by Judith D. Mitchell
residents provide thousands of housing sites for Purple Martins to nest in when
martins return from South America each spring. |
After the nesting season
is over, martins assemble in groups to rest and put on weight in preparation for
the long migration to their South American wintering grounds. Such bird gatherings
are known as roosts and when martins roost there may be hundreds or thousands
of purple swallows in one place. Laverne Riha, a martin landlord from Texas said.
"Since the last of my colony left, I have been seeing a steady stream of
Purple Martins cruising through our skies over Alvin, Texas almost every day."
Purple Martins living east of the Rockies have made a tradition shift in their
nesting requirements. Woodpecker holes in trees were once the chosen nest sites
of martins; now they nest only in man-made human-supplied housing.
change started when Native Americans provided gourds on racks for martins to nest
in. The racks were made from saplings and pieces of rawhide. These gourds became
accepted housing for the cavity-nesting swallows. Martins recognized the benefits
of staying near people and their homes for protection from predators. Native Americans
were the first Purple Martin landlords.
Today, Purple Martins still need
landlords to supply proper housing in suitable locations. The current information
available to landlords gives them the ability to provide some protection from
predators and cavity-nesting site competitors. Martins also need landlords who
will monitor the colony sites. Supplying information to landlords is one of the
services provided by the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA).
R. Hill, III formed the PMCA in 1987 when he discovered the needs of the Purple
Martin through scientific evaluations and bird studies. Hill said, "The PMCA
is devoted exclusively to the scientific study of Purple Martins; their biology
and habitat requirements. Seeing Purple Martins fill the sky so that you, I and
future generations can attract, manage, and enjoy a colony of North America's
most beneficial songbird is our goal."
The PMCA published an article
in its quarterly publication, of the Purple Martin Update, recognizing the conservation
efforts of the martin landlords of Texas. Gisela Fregoe from Grand Prairie organized
a group of martin enthusiasts who call themselves the Purple Martin Landlords
of North Texas. Fregoe said, "There is so much to learn to be a successful
Landlords who are members of the PMCA can rely on the
Purple Martin Update, a quarterly magazine published by the PMCA. The magazine
is a useful information exchange between the members and the scientific community.
It gives members the knowledge they need to manage martin colonies.
PMCA encourages landlords to form local organizations that will function as an
educational vessel for their local area Goals of local organizations coincide
with goals of the PMCA so both organizations reap benefits of greater numbers
of landlords and Purple Martins.
The PMCA also hosts a forum on its website
where landlords can meet at any time of the day to exchange information. Interaction
with other landlords is a source of friendship and help as they actively involve
themselves with the everyday survival of the birds.
Hill said, "Active
management means doing frequent nest checks (i.e. every four to seven days) eliminating
nest-site competitors, controlling nest parasites, offering eggshells and using
predator guards." Biological and practical information is available for landlords
and prospective landlords on the bessite, www.purplemartin.org, or by calling
the PMCA at (814) 734-4420. Hill said, "Establishing and hosting a martin
colony can be one of the most enjoyable, entertaining and educational of human
experiences- certainly worth the time, effort and expense it might require to
Texas is a very important part of the Purple Martin
conservation efforts because they have so many landlords and martins. In the year
2002, Grand Prairie proclaimed a Purple Martin day A quote from the City of Grand
Prairie Proclamation, office of the Mayor & City council says, "Purple Martins
are highly valued for many reasons, both practical and aesthetic. Martins feed
entirely on flying insects, many of which are pests to people , crops and domestic
animals. Thus their economic value is great."
Judith D. Mitchell, Journalism Intern
Purple Martin Conservation Association
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania