenty of bugs for them to eat ?
Typically parents and their offspring take off two weeks after fledge for their journey back to Brazil.
Once youngsters learn to feed themselves, master the art of flight and gain muscle strength they start
heading south.

265. What is a fallout shelter and what is it's function ?
It is a platform shelter with a roof that is placed on or attached to the pole. If a nestling is found on the
ground and it is not ready to fly, first try to place it in its original nest. If you can't find its nest, place it
in the fallout shelter. The parents will sometimes continue to feed their young from this new nest. Watch
carefully where the parents return to their regular nest to feed the remaining nestlings; once located you
can replace the fallout shelter nestling back to its normal nest.

266. Can you give me an approximate number on how many people erect martin houses in the US ?
WOULD EXPLODE. Sadly, most landlords do not follow basic rules for maintaining a good colony.

267. I spotted a banded martin that was banded by a licensed bander at my colony. When is it safe to catch
this martin in it's cavity ?
You must wait until the martin has pair , built a nest, laid eggs and the eggs have hatched and the
parents have started feeding their young. Their parental instincts have kicked in at this time and is at it's
strongest. If you disturb a banded martin by capture before this time, or during incubation; this martin
could abandon the nest site and colony.

Dave Duit
Joined:16 Mar 2019, 00:42
Location:Nevada, Iowa
Original Join Date:Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:02 am


Post by Dave Duit » 15 Jun 2021, 13:20

just bumping

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