Posts Tagged ‘Nest check’

Purple Martin Nest Check 4/17

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Eggs: 114
Young: 89
Compartments Available:43
Compartments Occupied wit eggs and or young:43

2010 Nest Check Final Results Are In!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The final tally is in and our numbers were up. We offered more compartments and had 3 late nests that ran our season into late July. We also offered 3 low hanging gourds on shepherds hooks that were less5 feet off the ground and all filled with both SY and ASYpairs.

Thankfully no purple martins needed to go to the rehabber but unfortunately the resident red shouldered hawk caught several fledglings.

Total Eggs Laid: 202

Total Eggs Hatched: 170

Total Young Fledged: 158

Plans for next year include the repair of the nest cam, another aluminum house to put up on our multi-purpose purple martin pole and whatever else I can dream up for next year.

The Numbers Are In!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Final 2009 Purple Martin Season Tally

With a whole lot of drama and excitement, the 2009 Purple Martin season is officially over in South Florida. Even the roosts have faded away to a distant memory and the gourd racks and houses all sit quiet and empty with only curious paper wasps showing interests in nest building. Our goal here was to make it to the 100 fledge mark and that goal WAS reached. So with pride in my efforts and much thanks to God, here are the totals.

Total Pairs: 33

Total Eggs Laid: 163

Total Eggs Hatched: 140

Total Young Fledged: 130

Egg to Hatch percentage: 86%

Egg to Fledge percentage: 80%


Most of my colony is comprised of Troyer Horizontal Gourds with an occupancy rate of 96%. I only had 1 natural gourd with a round opening. All other entrances were SREH. The SREH (starling resistant entrance holes) were mostly Clubhouse entrances (Conley 2) with some Modified Excluders thrown in for good measure.
My other housing option is a Sunset Inn Aluminum Purple Martin Houses (also with SREH) which was only about 50% occupied.
1 case of wing entrapment (no casualties)
1 entire nest lost due to a case of snake predation

I left a couple of messages trying to get a status on the 2 purple martins that were “abandoned” and I did not get a call back. I will keep you updated as soon as I here what the plan is for these 2 poor guys.

One Nest To Go-But Where is Mom & Dad?

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The last remaining nest is on the numbered gourd rack. Gourd #6 has 5 nestlings that I have neglected terribly. I had watched the ASY male and SY female feeding vigorously  3days ago. Yesterday I saw no feeding but the racks have been covered with purple martins for the entire morning and well into the afternoon. I was sure that I just missed them. Today I saw two little heads poking out of the front of the Troyer horizontal gourd. I was sure that the nest had been hijacked by a lazy fledgling as the two heads looked so vastly different in ages. So I lowered the rack.

When I opened the gourd I noticed it was pretty dirty, but I had seen worse. I proceeded to take everyone out and put them in the 5 gallon bucket to do a nest change. When I looked at the nestling however, I noticed that 4 of the nestlings looked to be about 20+ days old and the one runt seemed to be lagging way behind. He had the feathering on his body and head of a 16 day old but his flight feathers were about the same length as his nest mates.

On further exam, I found all of them to be underweight. The runt, worse of all and another nestling not to much better. All had an easily palpable keel bone. What is a keel bone? It is the bone in the center of the birds chest that should be surrounded by breast meat. The runts keel bone stuck out like a razor, skin flaky and dry. He proceeded to poop on me but then I saw his large hard abdomen. And when I say hard, I mean hard like a rock. And unless something is made of bone (or cartilage) there is nothing on a living body-human or animal that should be that hard. I kept him out of the nest and replaced the others. A Bot fly? A partial blockage? A tumor? I do not know what his problem is but I am vigorously re-hydrating the poor fellow.

Observing the nest is difficult with 2 young boys getting into everything but I tried to watch for mom and dad martin to no avail. The entire time I was checking the nests, changing, etc, there were no concerned parents flying about. I am beginning to think that an Owl has attacked and flushed the parents out. The nestlings being to young stayed safe in the dark far reaches of the Troyer gourd but without mom and dads care, they will soon expire.

