Posts Tagged ‘nestling’

Purple Martin Nestling: Finding A Too Young To Fly Baby On The Ground

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Here is a question I received concerning a nestling found on the ground.


Dear PurpleMartins-R-Us:
I have some martins and a baby was pushed out by a SY male martin. I’m not sure which gourd the nestling came out of. I put him back into one of the gourds. Will he be ok if it is the wrong gourd?


Simply put, as long as they are close in age it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Its always better to place in a nest of same or slightly younger nest mates, if same age is not possible. Never have the new member be the youngest, if you can help it.

But purple martin jumpers and what to do, is a complex questions and their are a lot of variables in order to answer this question properly. First of all, a Purple Martin Jumper (for those who do not know) are nestling martins that are too young to fly but somehow get pushed or jump out of their nest. They are referred to as Jumpers whether they jump or are pushed. The most important thing to remember is that if you do not discover why the baby was on the ground, it MAY happen again.In the above question it was a case of being pushed out, so the solution was simple. If they are pushed out by either another martins, then your chances of a repeat are greatly diminished! Be happy! But if the baby is truly jumping then the reasons needs to be addressed immediately to prevent another leap and to prevent the nestling from certain death. Purple martins will NOT feed babies on the ground.

We will look at the true jumper and what to do in an upcoming post.

Three More Fly the Coop

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Three more nestlings became fledglings. It was the most painful thing to watch. Once again no parent in sight. I ran outside this morning and one of the larger nestlings had made it to the top of the gourd. It begged pathetically at every bird that flew by. I knew that if a Hawk, or one of the many Swallow-Tailed Kites saw him, he would be picked off. Luckily for me, I did not witness that. What I did witness was the begging that went on for about an hour. Sitting in the sun as the flock of purple martins would spook and fly up in a panic at the slightest disturbance and then settle back on the racks looking in and out of all the compartments. The showed great interest in the nestlings but no adult took pity and brought a morsel.

The Nestling that was sitting outside was visibly thinner than it should be. But the thinnest stayed in the gourd. Finally with a sudden burst the nestling took to the air and made a wide circle and easily gained altitude. It made an ungraceful landing in the Slash Pine and all the martins followed enthusiastically. Many of them also perched in the tree chirping and calling to the new fledgling. It was trying to keep a hold of the pine needles it was holding on to and at this point I went inside. I checked the nestcam and there still was the runt, chirping away.

I know that in theory that this fledgling had successfully fledged. My numbers get the benefit of another “plus” but in my heart, I don’t feel this nest will do well. Behind the eight ball there is a lot of catching up that needs to be done and I wonder if they will have the time to do it. Learning to fly is the easy part. Being in condition to fly to South America is another. I estimate that the number of visitors that I have seen will again drop withing the week. I would be surprised to see more than the occasional purple martin come by August.

I went ahead and went out with my boys and we did not return until the afternoon. Looking out I saw nothing. I looked with my binoculars, I saw nothing. I checked the nestcam and there was the runt. All alone. I still had some of the crickets and knowing how he was yesterday when I checked them I went ahead and lowered the rack. I again carefully slipped a mesh bag over the entrance so that he would not flush out. I took him out and my hopes for him fledging are nearly zero. Even skinnier than before his keel bone is protruding more than ever. I feel at this point that he is so malnourished that he wouldn’t have the muscle tone to even be able to fly. I gave him some Gatorade and am keeping him outside in a 5 gallon bucket hanging up an a peg. No snake or coon will reach him and if he wishes to fly out he can. But as I suspected, he has not attempted to do so yet. So Gatorade was given till dark and I will start again early in the AM.

My prayers are for his peace and mine.

One Missing of Last Nest of Five

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

My husband was outside hollering at me as I lowered the gourd rack. Thunder was cracking and the sky was way to volatile to be messing with the purple martins. But I had just gotten home with a few dozen crickets and the Nestcam was not very reassuring. It seemed like something was not quite right.

For those of you unaware of the current drama. The last nest of the season and the 5 nestlings within (now at 26 days old) have been suffering from diminished parental care. The ASY male curiously has been around on and off during the day but with no meal to offer the nestlings. The SY female also has been circling and feeding high above watchful but also not feeding the young. Last Saturday I took the skinniest of the lot (including a runt) to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. A few feedings and bolus of fluids given later, they were perky and I put them back in the nest. Today I could not watch anymore. So down the rack came.

