|Written by Heather Kraus|
|Friday, 01 June 2012 20:48|
It’s official: Purple Martins have been spotted at the Bird Sanctuary! These striking swallows, the largest found in North America, have taken up residence in housing located below the Overlook Museum. The Sanctuary staff worked for several months to establish a martin colony for visitors to enjoy. Necessary supplies were purchased. An existing house was refurbished. The effort has finally paid off.
Purple Martin house at the Sanctuary
Purple Martins are an unusual songbird, in that they prefer to nest near people. In fact, without human-supplied housing, martins might virtually disappear from the eastern United States. Martins are secondary cavity nesters, like many other birds including bluebirds, wrens and chickadees. However, unlike these species, martins gradually gave up their ancestral nesting habits (building nests in abandoned woodpecker cavities or other natural crevices) in favor of gourds and deluxe houses provided by people. Because of this gradual behavioral shift, martins now nest exclusively in human-supplied housing east of the Rocky Mountains.
While the Purple Martin’s overall population numbers are stable, regional population declines have occurred in some areas including Michigan. By establishing a martin colony at the Sanctuary, the hope is to educate visitors about the species and contribute to the Purple Martin Conservation Association’s (PMCA) goal of increasing martin populations throughout North America via research, management and education. Sanctuary volunteers contribute by conducting weekly nest checks to monitor the nesting success of our martins. The results are then submitted to PMCA so they can track their long-term reproductive success.
For the next few months, martins will continue to use the housing. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch Purple Martins throughout the breeding season as adults build nests, parents care for young and fledglings leave the nest. Stop by anytime to catch a glimpse of the action.