Since Folke Peterson Wildlife Center is closing soon I placed a call to Busch Wildlife Center in Jupiter, Florida. I spoke to the director and if the nestling is still alive in the morning I will take him there. I will try to observe the nest to make sure that the parent/s are feeding. If not, I will remove them all and take them to the rehabber. It can be a case of late nest syndrome (I just made that name up) but all that means is that in very late nests it is not uncommon for one (or both) of the parents to loose interest in the process and slack off.

My first purple martin pair was a ASY male and a SY female. She worked her tail off and he would come by a few times a week. He would sleep in the gourd on occasion but basically left the entire raising of the clutch to her. She successfully fledged her 2 nestlings-all alone- after all the martins were gone.

But as for this nest, I am concerned.

Fledgling Shenanigans

Monday, June 8th, 2009

OK, the drought is officially over. The water has been coming down in buckets so much that the pool is over flowing and when you stand on our back patio you get the feeling you are on a ship or an island. Ducks were actually swimming by where dry land was only last week. Nest checks are almost impossible on the numbered gourd rack due to the standing water by the base of the pole. If I had a pair of waders I would have used them. The lettered rack now has too many nests close to fledging to do a check.

The purple martins on the nestcam have long since fledged and though they are still returning to sleep, most of the others on that rack are not, as per my previous post. Mornings are still quite active with visitors and fledglings flying about. Evenings are getting more quiet with all birds in the gourds well before dark.

The new nestling in the Sunset Inn house is missing and no further eggs have hatched. Now only 6 of the eggs (of eight) remain and of those remaining eggs most seem far along in development. The translucent pearly quality of the eggs is gone and the remaining eggs seem dark and heavy. If they are still being tended to, they should be hatching shortly but if they have been abandoned then they were very close to hatching and taking into consideration that one nestling did hatch, I am thinking the nest was abandoned very soon after the nestling hatched and the remaining eggs have since perished. Another terrible blow to the egg / hatch / fledge ratio. Next year I will make sure that the house is positioned so that I can view both sides from the patio. Though the birds seem to like the open fly way on the north side of the housing, I will have to make the change so that I can better see what is going on with the nests.

The bigger problem at the moment seems to be lazy fledglings. Several fledgelings have taken to hijacking nests to steel food from nestlings. It seems that once the fledgling is in the nest the parents can not distinguish these young from their own and will feed them. The spoiled brats sit and wait for their meals to arrive while pushing the smaller nestlings out of the way. On the last nest check there were 2 nests of younger birds 12 & 18 days old) that had older, already fledged birds stealing food from them. I evicted them but I wonder if this behavior had something to do with the little nestling dying. Somethings we will never know.

Beware of Wet Nests!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I recently posted of theck, nest change driving rains that we have been having. Several severe problems are making themselves evident. First off, on the lettered gourd rack, I apparently drilled the air vents on the backs of the Troyers incorrectly as water is wicking inside the gourds of several of them. Even the nests that I changed just 2 days ago needed a another nest change. On Troyer Horizontal Gourds you have the option of drilling 2 air vents in the backs of the gourds. One has to drill them at an upward angle to keep the rain from blowing inside the gourd.  I beleive my problem to be that I did not drill them at a steep enough angle. Not that it is a huge amount of water under the usual circumstances but this last week and a half of crazy rain has pushed all of Murphy’s Laws to the limit.

I wanted to make sure that all are aware of the vital need to do nest checks after such rains and to be prepared to do nest changes. A wet nest can spell disaster for your nestlings and only spells trouble. It is a problem that is easy to fix but can cause huge  losses in a short amount of time. Only 2 days since the last nest change and when I opened the gourd that seems to be the worse off, the nest was well on its way to being a putrid mess. The nestlings feathers were damp and dirty. I cleaned the nest out thoroughly and I believe they will fair well with continued nest checks through this bad rain. My only concern is that a nest is approaching fledge time and that means nest checks will slow down to prevent premature fledging. I am tempted to bring the rack down tomorrow and caulk the air vents closed to prevent any further issues this season.

