Posts Tagged ‘sparrows’

New Product: One Fits All Insert Trap!

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Martin house Insert Trap that Allows for a SREH (Starling Resistant Opening)!

Much like the famous Universal Sparrow Trap (UST) the One Fits All is even better. You can catch Sparrows AND Starlings where in the past you may not have been able to catch starlings.

You may ask, “Well. why not?”
The UST traps and others come with round holes meaning that if your colony consisted of SREH you would have to either permanently or temporarily convert a SREH to a round in order to use any of the traps. That may not be a big deal. but when time is of the essence and the pesky sparrows (who can easily thwart your SREH) start nest building you want to catch quickly.

Now you can pop in the One Fits All and catch just as humanly as the UST and other popular traps but do not need to change openings. In those that have aluminum houses, changing out an entrance SREH to a round can be quite a job. Unless you bought a spare round entranced door or front panel. And tripping at around 10 or so grams, the trap is sensitive enough to catch any hosp that enters. (a typical house sparrow weighs about 28 grams)

Is it named One Fits All because it fits any door (SREH or round) or because it fits any trap?
The manufacturer tells us that it fits all the houses he tested it in and with measurements of 4 1/4 inches high, 5 inches wide, 4 3/4 inches deep, it just may. The small size is advantageous since the nest, eggs and young of the offending sparrow or starling can be pushed to the back of the trap and still be seen through the hardware cloth back of the trap. Larger traps require that you remove the nesting material which just could send the sparrows into a rage before you have the chance to trap.
The top of the crescent shaped opening is 2 3/4 inches from the floor of the trap and the crescent shaped opening is generously sized at 3 3/4 inches wide to accommodate any entrance types.

We are excited to have this new trap to our lineup available at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com and look forward to hearing about your success with it.

Green Cay Predator Guards are UP!

Monday, April 13th, 2009

 

I wanted to tell you about my recent visit to the Purple Martin colony at Green Cay Nature Center. The facility is immaculate (as usual) and the wildlife plentiful. Birds were in abundance. From a pair of Red-Tailed hawks, mottled ducks, common moorheads and red winged black birds and others that challenged my marginal bird ID skills. I was there to install the predator guardsthat Mr.Updike (a fellow Purple Martin Conservation Association forumite) from Delaware had so graciously donated to Green Cay. Donald Campbell, the manager of Green Cay, escorted me out to the purple martin houses. The martins, for not being as close to humans as the martins at my house, were just as docile. A flurry of feathers to get airborne and then curious swoops as if we had been doing nest checks all along. The Economy 12 gourd rack was the first to come down. Though it has a capacity for 12 gourds, as its name implies, the rack currently only has 8 Troyer horizontal gourds all with round openings. Out of the 8 gourds, 6 of them were occupied with either nestlings or eggs. Those 2 that were not occupied had complete nests. None had any evidence of mites.

Not all of the nests looked the same however. As I opened the access port to the first gourd, I saw feathers had been used in its construction. I was confused. Could a Tree Swallow have nested here? No, I saw Purple Martins perched on the rack before we approached it. If it was a Tree Swallow, it would have kept the martins away from the rack. Never even mind the fact that a Tree Swallow nesting in South Florida would be for the record books. I reached in, unable to see what was laying within.European starling nestlings

The first nestling I pulled out greeted me with a big yellow beak and downy fuzz on its head and back. My heart sank. I reached in and pulled out another, then another, then another until 5 writhing bodies gaped at me. It appeared as though (unfortunately) 3 of the nests were those of European Starlings. The oldest of the nestlings was bold and unfazed by my handling. It looked at me as if to dare me.  A half smile on that wretched yellow dagger of a beak.

When I talk to people about Purple Martins and the threat of non-native nest site competitors (like starlings or sparrows) many people will deny they have a problem…until there is a problem. And when it comes to sparrows and starlings, trust me, there is a problem. But it is a delicate issue Starling Nestlingand there is always the danger of offending sensibilities and beliefs. It’s a subject I tread carefully and this situation gives me a great opportunity to show some of you that still doubt, that sometimes even if there “ain’t nothing broke”, we should still fix it. The situation at Green Cay illustrates perfectly how problems arise. The old housing was unattractive to starlings. Thus, no starling problem. Small 6×6 compartments being the main complaint. By the way, those same 6×6 compartments are unattractive to purple martins also, But necessity being the mother of invention and the Purple Martins being a lot more hard pressed for available housing, will make do with what is available to them. Why else would studies show that in larger compartments that purple martins not only lay more eggs, but successfully fledge more young. This being the case, when the new Troyer horizontal gourds were introduced this year, the Starlings took a good long look.

