Posts Tagged ‘nest change’

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.

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/

June 16, 2008

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Happy belated Fathers day.

I did not get to go to the roost. The weather has been questionable. Not that the Martins care if it is raining, no need to ruin my nice Nikon D50 and telephoto lens in the rain though! I will make it within the week though.

I had some website issues on Saturday, which I had quickly resolved. I also uploaded a new video to YouTube. “Basic Purple Martin Nest Change” My husband laughed hysterically at me when he saw it. He is not a Martin “nut” like myself. Now if I did a video on the Celtics and the Lakers, he would light a candle or something. I tried to explain to him that many people are visual. So I made a real basic video so people could get an idea of what to do. I THOUGHT it was a good idea… Here it is anyway.

As you may or may not know. I also have a video on a Basic nest check. I have fun doing them anyway. I should make a video at seasons end on how to clean the housing! HA! Now that would be funny. Me trying to get that thing hosed off and cleaned without dousing myself.

I counted another 50 or so yesterday for about an hour. The landed only briefly and a few new fledglings were in the bunch…and they were not mine. They must have been getting the grand tour.

Nest Change Video

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Basic information for Purple Martin Landlords who wish to do nest changes on their Martins. A simple why and how.

Blog/Photos & Video Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin /

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