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Thread: It's almost Purple Martin time in Larimore, ND

  1. #1
    Junior Member Caroline94535's Avatar
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    It's almost Purple Martin time in Larimore, ND

    For the past 12 years I have been a "landlord," hosted a thriving colony of Purple Martins, first while we lived on the base, and then here at the Ends of the Earth, Larimore. The first thing we did once we closed on this house late in a cold September was to dig a hole, 12" wide and 42" deep, poured concrete and set the pole in order to get the gourd rack hung. The following Spring the martins found us again.

    The native Purple Martin, Progne subis, is America's larges swallow. They eat only flying insects, and thousands of them, and nest in human-provided cavities, either multi-unit houses or gourds.They migrate to Brazil each fall and return to breeding areas in the Eastern half of the U.S. and even to the north of Winnipeg, Canada. Oddly enough, a couple of the Canadian landlords see their birds' arrivals before mine get here.

    Anyway...my birds have returned as early as April 14, and as late as May 10. They "normally" arrive around April 23. I make it a rule to have the gourds filled with "pre-nests" and hung on the rack by April 15, just in case they show up early.

    I got the gourds prepped and hung on the 14th this month. Now I am on pins and needles waiting to see them zoom in or hear the familiar watery chortling. Every time I see a large bird shadow cross the driveway I have to dash to the front window hoping to see my guy' return.


    This photo shows many of the young (32 days old) martins right after they fledged (flew from the nest on their own for the first time.) I offer 15 gourds on my rack. 15 pair of adults can raise from 4 to 8 young each. Fledging time can be very busy and full of excited chatter.

    The last photo shows what it's all about! A new generation of Purple Martins. See the little dude just hatching! He's smaller than the last joint of my index finger.
    Attached Images Attached Images


    "Not all those who wander are lost." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

    -1974 Singer 252 Fashion Mate; 1954 Singer 15-91;
    1952 Pfaff 130-6; Bernina 230PE, and Pfaff Serger 4874.

  2. #2
    Super Member juneayerza's Avatar
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    I love watching wildlife too.
    June

  3. #3
    Super Member Kathy T.'s Avatar
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    How excellent that you are contributing to the well-being of these fascinating creatures. Best bug control ever!

  4. #4
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    I love purple martins and I do see them in flight. Unfortunately we have to many obstacles in our yard to get a pair to nest.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Elise1's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and providing homes to our feathered friends.
    "Be brave enough to be who you really are.

  6. #6
    Super Member ekuw's Avatar
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    That is so awesome! I love birds of all kinds. We have a dove with a nest in our front tree and my DH is constantly keeping an eye out for them and scares off potential predators too. To have as many birds as you do would be really neat-Enjoy!

  7. #7
    Power Poster lynnie's Avatar
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    Never heard of them, they look like little crows to me but have a white chest.
    I love birds. so pretty.
    put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and if you procrastinate long enough, you may never have to do it.

  8. #8
    Junior Member Caroline94535's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone; I love all my birds, but I live for the nearly four months that the Purple Martins are here.

    We have a scraggly, misshaped white spruce tree in the front yard - on the opposite side from the gourd rack - where I have all the bird feeders. I would cut it down, but the birds love it. We have the sweet little mourning doves and the super-sized Eurasian collared doves, too. All the usual feeder birds visit and any day now I will have the northern orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, Cape May warblers, hummingbirds, and joy beyond belief.

    Hi Lynnie, the ones with the lighter chests are the newly fledged juveniles. The ones with darker-to-very-dark grey chests are the adult females, and the males are solid black. They will all have flashes of purple and blue iridescence. They are rather large, but have short, stubby swallow type tails.

    I have a "blue bird type" nest box 35 feet away from the gourd rack; it is for the Tree Swallows. TSs will run off the martins if I let the TSs try to nest in the gourds; one pair would claim and defend all 15 gourds. If there is a nest box, or a hanging gourd, 35' from the martins the TSs will claim it, leave the martins alone. The TSs will also keep all other tree swallows from hassling the martins since the first TS pair won't tolerate any other TSs around.

    The same holds true if I were lucky enough to get a pair of blue birds checking out the martins' gourds. I would set up a second blue bird box, 25' from the gourd rack on the opposite side from the TSs. BBs move in; keep other BBs at least 150' away, ignore the martins and the tree swallows. Peace and harmony and lots of chicks.

    This is called the "Tree Swallow Protocol." I learned about it from a PM forum (PMCA) after I had a problem with TSs bothering my martins one year.

    Right now I have robins checking out a nesting shelf near the eaves of the garage; chickadee-dee-dees peaking in a box at the west-end of the veggie garden, and house finches singing love songs in all the trees. The gold finches magically turned brigt yellow this week after being drab olive all winter, and the grass is beginning to turn green.

    Happy, Happy, Happy!