Unfortunately the nestling in gourd “E” with the cyst/mass on its abdomen did not fair as well. Though the nest was dry the nestling was dead for at least a day and was very smelly. Though it almost appeared sleeping, it did not look peaceful and the 3 other nestlings in the gourd were huddled as far away from the stink as possible. I can only imagine what would have happened if I was not doing nest checks. I disposed of the poor baby and checked the other which seemed none the worse for wear. 

The take away? DO NEST CHECKS!Unless there is a nest that is close to fledging, I do not believe that you can do too many nest checks. As long as you try to oblige your birds with a decent time of the day to do the check, you can not go wrong with checking the nests daily when a problem is suspected or in this case of problematic rain. If you are fearful or unsure of how to do a nest change and want to watch a video of a nest change being done click HERE.

In death there is often life and with the death of this poor nestling a new nest of 3 nestlings was discovered. 3 eggs and now 3 nestling huddled together (in a dry nest-thank God) reaching up with mouths open. The miracle of life makes all the stink and disgusting mess soooooo worthwhile.  I will do this as long as I live. Hopefully I will instill the same love of Purple Martins in my sons and they will carry on in my stead.

Last Check for a While

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I did the last nest check yesterday that will be done for a while on the gourd rack that is on the birdcam/colonycam. The nestlings in gourd #9 are now 28 days old and they are looking like they could go at any time.  To prevent premature fledging after I lowered the rack (oh so quietly) I placed a sock in the gourd opening. I had tied a string to the sock so after the check was doen and the gourd rack raised up, I could gently pull on the string to remove the sock. All went well on the check and the babies looked wonderful. No bugs, fat and lean with hints of blue showing on their fresh new feathers. The next time I see them, in early 2010, they will be sun-bleached brown.  

There are at least 5 nests that seem to be abandoned. There are 3 scenarios I believe could be at play for this situation. It could be a case of egg dumping or it could be young inexperienced SY’s playing house or lastly, drought affecting food supply thus reducing clutch rates. Whatever the case may be, I have come to terms with my goal of reaching the magical 100 mark having to wait till next year.bottom view of S&K guard

No more snake attacks and the bird/snake netting along with the spray foam in the holes of the S&K predator pole guard will let me sleep at night. In the picture you can see the white dried foam coming out of the holes in the guard that allowed the snake to pass through. The foam is commonly found in hardware stores and a common brand name is “Great Stuff insulating foam sealant” or “Handi-foam”. It actually comes in handy for several things and I have heard of some folks using it to modify cheap plastic purple martin houses to increase the insulation and help keep internal temps comfortable. One thing I should mention to those considering an inexpensive purple martin house. Consider the amount of effort you will put into the house modifying it and the life expectancy of the house itself. If you expect to get more than a handful of seasons out of the house you may very well be overly optimistic. Sun and UV rays can change plastic and you may notice discoloration or loss of opacity and brittleness. Though some may disagree, more light means more heat and it is generally agreed upon that darker is better, when it comes to the interior of a purple martin house. The plastic can always be painted with a product like Fusion paint for plastic but again, now you are adding your time and money into the upkeep. My point? Always consider these factors when deciding what kind of Purple Martin house you want to buy. Want to read more about deciding on a purple martin house? Click here for an article on “what you will need” which talks about all the different types of housing, pros and cons to help you decide.

Nest check results for 5/1/09

Total eggs:  57       Total young:   59        Total nests:   26

Such an Exciting Day!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

My husband came home to an earful of stories. Beyond the good news of the nest check there were several interesting observations at our colony here at PurpleMartins-R-Us HQ.

Let me get the good news of the nest check out first.

Nest check for April 25, 2009

Total eggs:   66              Total young:   54               Total nests:    27

I am not sure if I will break the magical 100 mark but my birds are trying to comply with my wishes. What is the magical 100? Well, I don’t know if this applies to everyone. It may just be a perception in my mind of the number of fledged young that I am aiming to reach. It seems to me that 100 fledged young is the number that takes a small martin colony and turns it into something special. Super colony status? Probably not, but still…over 100 purple martin fledglings-to me- is a badge of honor. I look up to those landlords. Maybe because once you have reached that number your colony is faced with other problems that a smaller colony just does not have to deal with. The amount of time that a nest check takes, in itself is no small feat. Nevertheless, I am not sure that with the natural percentage of eggs to fledge I will make it.