Being nestled in intimate proximity to an urban setting, starlings in my area have an abundant supply of adequate housing. All they have to do is fly a few hundred feet to reach any number of prime starling nest areas. South Florida architecture is famous for its use of Spanish tiles that starlings nest in quite successfully. Dead palm trees are so soft they are hollowed out by woodpeckers in record time and provide great nesting spots for starlings. So when someone puts up housing in urban areas, even if you don’t see the starlings, it is just a matter of time. And just like any of you that have ever had a picnic know, the flies don’t bother you until the food comes out. But you know the flies are around.

Interestingly enough, in retrospect I wonder if the nests that were completed but unoccupied were empty because a starling already had attacked? Could a starling have already caused damage? Regardless, the colony is thriving and at least it is an easy fix. Thankfully, with the development of SREH, the starling threat can be neutralized.

The Sunset Inn house, with its SREH is safe from the start. Every compartment was filled with 5-6 eggs or nestlings. One compartment had a 1 day old nestling that was dead, but the 4 other 1 and 2 day old nest mates seemed to be doing fine. The nest was sparse and the nestlings in this nest were on the only patch of bare floor but I rearranged the nest so that a covering of leaves provided some warmth. All the other nests were beautifully constructed with huge mud dams and perfectly crafted nests using grasses and reeds. The purple martins are lucky to have such a beautiful setting to raise their young.

In closing I hope that for those that do not believe in the benefits of SREH that you reconsider and make the conversion in your colony’s. A few moments of work will rewards you with unending peace of mind. I also urge the more passive of landlords to spend more time getting to know your birds. As it is with many active purple martin landlords, we check our birds so frequently that their world opens up to us like a crystal ball. A story unfolds slowly but clearly of the challenges they face. With active management small problems can be fixed and large problems can be unearthed quickly. And knowing our birds so intimately gives us an appreciation for these birds that is hard to describe.

But I will keep trying!

Photos and Blog Contents © S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

The War on Starlings: Fighting the Good Fight!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

 Sometimes I feel like I am preaching to the choir, when it comes to Non-native cavity nesting birds like Starlings and House Sparrows and the damage that they can inflict on a colony. I remind myself, however, that many people that come across my blog and read it, have no bias against S&S(Starlings & Sparrows). There is a vast expanse of people that are interested in birding but have yet to make the leap into being an active participant in conservation. When it comes to S&S there is not enough that I can say.

Which brings me to the day when it got personal. 5 years living in my semi-rural area, I had never seen a Starling. Did I think my colony was immune from the presence of Starlings? They were only 20 minutes away at the local “SuperMart” in town. No, I was not that naive. I was however still surprised the morning I went out to enjoy my morning coffee and heard that tell tale wolf whistle. My fears were confirmed when the lone Starling landed on the house. I of course, was in a panic. I knew what was to come. Mainly, more starlings. It is amazing to see how they operate. Truly an amazing bird, in many ways. Fortunately for the Starlings, as a species, they are in no way shape or form in any danger. Unfortunately, as individuals on my property, they must cease to exist.

I am very lucky. Being a stay at home mom I have all day access to my birds in case of a problem. The Martins start their day earlier than my children do, so I can observe them in peace. One thing I noticed is that the starlings would only investigate my housing early in the morning. While Starlings are in “investigation mode” after10:30 or so, they would not return. So I knew that my window of opportunity was narrow. Not being fully prepared for battle I knew I could not afford to let them gather any foothold. I had all the makings of a disaster, no traps and I am a horribly bad shot.

To make a long story short I captured 3 Starlings that morning and 3 more in the following week. I saw several more but by that time I had converted all my compartments to SREH and built a repeating nest box trap.

The philosophy that some subscribe to, that Purple Martins and S&S can coexists peacefully is impossible to believe once you witness the reaction of the Purple Martins. The Starlings move from compartment to compartment with impunity. The first Starling entered a 6×12 compartment with a round entrance. The ASY pair had built a beautiful nest and I am sure was within days of starting to lay eggs. The female was inside the compartment when the Starling entered. That female left and never returned. I was lucky. I had about 80% occupancy and no shortage of Purple Martins last year. Another pair (SY) ended up using that beautiful nest. Never the less, any lost opportunity to assist my beloved birds, I regret. And I can not help but think of all the landlords and wanna be landlords who lose Purple Martins due to even one visit from a Starling. At a time when most people are at work, the Starlings are doing damage by intimidation alone. Never mind the fact that they are merciless in their attacks on our native cavity nesting birds.