    Here's a close up of one of my breeding pairs. The male is in the front.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    "Not all those who wander are lost." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

    -1974 Singer 252 Fashion Mate; 1954 Singer 15-91;
    1952 Pfaff 130-6; Bernina 230PE, and Pfaff Serger 4874.

  9. #9
    Power Poster ManiacQuilter2's Avatar
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    I never have seen one before. What a neat set up you have in your yard. Looks like they appreciate the favor you have provided them with very safe housing.
    A Good Friend, like an old quilt, is both a Treasure and a Comfort

  10. #10
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    Why do some of the gourds have a "porch" and others do not? Are these real gourds or man made for the martins? They all look exactly the same. Also, what do you use for nesting material? Beautiful birds!
    Some days are diamonds, some days are coal - BUT God is with me everyday!

  11. #11
    Super Member dakotamaid's Avatar
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    Hello Caroline from another original N Dakotan. I'm from north of Bismarck. Now live in Nebraska. Love your birds and set ups.
    Have a great day sewing and remember to "not sweat the small stuff"!!



  12. #12
    Super Member quiltjoey's Avatar
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    What a beautiful "hotel" for your guests!!! We have the gourds and the first year we had a few come but they have never come back since. We just. Have the run of the mill type birds: chickadees, tufted tit mouse, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, brown thrashers, etc. we do have the painted buntings in the early spring as they are indigenous to our area.
    Yours are some I've never seen! Great pictures! Where did you get your gourds and what kind if nesting do you use? Maybe if we tried them, ours would come back....

  13. #13
    Junior Member Caroline94535's Avatar
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    OneDoxieMom...Some of the gourds do not have porches, yet, because I have not gotten "a round tuit" to get them all installed yet. The birds love the porches and tend to claim those gourds first.

    There are several modifications I make to my gourds - the natural ones, and the man-made Super Gourds and/or the Extruder Gourds. I add 3" PVC tunnels and/or porches, put 3/4" plumbing elbows near the top of the gourds' necks for more ventilation to keep the nests and chicks dryer and cooler and add hanging tubes so rain cannot drip down the hanging wires and into the nests.

    This photo shows a SuperGourd, like the one shown with the two martins, with the access cap removed. You can see my fingers reaching in through the tunnel and the little "step" at the bottom of the tunnel. It helps the young birds grip the tunnel to get out. The tunnels help prevent hawks and owls from reaching inside with one foot and dragging out the little martins. The cedar chips are the pre-nests I put in before the birds arrive.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    "Not all those who wander are lost." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

    -1974 Singer 252 Fashion Mate; 1954 Singer 15-91;
    1952 Pfaff 130-6; Bernina 230PE, and Pfaff Serger 4874.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Feather3's Avatar
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    Small world!! I have a Purple Martin colony too. Mine started back in 1998. Most of the Purple Martins in PA were wiped out during the 1972 Agnes Flood (rained for over 20 days straight). 5-6 birds visited my yard daily for a couple weeks in 1998, so we got them a house & they've come back every year since. I live in a small town that once had many martin houses. Sadly after the flood no martins returned & those houses fell to ruin.

    The Audubon Society has told me I'm the only one, in our county, other than a few Amish farms that has Purple Mrtins. There are none straight north all the way to the NY border that we know of. Too many trees here. I have been asked to host a small group from the Audubon Society this summer. Bird clubs drop by to see them every year.

    I have 2 T-10 houses & get 10-12 pair every year. So far I have 6 ASY Males, 2 ASY Females & 1 SY Female back. I have trained my colony to supplement feed via flipped crickets. Took me 3 years, but I have saved many due to bad weather or lack of bugs supplemental feeding. Trust me it's no fun bundled up in a Parka, blanket over legs, fingers freezing flipping crickets while it's snowing!! Done that a few times, but saving the Martins was well worth it. I was out in the rain twice yesterday flipping crickets. The night before we had golf ball size hail during a bad storm.

    I too enjoy the few months they are here. I love taking care of them. Watching them fly high into the clouds totally out of sight when feeding. It's amazing how quickly they accept you doing nest checks. I've reached in & picked up an adult female off a nest to check for eggs/chicks.

    Photos are the greatest, but here's 2 of my colony. 1of my T-10 houses & the other is Mom feeding a chick a dragonfly.
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Last edited by Feather3; 04-22-2015 at 10:05 PM.

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    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    thanks for posting this thread... i was just reading about them in Birds and Blooms magazine. The specifics for their homes and environments is fascinating. I was surprised to see that they like crushed eggshells. love the pictures posted by both of you.
    Nancy in western NY
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    Great pictures from both of you and KUDOS for helping some of our feathered friends.

  17. #17
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    What wonderful pictures. Loved seeing the purple martins.
    Carmen E.