On average about 75% of purple martin eggs that are laid will hatch and survive till fledging age. So statistically, my chances are slim. On a hopeful note, I did have an above average success rate last year of about 88%.

So on my way out to do the nest check, I see a Purple Martin flapping furiously at the entrance of  “K” Gourd. ( I have 2 Economy 12 Gourd racks so to distinguish the gourds and decrease my own confusion-the gourds on one rack are numbered the others are lettered) I take a pic and go out to the rack. At each step I am thinking she will see how close I am approaching and like all the other martins, will fly up sounding her displeasure. She does not. Not only does she not fly off, she looks down at me and then sticks her head back in the gourd to continue biting whom ever. OK, so now I know there is a real fight going on. I know she is not entrapped in the SREH entrance. So what is up? I start talking to her. “OK now, cut that out!” Eventually as I begin to remove the predator pole guard, she releases her hold and flies off. Once I start lowing the house, even with me talking quite loudly, several other birds fly out from this gourd and that and I quickly forget about the tussle and focus on the check. After all, I am curious as to how the rack is doing as egg laying had seemed to stall before the few days of heavy rain we had late last week.

I begin opening gourds and counting eggs and I hear a scratching noise. Uh oh, now what. I go over to gourd “K” and there is a beautiful SY male looking at me. Head out, body in..stuck. I open the access port to the Troyer gourd and reach in with one hand and gently push his head to try and determine how he is stuck. For such small birds it is really amazing how taut there little bodies are. One bigPurple Martin fight flying muscular machine. As light weight as they are, purple martin are compact, lean and strong. But wait…if I am feeling his wings then how can his head be out of the gourd? He would have to have a 4 inch neck? Slowly it dawns on me. He is not alone. Apparently another SY male is trying to force himself out at the same time and has the one martin pushed up and unable to get out. Apparently the female was trying to get this fellow out while the females mate was punishing him from the rear. A small amount of smeared blood on the inside portion of the gourd but all eyes are intact and no obvious injuries. Just his own wounded pride. I work them free and look them over. Overjoyed that I can hold these magnificent birds in my hands and grateful that I was there to break up the fight before any real damage occurred. I open one hand…then the next and they rise up to greet the sky. Crazy kids!

In an upcoming blog entry I will talk about issues one can have with SY males and the problems they can create.

And I didn’t even mention the hawk we saw! I will save that for tomorrow!

Nest check schedule: Mon 4/27 and Thurs. 4/30

Afternoon Walk with the Boys

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

And the postponed Nest Check

Even though the temps hover in the mid 80′s it is still breezy enough to enjoy an afternoon walk down the street. The boys are forever curious about the birds, nature and all sentences that can begin and end with the word, “Why?” So it was that we took one of our walks. The first destination was to the canal at the end of the street where they still remember the dead alligator that was left there some months back. How it got there, I have no idea but the team of Turkey Vultures that were taking turns crawling up inside the dead beast were educational to say the least. Some might say that the sight was too gruesome to show a then 2 1/2 and 4 year old…they may or may not be right. All I know is that they have not had any nightmares over it.

So there we were at the spot that once was the resting spot for the dead gator. There is nothing left of the gator. Only Muscovy feathers litter the ground. As we walked away I could see the Purple Martins visiting a neighbors pond. That was our next destination.

As I found an ant-free spot to sit, the boys occupied themselves with the all important task of throwing grass in the pond. The martins were taking turns dipping down for a drink and didn’t mind us at all. One by one they take a drink then fly off to the South East. Then another few would come from our yard and repeat the process.

The boys were oblivious to the martins slaking their thirst but perhaps on a subliminal level they took note and asked for their cups (which of course I always have) We sat on the banks of the pond and looked out at the pond in a rare and silent moment. They drinking in their water. Me, drinking in my martins.


