Posts Tagged ‘sevin’

Why Purple Martin Nestlings Jump

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Our last blog post touched on one of the reasons that purple martin nestlings jump prematurely out of their nests. Referred to as “jumpers” these youngsters are often doomed. The reason why I,  along with many other South Florida landlords, have seen a huge increase in jumpers this year over previous is our record breaking drought conditions. Dry weather means fewer bugs which means purple martins go hungry and nesting success plummets.

The main reasons that martin landlords encounter jumpers are: parasites, extreme heat and hunger. Drought, though not a specific reason, contributes to low food supply and hunger/malnourishment.

Parasites can torment young inside a nest. Though some have argued that nature should be allowed to take its course, the natural instinct of the Purple Martin (Progne subis, subspecies: subis) has been altered by man.  Before Native Americans created the tradition shift in martins, the nest sites of these birds were tree snags and they nested farther apart. You can read about some of the 1/4 tsp in nesthistory of martins at our parent site: PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. They were much like their West coast cousins, Progne subis, subspecies: hesperia and subspecies: arbicola. The shift not only affected were they nested (tree snags vs man made houses) but the way they nested, as it is believed they were not as colonial in their nesting. That is to say, they were spaced further apart and did not nest in such large groups. The groups of martins nesting in close proximity can create parasite population explosion. We counter this by periodic nest changes and/or the use of a small amount of Sevin. We have a great link to a video on how to do a nest change.

Extreme heat in a nest can  be challenging to combat but if not associated with drought or food shortages, are usually easy to remediate. By making sure all vents are open in nest compartments and gourds, air circulation can be increased which can help lower temps. Many artificial gourds have vents that can opened as an option. For example Troyer gourds have built in mini vent canopies that can be drilled open easily. We recommend drilling these open before the season but a cordless drill can open those up quickly. If those are too small or you want larger vents (more air circulation) than a 1/4 inch threaded PVC elbow (90 degrees) is perfect for the job. It can  be easily installed on any gourd or house for that matter to increase air flow. Just drill a hole large enough to thread the end in and caulk in place. Make sure it points down and, if you want, attach a small piece of screen to cover the opening to allow air in but keep wasps out. The picture shows a modified gourd with elbow in place at the highest point which will push out the hot air as it rises. Know that in Northern climates you may have to plug these vents inn the early spring in times of cold weather to keep your martins warm.

Other tricks folks employ:

Using a frozen gel pack placed in an empty compartment. A frozen bottle of water can be used also.

A secondary shade can also help. Placing a sunshade to keep the sun from beating down on the house surface can decrease temps.

-------photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr

Even a misting system has been used by many with success. Just makes sure the water does not go into compartments which would lead to wet nests. Also the misters should only run intermittently in the hottest part of the day so that the water can dry off. The evaporation is what cools. Don’t let the misters run at night or continuously. Our Free Purple Martin House Plans page has instructions available on how to make a mister system for your martin houses.

Hunger is a difficult problem and the debate is heated on how much humans should intervene on this. Though supplemental feeding is often done in early spring cold snaps for returning adults, one should strongly weigh the consequences of feeding purple martin nestlings. Remember that if you have several nests that are doing poorly from lack of food, the parents are suffering also. If there is a long term problem, supplemental feeding is a very short term solution. Read our Emergencies page for first responder care of purple martins.

What other problems lead to Purple Martin nestling Jumpers? Let us know what you think.

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(c)2011 www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Purple Martins Feeling Louse-y

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

It’s just one of the wonderful moments of being a purple martin landlord. When I refer to “Me and my Martins” I often forget about the hitchhikers they tend to get. Lucky for me, I don’t get too grossed out. The last nest check I noticed that the purple martin nestlings in gourd #3 had some bird lice and the next day every nest got a 1/4 teaspoon of Sevin 5% dust. I will try and do a complete nest change of that gourd (#3) that I saw the louse in, but as an immediate treatment I must admit, I went with the Sevin.

Much larger than a mite-a Louse

Much larger than a mite-a Louse

The use of Sevin (5%) dust is sooooo controversial. When it comes to purple martins there are many treatments that folks will swear by. Follows is a list of treatments YOU can try to control parasites in your purple martins nests.

  1. Complete Nest Change: Probably the safest but takes the most time. I would not recommend doing more than 1 or 2 at any one nest check only because of the time involved and if there are eggs being incubated or young that need to be kept warm, it could deprive other nests of parental care. Nest replacements is the current “endorsed” way to treat parasite infestations of purple martin nests by the Purple Martin Conservation Association. Want to watch a nest change? Click here!
  2. Diatomaceous Earth (DE): The oldest remedy, DE has been used for ages as parasite control by purple martin landlords. Recently, DE has fallen somewhat out of favor for several reasons. It has been shown to cause severe lung issues if inhaled and when 4-6 purple martin nestlings are in an approx 10 inch nest flapping and exercising, lots of DE can get airborne and inhaled. Though not technically a pesticide, it has been shown to somewhat control parasites by ‘mechanical irritation’. Basically the ground up matter that forms DE rubs destroys a bugs outer skeleton to the point that the insect dries up and dies. Once wet, the DE is useless.
  3. Sevin 5% dust: available in various strengths or concentrations it is important to only use the 5% available in the gardening section of your favorite store. Used in Poultry and also in dog & cat parasite control, Sevin 5% is a highly effective pesticide. It must be used in minute amounts. 1/4 teaspoon (NOT tablespoon) applied in the nest but not directly on the young is all that is required. Those that oppose Sevin cite the fact that domesticated chickens are NOT purple martins and that evidence (1 study) that showed harmful, though not lethal, effects in non target wildlife. (Read it yourself here)
  4. Powder Sulfur: Though used highly diluted on pets as a shampoo frequently and used in gardening. Sulfur is a known eye irritant and if inhaled can caused serious problems. Also as young/ nestlings are without any covering (feathers) the sulfur would be an irritant to the skin. We do NOT recommend using sulfur.
  5. pyrethrin-based bird sprays: Available at pet stores and used on pet aviary birds, pyrethrins are  natural insecticides produced by some families of chrysanthemums, a flowering plant. I can not speak for the effectiveness of these products as I have never used them. They are commonly used in the pet industry and are  also specifically manufactured for caged birds such as parrots, parakeets and other aviary birds. Let me be clear; I do NOT use these sprays on my Purple Martins.
  6. You name it! I have heard folks use tobacco leaves, eucalyptus leaves, rosemary sprigs, cedar shavings with nest checks.

 I guess there are several ways to look at it. As a registered nurse I suppose I tend to look at things medically. You can either have the philosophy, to first do no harm. Or perhaps, it is case of the risks v.s benefits.

Let me know what crazy purple martin mite treatments you have heard of.

©2009 photo/blog contents S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

May 11,2008

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Nest check done-Finally! Tally as follows:

Total eggs laid to date: 72

Total eggs hatched to date: 59

Eggs still incubating: 6

Eggs lost: 7

Not bad at all!

Several nests are due to fledge in about a week. This may well be the last nest check in the house until those babies are airborne. I treated all nests with sevin as I had noticed, Beau had a few mites on him. Not many at all, and I did not see any on the nest check.

I almost had an aneurysm trying to raise the house up. The winds are gusting quite a bit and I had to get my spouse to help me raise the pole. The one pole has developed a slight bend and there is a portion that is very hard to raise. Once you get past that part, its smooth sailing. Regardless, next year I will be getting a new pole. He doesn’t know it yet.