Purple martins are a small, beautifully-colored swallow that scoops up airborne insects as they fly about. In spring, martins visit us to nest, travelling from wintering grounds in South America. Once here, they prefer close quarters with other martins in nest boxes and other structures stationed in open areas with lots of room for their aerial feats.
We were sure that more martins could take advantage of the phenomenal habitat we have at The Wetlands Institute, so this March we installed a new home for 12 lucky pairs of Purple Martins just outside the Marshview Lecture Hall.
This new gourd-style martin house supplements our ‘condo style’ martin house for the time being, though we hope to upgrade the condo system for next year’s nesting season. The gourds are designed to provide additional protection from predators, and separate compartments for each nesting pair minimize the drawbacks of colonial living, like over-crowding and ectoparasites. The result should be healthier martin parents and chicks.
Another benefit of the new system is that we can raise and lower it each week to check the progress of our new residents. We have no chicks yet as of this writing but we expect them to hatch shortly.
With the help of Eagle Scout Nick Zedonek, we were also able to increase the number of nest boxes for tree swallows on our property. Nick led a project to build new and improved nest boxes for Tree Swallows and Bluebirds and installed 6 boxes around our property. Nick’s nest boxes have been a hit – the birds started moving in as they were being installed.