Yesterdays nest check results:

Total eggs:  58             Total young:  50      Total nests:  25

Pipping Egg Passes Away

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Today brought some much needed rain and another nest check. The South Florida drought is again becoming more threatening, but today’s passing showers brought a brief respite. The birds enjoyed the morning shower, though brief, with zealous preening and a social hour. The skies cleared for the early afternoon only to darken again around 5pm and then finally open up for another soaking before dusk. The skies remained solemn as darkness fell and the birds retired quietly for the night.

The nest check started around 4:30 on the gourd rack and house that is off camera. My 2 young children were taking a nap (YEAH!) and I was in checking on them frequently. I finally got to the gourd rack on the webcam right around 5 and the wind was starting to gust.

As I now have 31 compartments, I will post total numbers unless something of interest needs to be posted.

Total eggs: 65 Total young: 13

The two nests in the aluminum house have 6 eggs and 5 eggs, Numbered rack has only one troyer with no eggs. I added 2 more Troyers to the Lettered gourd rack and all the other gourds seem to be occupied but the egg laying has slowed to a crawl. Of the 10 gourds on this rack only 2 have eggs and only 1 egg in one and 2 in the other. I wonder if the dry weather is a form of natural birth control for the martins?

The pipping egg, that I had posted about recently had been in gourd #3. Among the first of this years babies to hatch, these nestlings are between 5 and 6 days old. I counted and there were only 4 of them. I was excited to meet the little nestling that would be some 2 days younger than his nest mates. I was curious to see how he would be fairing as the ‘runt of the litter’. I lifted a few of the fat little bodies out of the way and found the egg buried underneath them. The same as I had left it, with the hopeful hole pecked perfectly in the center of the egg. A small beak just below…only dead. Oh how sad. How close this baby had been to the world. What could have happened? I am guilt stricken.

This brings up an important point about pipping eggs that some may not be aware of.

There are 3 things that can cause a pipped egg to die without hatching.

  1. Humidity too high
  2. Humidity too low
  3. Poor or bad circulation of air

When an egg is pipping the amount of humidity or moisture in the air is critical. Being a wild bird, the humidity level in the nest is not something that we can monitor or adjust for. The birds know what they are doing. Some people have said that perhaps that is why green leaves are brought into the nest. It is one of those things that God endows his creatures with an inner knowledge that man, in all our sophistication, may never truly understand. When it comes to poultry, it is commonly understood that slightly too high humidity can drown a nestling. And humidity just a tad too low can cause the membranes to stick around the nose and basically suffocate the nestling.

The third and last cause, improper or poor air flow/circulation may well have been the likely culprit in this case. Nestlings can pip fast or slow and they do it in their own time. When it comes to poultry a chick can take an hour or a day…it’s really up to the bird. So the fact that I did not see movement was not a concern but, It may well have been dead when I found it initially. We also have to consider that the other nestlings were being fed. The nestlings at 2 days old were already more than twice the size of the egg. They were mobile and wiggling around the nest to some extent. Raising their heads and instinctively positioning themselves in the nest. All it would have taken is one of the nestlings to rest its head over the small hole or for the moving babies to cause the egg to roll over enough to suffocate the nestling inside. I took care when putting the egg back in the nest to position it as I had found it…pip up and small side down. But I should have looked at the egg more carefully, to in fact confirm movement. I should not have assumed that the nestling was alive and well. Maybe in placing it back in the nest after picking up and replacing nest mates, that its ideal spot was disturbed and it was then more likely to roll to the side-sealing its fate? I will never know. Fortunately the 4 other nestlings are fat and oblivious to their brother (or sisters) demise. It’s a hard life-a birds life. Maybe that is why we work so hard to make the little parts we can easier for our martins. As you can see by the post mortem photo, that the nestling appears asleep and peaceful. Its little beak was through the inner membranes.

Speaking of hatching. The eggs in gourd #11 are due to hatch as of Wednesday April 15. So keep an eye out for more pipping and cross your fingers! Watch them on ournestcam, of course.

Other good news is the gourd on the Shepard’s hook now has 5 eggs. I wonder how those babies will feel about me mowing the grass and peeking in as I drive by?

Photos and Blog contents © 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com