Posts Tagged ‘starlings’

Starlings Breaching SREH

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Most people know that Starling RESISTANT Entrance Holes (SREH) do NOT mean starling PROOF. Though uncommon, starlings have been known to occasionally breech SREH. Once a starling breeches an entrance, it is even more important to dispatch the invasive bird. The fear by most is that smaller starlings that can enter a SREH could possibly breed and create more smaller starlings, and over the course of some years with the help of natural selection, the benefits of SREH would be made obsolete. This would be as tragic and possibly as devestating for the modern day martin as bringing in these pest birds to North America in the first place.

Of course, some SREH are more restrictive that others and most breeches have been reported with the less restrictive entrances like a simple crescent or a Conley II entrance. The more restrictive, the less likely a starling can get past it. So a more restrictive SREH like an Excluder entrance would be much safer.

One well known fix for the problem of starlings getting in through a SREH, is raising the floor (or lowering the entrance) as many houses use SREH that are placed much to far up. The bottom of a Staring Resistant Entrance Hole should be flush or as close to flush as possible. The lower to the porch, the better.

photo copyright Bradley O'Toole

Sometimes, the entrances are placed low enough, it’s just that the starlings are smaller than usual. Take the very popular Troyer Gourds. People love them. They are our best selling gourd…deep, strong, lightweight, pretty awesome really. The entrances are as low as they can go. You can modify the gourd and swap out the entrance for a more restrictive opening, trap the offending bird, or you can try this fix reported by Bradley O. on FB. We would LOVE to hear if this works or not from others who are having a problem with starling breeches in their Troyer tunneled gourds. By looking at his picture, you can see that all he did was clip 2 small binder clips on either side of the Troyer Tunnel.

Bradley states, “The clips are 1-1/2 inches “wide” (when in the position in the pic). We have done this for a few years now with no issues with martins rejecting or being injured by them. Very rarely, they push the clip open. And yes, Susan…, please spread the word! Once the starlings check out the gourds, they seem to be discouraged and we don’t see many on the gourd rack.”

Copyright Bradley O'Toole

We hope you all try it and let us know if it works!

Another Case of Wing Entrapment

Monday, April 18th, 2011

It seems like this is a yearly event. (knock on wood) I hope only once a year is my lot in my landlord life. It could be more, I suppose. It definitely could be worse. So far no lasting effects, other than some worry on my part and some moments of terror on the part of the martins that I had to extricate from the sreh gourds. 2 ASY males, one stuck in the sreh and one within the nest. Gratefully and gently freed. They are so amazing to look at up close.

For those that don’t know, Wing Entrapment is when a purple martin becomes stuck in a SREH. It usually happens when 2 or more martins are fighting over a compartment (nest spot) of any gourd or house with SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Hole) As one bird tries to leave the nest and is trying to fend off attacks from within the nest from a rival or occupant, the bird gets stuck in the entrance. Basically gets stuck when he turns as he is trying to exit. If not discovered fairly quickly the birds in the nest can die as can the stuck bird. I wonder if vented rooms vs non vented rooms have a better survival time and if the deaths are strictly due to the heat build up in a nest with a plugged entrance? Or is it a dehydration issue? Those that have reported deaths from entrapment usually say that they discovered it either the same day or within a day or two of the event.

You can read about wing entrapment in previous blog posts as well as on our parent website, www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. Is wing entrapment a reason to not use SREH? Absolutely not. Wing entrapment remains much less common than the threat of Starlings in an unprotected colony. Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons in your colony along with your sites individual risk factors for both problems.

Tucking In My Martins

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

My favorite thing to do is tuck in my martins. I leave the children inside with my spouse, take a coffee (or some other beverage) out on the back patio, and enjoy the show. My purple martins, 35+ at this point, weave an invisible quilt of flight and song. An unseen drain swirls them in closer and tighter until they all swoosh into their gourds in a mad dash to escape one darkness for another.

Today a young male Starling made a home of the repeating nestbox trap. One starling down…200 Million to go.

Last night an American Kestral gave a half hearted attempt at what I can only assume was harassment. I could almost hear the martin laugh. Though speedy his attempt was awkward and clumsy and he flew off in disgust with himself. Maybe his eyes were bigger than his stomach as I am not sure what he would have done if he had caught a martin.

Switching Martins from Round Entrances to SREH

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

At times I believe that with the ever increasing pressure from European Starlings, it would be just a matter of time before purple martins become extinct! Luckily for us landlords Charles McEwen of Mocton, NB developed the SREH or Starling Resistant Entrance Hole. This development has single-handedly helped save more purple martins than we will ever be able to count.