  18. #18
    Super Member sparkys_mom's Avatar
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    Wow, what a wonderful thread this is. I love birds and it is just so fascinating to watch them. I just moved in March from a ground floor condo with a woods view to a 5th floor retirement apartment with two tiny balconies. I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to attract birds. I've never had anything so elaborate as you two, but I dearly love my little house wrens and the hummingbirds. I figure I have about a month to get some plants in and find a bird bath that doesn't take too much space. There are lots of tall trees near the building and I think that's a plus.

    Meanwhile, I really enjoyed reading about your birds and since I know there is an appreciative audience here, I thought I'd share this video sent to me last week.

    An epic chase caught on film, a squirrel star is born from The Washington Post

    http://wapo.st/1clVpCT

    This is a fascinating peek at the extraordinary world of a grey squirrel. Spectacular!
    Pat

  19. #19
    Super Member Battle Axe's Avatar
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    One Amish neighbor has a Martin colony and even sells supplies. He is quite an expert on it and even has a telescope to watch them. Several years ago there was a cold snap after the birds had eggs that were hatching. There were no flying insects available and the babies started dying. So he ordered several pounds of flying tree crickets, hoping they would fly when released and feed his birds. But it was still too cold and the crickets would not fly. So the word was sent out and we all were over and hand tossed crickets, one at a time, into the air. The Martins quickly learned what we were doing. It was the strangest feeling to see this low flying bird line himself up with you. It's just like an A-10 fighter jet locking on a target. Then at the precise moment I was to underhand toss the cricket straight up. He always caught them and flew back to the nest. Next cricket please. I wore out my arm.

  20. #20
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    We live up by the Canadian border and have the purple martins too I love them too they sure do eat the mosquitoes up here . I built them a large condo birdhouse and it is packed every year holds 12 couples. Have not seen any yet this year but soon . Also get barn swallows and they love to build their nest in my front window under the hang out so I get to see them up close. They also eat lots of bugs. When you live out in country need all the bug eaters you can get.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Feather3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Battle Axe View Post
    One Amish neighbor has a Martin colony and even sells supplies. He is quite an expert on it and even has a telescope to watch them. Several years ago there was a cold snap after the birds had eggs that were hatching. There were no flying insects available and the babies started dying. So he ordered several pounds of flying tree crickets, hoping they would fly when released and feed his birds. But it was still too cold and the crickets would not fly. So the word was sent out and we all were over and hand tossed crickets, one at a time, into the air. The Martins quickly learned what we were doing. It was the strangest feeling to see this low flying bird line himself up with you. It's just like an A-10 fighter jet locking on a target. Then at the precise moment I was to underhand toss the cricket straight up. He always caught them and flew back to the nest. Next cricket please. I wore out my arm.
    I use one of the long ice cream spoons to flip crickets. Gets them nice & high in the air for them. I flipped at least 100 crickets this morning. We had snow flurries . Had a guy from a local bird club stop in & he got to watch me feed them. We both almost got hit by a male that was very hungry. He swooped us several times.

    Purple Martins rely totally on humans for housing/nesting now. In many areas they also rely on us to provide food for them due to bad weather & lack of bugs in dry spells. They only eat flying insects. Insects do not fly below 50 degrees, during high winds or during rain. If a Purple Martin can not find enough food 3 days in a row they will become to weak to fly & die soon after. Some landlords have been able to get them to eat scrambled eggs, but too many eggs can cause bowel issues, so crickets or meal worms are best.

    I also provide crushed egg shells for them to eat. They not only provide grit, they provide them calcium.

    What many do not know is it's a Federal offence to interfer with any wild birds (other than European Sparrows & Starlings, which are not native & considered pests), especially when they have a nest. However due to declining numbers of Purple Martins in past years they allowed landlords to do nest checks, control pests, do nest changes to control insects, etc.

    The youth of today need to put down the cell phones/video games/etc & go outside & be educated about taking care of nature. If they are not I fear we may lose many of our wild birds & animals to progress, pesticides, etc.

    PMCA has a great site with all the info needed to learn about Purple Martins http://www.purplemartin.org/
    Last edited by Feather3; 04-23-2015 at 07:54 AM.

  22. #22
    Super Member madamekelly's Avatar
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    That is so cool! We have a neighbor when I was little who had hand made birdhouse poles all over his back yard. It was wonderful to watch on summer evenings. Enjoy!
    If you always do, what you have always done, The results never change. Change is the wings you give yourself.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Elise1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkys_mom View Post

    An epic chase caught on film, a squirrel star is born from The Washington Post

    http://wapo.st/1clVpCT

    This is a fascinating peek at the extraordinary world of a grey squirrel. Spectacular!
    Thanks for the great video, I really enjoyed it.
    "Be brave enough to be who you really are.

  24. #24
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    Where did you purchase or did you make your gourds? I want to put a feeder up this year.

  25. #25
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    Lucky You. We have only had I family of purple martins in 8 yrs.

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