Extended Cold Spells TROUBLE for Purple Martins

Though it may make a cute picture, the mix of purple martins and extended adverse weather spells almost certain death for our feathered friends. And by extended weather, we are only talking about 2 days or more. Knowing what you can do will help your colony survive these early spring cold snaps.

Adverse weather, to a purple martin, is 2 or more days of steady rain and/or wind and/or cold temperatures below 40F. Only one of these conditions will make it virtually impossible for a purple martin to find enough food to sustain itself.

Being strict aerial insectivores,  purple martins have no recourse when it comes to extended weather issues. They can’t forage for food on the ground and when temperatures dip,  flying insects are no where to be found. With our crazy weather patterns we have been having and severe snow storms that have it snowing as far south as Florida, it is important to know what you can do.

So what should you do? ACT FAST! Don’t wait for your birds to be too weak to fly before offering supplemental feeding. Purple martins have to be trained to accept our help as they do not recognize food left out for them. If you wait too long your entire ASY purple martin population can die from starvation in just a few short days.

Supplemental Feeding of Purple Martins 101

Q: What do you feed a purple martins?

A: Crickets are the first choice for beginners.  Mealworms or Scrambled Eggs are good once they learn to accept what you offer. But these items must be prepared. Mealworms and crickets (if live) should be frozen -till dead, then thawed thoroughly. They can be soaked in water and drained before feeding. Eggs should be cooked using NO oil or butter of any type.

Q: How do you feed a purple martin?

A: Martins that have never accepted supplemental feedings have to be taught or conditioned to eat food we offer them. After a day or 2 of adverse weather, approach the colony slowly. Use a large plastic spoon and fling a cricket up in the air in the general direction of the martins, up over them…remember you aren’t trying to hit the martins with the food. You want them to see the food flying past them. Continue this for 10 to 15 minutes. Most folks report that by the end of that time one or two birds will try to catch what they see flying by and once one starts, others will follow.

Once they accept food from you, the crickets (mealworms or scrambled eggs) can be placed on an elevated platform feeder and they will eat it off of the platform.

Visit this link on Supplemental Feeding of Adult Purple Martins for more information.

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