I had left the rack only halfway down and placed a net bag over the opening so that no birds could fly out while I lowered. When I opened the Troyer gourd only 4 nestlings were inside. In a mad rush I fed the 2 skinniest but am unsure if the runt had caught up or if one of the older more vigorous siblings fledged at some point today.

Back to my husband hollering at me, “Do you want to get struck by lightening?” Came in between thunder  claps. My hair wet as a slow drizzle had begun to fall. In a rush I raised the rack back up and after putting everything away I pulled the sock on a string that held the nestlings within. They stayed put and mom and dad circled.

The thin keel bone of the skinniest nestling is disturbing to me and I should have kept him out and fed him over the course of the remainder of the day and tomorrow.

Snake in the Gourd!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

While we as Purple Martin Landlords can try to provide the safest possible nesting environment for our birds, NO colony is immune from tragedy. Today was a case in point.

As scheduled I performed a routine nest check. Since my children are inside my house napping. I usually break the nest check up. I do one rack then go inside and check on my kids, if all is quiet I go do the next. By around 4:30 this afternoon I was only able to do the 2 gourd racks. I could not get to the telescopic pole that has the house on it. Later, when my husband arrived, after dinner, I finally decided to go ahead and complete the nest check. I thought it would just be better to keep all 3 housing units on the same schedule. Well, thank God for that. Tragedy had struck!

No other animal is more associated with the devil than snakes. Having been a snake owner at one time in my life, I can understand the fascination with them. They are eating machines. What other animal is so adept at finding, killing and consuming its prey, that it could fore go hands and feet? So at about 7:30PM, I was free to do the nest check. Usually I would never do a check so late in the evening. As a matter of fact, I always tell people that it is best to do the check when the least amount of birds are around. But today was different, I wanted to check on them and though light was fading fast, the light was good and the summer sun had another half hour yet to shine. I lowered the rack unaware of the horror that was about to greet me.

As I lowered the quad-tel pole down, I could hear the hungry chirps of the babies in the Excluder gourd. The Excluder gourd and the natural gourd both hang under my aluminum purple martin house which is protected by a S&K plastic predator guard. A S&K platform feeder rests above the guard. Both nests are about the same age…about 6 days old. 5 babies in both nests. I was excited to see them, as I am with all my birds. I first checked on my “tame” purple Martin female in compartment “A” of the house. She sat against the wall and allowed me to take a picture of her with no fuss. A blessing to see her so quiet with her nestlings huddled under her. I spoke gentle and soft to let her know all was OK. Closing the compartment I checked the others on the house, saving the gourds for last. I opened the natural gourd access cap and lo and behold, the devil sat staring at me. About 3 feet of red corn snake. One dead nestling underneath it and a few wing feathers from the mother martin were all that were left. I jumped back and cursed and so did the snake. Awakened from its comfortable spot of warmth with a full belly, it coiled back in the gourd. Thank goodness I keep my cell phone on me. My husband was out in a moment with my gardening gloves and I am not ashamed, I put the snake out of my misery. The poor dead nestling now alone in its nest.

My son and I buried the nestling in the back corner of the yard.  We said a prayer for it to find its way back to its mother and siblings, in Purple Martin heaven. The snake we left in the garbage can, for it to find its head.

The take home #1. Use traditional stovepipe type aluminum pole guards with your round and square poles. In my opinion, the S&K pole guard is flawed when dealing with smaller snakes. Unfortunately the pole being triangular limits you on the type of pole guard you can use. But Small snakes can be just as damaging as a larger snake. The plastic triangular hub that the guard attaches to, has small openings that this small snake with a 1/2 inch head was able to easily pass through. A traditional guard-installed properly, has no such gaps and would have protected from this little snake. 

Take home #2. Don’t let complacency keep you from installing snake netting. Though I have it handy and used it last year, I had not “gotten around to it” yet this year. Snake netting will be added tomorrow.

Nest check for April 27, 2009

Total eggs:  58        Total Young:   57        Total nests:  26

Next nest check Thursday April 30

June 10, 2008

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Thursday is supposed to be fledge day for Natural gourd #8. The 3 babies in there are always looking out at me when I go outside. I sometimes wonder if the martins that have a view of “me” end up feeling more comfortable with humans. I would imagine so. They see me everyday. I whistle to them. They see me come and go and cause no harm. The birds that face the other-way have no idea what flat faced horrors are out there. They must be like little beings faced with alien life for the first time….AAARRGGHHH! I can’t imagine what they must think of us.