So my point is, there is no need for mercy with a bird that shows no mercy. Nature is hard and cruel. Our tolerance and acceptance of Starlings makes life that much harder and that much crueler for the Purple Martin and other native cavity nesters. Use SREH to protect from Starlings. Be proactive about protection from ALL predators at your site. If you can not bring yourself to harming a Starling or English House Sparrow, find a raptor rehabilitator in your area or someone who has snakes. Call your local zoo or another area landlord who has no such qualms. You can do it! Our Martins are counting on you.

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin/ PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

A Disney trip

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Weekend before last we took our two boys to Disney World. Always a big hit with them, it usually results in years taken off my life. We went, as usual, to magic Kingdom. I found myself taking photos of Sparrows which simply covered the floor in some areas. Apparently they are in the midst of fledging young. The fledglings were easily in arms reach in some spots. I jokingly said to some friends at the “Purple Martin Clubhouse” that it took all myself control to not reach over and put them out of my misery.fledgling HOSPHosp fledgling

I think I will enter a few of the photos on my GALLERY site  ,as I got a few good shots that may help some of you with HOSP Identification. Like this photo of a female hosp shows the UN-streaked chest and light streak behind the eye.hosp female

The last time we went to Disney we saw the Purple Martin houses that they had at Epcot. Top class housing. At the time I asked a few Disney personnel that walked by if they had any info on who cared for them. Noone knew a thing. Purple Martins were flying about on a nasty rainy overcast day. Sparrows were abundant and perched in the entrances of several gourds. I could only hope that Disney was being responsible enough to manage the S&S. Well, it took awhile but I am pleased to report that the Epcot colony IS managed superbly by a gentleman named James Mejeur who also manages a colony at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I am not sure if he is a Disney volunteer or employee but I DO know that if the colony there can fledge martins with the abundance of S&S around, then their is no excuse for those that think they can not beat the pesky S&S. Mr. Mejeur cleans the HOSP nests out every two days and not a single one fledged a chick out of the colony.  Even better is Between the colonies at Epcot and Animal Kingdom, they fledged close to 500 chicks this year. Astounding and simply wonderful! I love Disney even more, now that I know this about them. My hats off to James and his wonderful work!

Is It a Sparrow?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Is it an English House Sparrow otherwise known as HOSP? If you are pulling nests or trapping, it is important that you are sure. It is amazing how many times even the most common of birds is misidentified.  

It’s important to note, that there are other birds that look VERY similar to HOSPs.  Remember, Non-native HOSP will enter a cavity and destroy eggs, young and adult native birds. The only other bird that will destroy eggs is a native House Wren. House WrenHouse Wrens are smaller, have a long pointy beak(NOT a fat conical beak), tail often held upright(Not held down). They Have NO BLACK bib. They have a drab grayish- brown, belly. House Wrens are native and are protected.

English House Sparrow (HOSP)

 Male HOSPMale HOSP

male HOSP head shotMale HOSP head shot

(NOTE: Males have a black, v-shaped bib on the breast under their beak and GRAY cap on the top of their head with chestnut below.) 

Female HOSPFemale HOSP

Female HOSP head shotFemale HOSP head shot

(NOTE: Females DO NOT have the black bib or the chestnut (reddish/brown) color on the sides of their heads. They do have a pale streak running back from their eye. They have a dull NON-streaked breast.)

 Some birds that Look like hosp

Chipping SparrowChipping Sparrow: Cap is chestnut (reddish-brown) NOT gray. NO BIB. Smaller in size than hosp. Will not harm birds or eggs. Does NOT nest in a cavity.

House FinchHouse Finch: Both male and female have a streaked breast. Notice reddish cast to head and chest of male. NO bib, no grey cap, no chestnut head.(Photo courtesy Terry Sohl of www.sdakotabirds.com)

Black-Capped ChickadeeBlack Capped Chickadee: These birds DO nest in a nest box but DO NOT harm any eggs or birds. They are smaller than a HOSP. No chestnut (reddish-brown) markings. (Photo Courtesy Terry Sohl of www.sdakotabirds.com)

Many thanks to Bet Zimmerman from www.Sialis.org for HOSP and Chipping Sparrow photos. And thanks to Terry Sohl of www.sdakotabirds.com for photos of the chickadee and house finch.