The starling resistant Crescent entrance, which has given rise to nearly a dozen variations has virtually neutralized the threat of the invasive European Starling to our native songbirds. Many folks deal with the pressure and destruction caused by starlings entering their round holed colonies, rather than converting their entrances to SREH because of the apparent difficulties one can have in teaching your martins how to navigate such an odd looking entrance. Looking at the entrances it is no wonder, the shapes are downright strange and seem to defy logic. How would a bird get in? But trust me! They do!

types of srehAs I stated before there are many types of starling resistant entrance holes, some of which are protected by patents and copyrights. Some have even touted Starling Proof entrances, though in my opinion, it is a bit premature to stake that claim. You can read more about “starling proof” entrances HERE. There are also many opinions as to which SREH is better or more effective than the next. I have only tried a handful myself and even with SREH I continue to trap non native starlings at my colony.

Most of my 30+ compartments are Conley II (also called “The Clubhouse” entrance) and crescents. I have a gourd with a modified Excluder and one with an Excluder II also. ALL fill with martins.
I must admit that at first I had some issues switching them over but eventually they got the hang of it.
If your colony is established, that is they are bonded to your site and have nested there before, they should figure it out pretty quickly. You may witness the SREH Shimmy (as I call it) which is often mistaken for the martins “not fitting” into the new entrance hole. Do not fret, these designs have been designed and tested with many thousands of martins and they will fit in it. The martin will stick his head in and make it appear as if he can not fit. He may even appear to squeeze and push, to no avail. Trust me though, if the entrance is either bought from a reputable source such as www.EntrancesbySandy.com or www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com or comes pre manufactured, the sizes are carefully measured and the bird can fit. Be patient. Many landlords suggest keeping a few round holed compartments available.  The rounds will fill first but the desire to stay together at the colony will get the other martins to eventually get in the starling resistant entrances. Of course you must intensify the battle against any starlings, as they will now be focused on the few round nests that remain. This will buy some time for the martins to become familiar with the change and master the entrances.  It just will take time. A couple of days at the most.

Consider building  a repeating nestbox trap or purchase one pre built. Also called a S&S trap these can trap repeatedly without resetting. Since the trapped bird is released into a holding cage, the trapped birds can tolerate it much better than a conventional nest trap. That is to say, if you leave the house for a few hours and a native bird is trapped in the repeater, they will be none the worse for wear when you get home. In a regular nest trap, the bird won’t do well at all. I would never recommend leaving a regular nest trap set while not actually watching it. Stuck in a closed off gourd or house with little air flow-It gets hot quick. Also you can stick the repeating nest box trap in a spot that is less desirable to the martins and lure the starlings away from your martin housing.

If your colony is new, that is you are still trying to attract your first pairs of purple martins, then converting them can be a bit trickier. Hopefully the martins that come to investigate your site come from a colony that uses SREH. If they are familiar with them they will enter the compartments like quicksilver. If they are not familiar with SREH then leaving from a couple of entrances  to half the compartments with round entrances will work. Monitoring your housing and keeping starlings out becomes even more important to these new colony sites and trapping and neutralizing is key. Local Starling population control can reduce the pressure form these invasive birds and increase the possibility of attracting and keeping your first pairs of martins.

Now for the downside. Though SREH are a wonderful tool that has helped martins to flourish in otherwise starling infested areas, their are risks. Though not common, Wing Entrapment can kill if not caught. I have encountered this problem a couple of times at our colony and you can read about Wing Entrapment HERE. When using SREH it is recommended that you look at your colony twice a day to observe for any martins that may be entrapped. Entrapment usually happens at the peak of martin breeding season when martins will often have territorial fights within the nest. The birds back up to the entrance while fighting and get their wings stuck. Lowering your housing and gently removing the stuck bird will not only save the life of the martin that is stuck but the 1 or 2 other martins that (I guarantee) are in the gourd with it.

Unfortunately there are no sparrow resistant entrances, when it comes to Purple Martin houses. So getting a good trap either nestbox or a baited trap becomes essential.

REMEMBER, when using traps of any type, monitoring is essential to preventing harm to native birds that may be inadvertently trapped. Native birds may not “learn” that it is a trap and are often caught repeatedly. If you are unable to monitor your traps they should be disabled while you are away.