The 2 remaining nests seem to be doing well and we have been getting some overcast skies and light rain to cool off the housing. I know that many Martin Landlords in the North East are having terrible drought conditions and Martins are being lost in large numbers. Very sad. Here all I can do is continue to contribute my housing so that the martins can produce offspring in the most competition free and predator free zone possible.

The swallow-tailed kite was at it again. To the same tall pine to flush out the dove. I did not see it with a nestling this time but I did see the dove fly off. She might as well call that pine quits. I stood guard over the martins until the kite flew off. The babies in the natural gourd would be easy pickings for any predator. Its a round hole with no tunnel. I put it up mostly as SY male housing. That is, a compartment put up late in the season so that new arriving SY males would have a cavity to claim instead of causing trouble in a cavity already occupied by a pair and its young.

Only 1 gourd and 1 6×6 compartment went unused this season.

May 31, 2008

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Peek-a-booNew pics and new cartoons uploaded to

I was out back for several hours and got some good pictures.

I also mowed the grass and the martins were all freaked out at first. Within minutes they settled in to their routine. I mowed carefully under the housing, watching out for any youngsters in the grass. There was an interesting development with a Swallow-tailed Kite that was circling overhead. The Martins were in a panic and sounding the high alert. I stopped the mower and was ready with my flip flop in hand ready to send the kite flying…no pun intended (Just kidding Fish and Wildlife Dept) It weaved between several tall pines in the next yard. Something was doomed. Within seconds it darted to a fork in the branches. A dove was flushed out and crashed squarely into a fence before flapping onto the ground. The swallow-tailed kite was not interested in the Dove. It was it’s nestling that became fodder for the kite. The Kite flew up in lazy circles while it pulled off pieces of flesh to eat. It flew off content with its tiny meal and the martins soon returned to normal. I never had seen a Kite feed on a bird, nor had I ever seen a dove nest so high..oh well. As long as it wasn’t one of my Martins. Poor Dove…

May 30, 2008

Friday, May 30th, 2008


It’s crazy! I look up and one after another baby is on the porch and giving flying a go. Its absolutely great. The 6×6 compartment in the plastic barn is venturing out. They are at 30 days old and plenty ready. I think it’s great that they made it so long. 5 big fat babies in a tiny 6×6 compartment. The mom is looking ratty and is missing a large patch of feathers on the back of her neck. The compartment has a crescent opening so it may be from her habit of sitting in the door way; head out.

Then as I was standing below the housing taking pictures I look down and there was a tiny Mockingbird nestling, begging for food. Its big pink mouth opening and waiting. I picked it up and put it back in its nest. Mom and her(?) 3 other nest mates, didn’t seem to miss her too much. I’ll have to keep my eye open on that one. That baby mockingbird would have been snake food for sure. Between the snakes, crows, hawks and the cats, it would not have made it through till tomorrow. Ugly little thing…but soooo cute.

May 21, 2008

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

What a crazy day!!! I DID get a nest check done though, 18 more fledged for a total to date of 34 Purple Martins added to the world! Very exciting. I had to remove one of the fledglings that had already fledged to its own nest as they keep invading a nest of younger birds to eat the food there mother brings for them. The little guy(gal?) promptly flew off. The drought is terrible though and I suspect that may have something to due with the youngsters parasitizing food from other nestlings. Very windy, smokey and the drought make for some very slim pickings. I placed more crushed egg shells and dried crickets in the platform feeder for the Martins. I have never seen them eat the dried crickets but they are fond of the egg shells. The recently fledged like to visit the feeder so they may actually eat some.

Pray for rain.

Hatch Day April 7,2008

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Within the next few days the first lot of 20 eggs is due to hatch. This morning when I looked at the nest that I have on camera, the precious treasure lay hidden under an obviously doting mother. She no longer sat patiently on her eggs, seemingly asleep. she fussed and turned and fiddled and then ate some thing… A piece of egg shell. Finally she moved aside and I could see. The tiny, almost transparent form of a newly hatched Purple Martin. Wiggling next to 4 other eggs, the tiny life squirmed and moved about. Now the fun begins.

Another nest is 1 day ahead of this nest so I can assume that there are other babies. I looked out at the housing and there is a difference. No longer quiet the gourd rack seems to be a buzz. Several other birds are coming to the gourds to peer inside as if they are giving congratulations. The ASY males are sitting above their respective gourds, acting quite protective. Several of the females that have been incubating are sitting with heads peeking out or flying in and out finally free of their self imposed  isolation called incubation. The female on camera is also out and about and I can finally see the baby bird only 4 or so months away from a transoceanic flight.

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