Fate of the Over Wintering Purple Martin

Some of you may have heard the startling reports of a female ASY purple martin that had decided not to migrate. The story goes as such.

In Apple Creek Ohio at the Yoder colony, the season started normal enough. Their 50 pairs of martins were devastated however, by a 4th of July cold spell that killed 50 purple martin nestlings. An ASY female showed up at their site in mid August. The Yoders did not believe the female was from their site due to the fact that she had a recently fledged youngster that she was still caring for and no recently fledged young from their site. They witnessed the female bringing in nesting material into a compartment in the middle of September.

On November 1st, 2009 was the last sighting of the females offspring. Whether he followed the instinct to fly South, succumbed to the weather or was killed by a hawk, we do not know. Only that after that date the ASY female was alone.

The Yoder’s conditioned her to accept supplemental feedings by tossing meal worms into the air. They fed her approximately 50 meal  worms each day. Feeding her 5 times a day- about 10 meal worms at a feeding.

She survived 7 inches of snow on Jan 3, 2010 and 0°F  (ZERO DEGREES !) temperatures. And like this she was accepting feedings and was chirping up until January 10, 2010. At the last sighting on that date she was seen sitting on the front porch of the compartment she was using. The compartments were checked and no remains were found. Did she finally migrate? Did she fall victim to a hawk attack? We will never know.

The final news on this amazing story are both sad and not. That she survived that long is an amazing testament to the lengths that purple martin landlords will go to to protect “their” birds. A curiosity that makes one wonder how new behavioral patterns are evolved in a bird that has shown one huge evolutionary transitional shift already. But on the other hand, if in fact she did perish, how would the perpetuation of this behavior ultimately serve purple martins as a whole?

Check out PurpleMartins-R-Us.com for more information on Purple Martins including supplemental feeding of Adult Purple Martins. There you will even find a video of martins being fed.

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