Credits and copyrights are/may be in effect for SREH designs

Dually entrance design by Ken Landry

ACE entrance designed by R. C. Moser and developed by Bob Flam.

Excluder entrance designs by Duke Snyder

Conley entrance designs* by Willie Conley

© PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Pesky Starling

Monday, February 15th, 2010

After capturing the female in the old faithful S&S Repeating Nest box trap, the male continues to come by. Usually in silence, he lurks on the gourd rack watching the goings on around him. I have left him alone for now. For no other reason except that he poses no real threat AND I am a horrible shot.

The S&S awaits him and I am sure that when he finds a girl to bring by she may take a gander at the trap herself. I do have my old plastic martin house attached to the side of my home that I welcome any starlings to nest in. Since the house will not attract anything other than the starlings, in my neighborhood, it should do nicely as a trap.

The S&S repeater trap plans are available as is the ASSEMBLED trap also. The assembled trap is already put together and only requires minimal assembly of the pole.

I still have not noticed any SY martins and due to some odd weather the martins seem to be out feeding a lot. Between record low cold fronts and rain storms with gusting winds upward of 30 mph, the martins seem to be conserving their energy.  Remember that you can watch the exterior of the colony on our live streaming webcam at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com.

5 Purple Martins So Far

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Another female ASY purple martin came yesterday bringing the tally up to 5.  Also,  as if on cue,  one of the starlings that had been trying to get in the Troyer horizontal gourds finally went for the trap. Thankfully the repeating nestbox trap or S&S repeater, worked like a charm. I took a few pics of the poor fellow and humanely deposited him in the circular house at the curb.

My mother in-law was mortified. My husband, as usual, perplexed at how I can euthanize a bird and call myself a bird lover. I answered back the way I always do. That as a true bird lover, sometimes hard decisions need to be made and “my” purple martins will not suffer for the mistakes humans made by introducing the European Starling on this continent. But look out! You do NOT want me to take out the soap box again!

The live ColonyCam is up and running and it is at a slightly different angle.But I have not heard anyone complain as yet.

© PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Purple Martin Colony Cam is Up

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Yes, last week the purple martin colony cam went online. What is the colony cam? Well, it is the exterior view of a portion of my purple martin colony. Located in Sunny South Florida (Loxahatchee, which is western palm beach county, to be exact) the colony consists of 2 gourd racks and 1 multipurpose pole. The camera is currently on the “numbered” purple martin gourd rack.

As of right now there is capacity for 33 pairs but a few more gourds will go up bumping up this years capacity to about 36 pairs of purple martins. Last year 131 purple martins fledged from this site and we hope to do as well this year.

As of this morning there appears to be 2 pairs of martins. More should be showing up soon. Since migration appeared to have been delayed due to weather, the time between the ASY or adult purple martins arrival and the SY or sub adults arrival may be shorter than usual. So be prepared and get your houses up. If you live in the northern portion of the purple martins range and don’t expect them till later in the year, feel free to watch them on the web cam which should be running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…barring any technical issues which sometimes arise.

A few European Starlings keep making early morning visits but will not enter my nest trap. The first day they arrived the starlings tried to enter the trap which was stuck and since then they seem in no hurry to enter it again. Of course, it is working now but as my luck would have it, they wont even look at it again. Instead the starlings will sit and watch from atop the gourd rack and do that drawn out backwards wolf whistle that makes my hair stand up. Like fingernails on a chalk board. Normally the repeating nestbox trap also known as a S&S trap would do the trick and trap them like a charm but alas, you can lead a horse to water…  For easy to build step by step plans on how to make your own S&S trap click on the photo above or this link:  Repeating Sparrow and Starling nestbox trap plans. But in essence the trap has a clever teeter totter type mechanism that automatically resets itself after depositing the trapped bird (UNHARMED) in a cage below. A great tool for those that manage bluebird trails as well. Our native birds need all the help they can get!

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.

100% Starling PROOF Entrance Hole?

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Going from Starling Resistant to Starling Proof

The Jury Is Out

Is it really possible? I saw the ad for this entrance hole in an issue of “Feathers and Friends” and I was immediately interested. An entrance hole that touts itself as 100% starling proof is a pretty amazing discovery…if true.

As you may know, the advent of the original Starling RESISTANT Entrance Hole (SREH) by the late Charles McEwen was revolutionary for purple martin landlords. The fact that purple martins could be protected from the destructive European Starlings was a huge development. Some purple martin house manufacturers went so far as to make these SREH standard equipment on their houses and countless martins are now, for the most part, safe from these pests.

