Purple Martins: Wild bird or Pet?

Sharon Stiteler from www.BirdChick.com has done a great job bringing birding to masses of people. I mean let’s face it, she is the Oprah Winfrey of Bird Bloggers. Her claim that she isĀ  showing the world that “you can be a birder without being a geek” is very true. Recently she posted a blog post about my favorite bird (and yours) Purple Martins on www.BirdChick.com.

Usually I enjoy her writing immensely, but while reading this one I found myself at first feeling defensive of my hobby but then quite protective of my “pets”.

I responded to her blog post,

The only part I don’t agree with is about how European settlers began this birds dependence on humans. It has been documented that Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians would hang up dried gourds for these birds and according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, the purple martin has undergone in the last several hundred years, a tradition shift where they no longer recognize natural tree snags as nest sites. Are they pets? I understand you argument there, but as a purple martin landlord I take pride in keeping this bird safely off the endangered species list, which according to the PMCA, would probably be the case had humans not taken to putting up housing.

Us landlords are familiar with the story of the history of Purple Martins. For those that don’t know the history of purple martins a great article is at the PMCA website.

Though Sharon sees our meddling in the affairs of purple martins as interfering with natural selection, I see it as a continuing of a symbiotic relationship with these birds that gave up their natural ways to help us. Though we don’t need them to warn us of vultures or birds of prey that are trying to eat Buffalo meat hung up to dry, or to chase crows from crop fields or even as natural flying insect control anymore; I find it comforting to know that I am fulfilling the promise made by those Native Americans so many years ago. That though we, as the human race, may have outlived the usefulness of Purple Martins in a practical sense, that we will stand by what we began.

Maybe Ms. Stiteler will reconsider her stance?

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