Almost immediately after the SREH was placed into use, it seems that the search for the elusive, perfect and 100% Starling Proof entrance was on. Many landlords have been actively developing different entrance shapes trying to keep out the occasional smaller sized starlings. Some folks have even hypothesized that in using SREH, that we are in essence been breeding down the size of starlings. If that happens the purple martins will have no protection from these invasive birds that are choking out our native cavity nesting birds.

The immediate benefits of SREH still outweigh any other risks involved. (Risks such as wing entrapment can be serious and deadly- read about wing entrapment HERE. Consider that European starlings are even displacing red bellied woodpeckers in order to take over the nesting cavity. Countless woodpeckers are now being forced to excavate several cavities and nest later in the season in order to deflect the pressure of the starlings. Late clutches are usually not as productive. So not only are the secondary cavity nesters in peril but the primary excavators are also at risk. Habitat loss due to urban sprawl and deforestation, in time the starlings will impact  woodpecker populations. It would seem that would decrease the amount of natural nest cavities available to secondary cavity nesters such as flycatchers, screech owls and even wood ducks, just to name a few. Human supplied bird boxes or nest boxes will become even more vital in saving our native birds. Perhaps then more emphasis be placed on active control and even local eradication of European Starlings.

Back to the question of this “100% starling proof” entrance. We will have to wait for those of you that use it to let the rest of you know. I do not have a heavy starling area but I may very well get a few of these just out of curiosity. In appearance it is very similar to the Clubhouse entrance (or Conley #2) only more narrow. The Clubhouse entrance is the SREH on the current Troyer Horizontal gourds and was named after the Purple Martin “Clubhouse” forumites that developed it.

For purchasing information contact “Nature Unlimited” at (260)593-2624 ext 1. This is an Amish run country store so a voice mail should be left and they will call you back. Entrance plates are $1.95 each and are 4 -1/2 inches x 3 -1/4 inches. PLEASE let me know if they work for you.

The American Bird Conservation Association / Feathers and Friends can be contacted via phone at (260) 768-8095 x:5 Subscription rates are  $18 for 1 year. Tell them Susan from PurpleMartins-R-Us sent you!

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Not that I am not grateful for the rain that South Florida so desperately needs. I really don’t want the rain to go away. Just give me enough time to take care of business on the 3 poles. South Florida has had torrential downpours in the last week or so as a result of a low pressure system that was actually threatening to turn into an early Tropical Depression. Hurricane season can’t wait to start, apparently.

The nest checks could wait no more. Last nest check of the numbered gourd rack had gourd # 10  smelling quite ripe and needing a change badly. The babies all fledged successfully in that nest but yesterday as I watched the birds coming in for the night, I noticed that no one wanted to enter that gourd. So I was finally able to do several nest changes in empty gourds that had already fledged on the numbered rack and also changed several nests with babies on the lettered rack. The smell was reminiscent of the monkey cages at the Bronx Zoo and General Tso’s Chicken from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I doubt I will ever be able to eat General Tso’s Chicken again. Thankfully my experience as a nurse and mom has prepared me well for the foulness of the situation…5 straight days of sideways falling rain, plus bird poop, plus “bug parts” was turning into a potent compost material. I am convinced that had I not changed the nests for some of the nestlings that some will have perished in short order. The nestlings in Gourd “D” were wet and dirty. They seemed grateful to be placed back in a dry clean nest. I noticed one of the nestlings had a small lump on its abdomen that reminded me of a cyst or a tumor. Hopefully it is benign but I will observe it. All but the telescopic pole was checked as thunder was rumbling again and a drizzle began to fall.

Last night I had the strangest dream. In the dream I heard the wolf whistle call of a starling. Then this morning when I went outside to check on the birds and check the trap, as I ALWAYS do. To my surprise I looked down at the trap and I see a bird in the trap. At first I thought it was a fledgling martin that let his curiosity get the better of him. When I looked closer I saw that it was not one but 2, yes TWO Starlings in “the little repeating nest-trap-that-could”. 

There are some half dozen starlings frequenting the yard and I decided to keep the younger of the two as a lure. Now to just work on my baited trap.

I was glad to be able to get some good up close photos of the European Starling and several came out quite well.

Nest Check Results for 5-23-09:

Fledged to date:    58

Total Eggs remaining:       28

Total Young remaining:       38  (+10 ? Unable to check telescopic pole)