Posts Tagged ‘SY’

SubAdults Arrive and Fighting Begins!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Nothing more frustrating as a purple martin landlord than seeing your beloved birds breaking out in heated battle. I am sure (from past experiences) that it will get worse, but nevertheless, watching your kids beating each others heads in is hard to watch. I have long since given up caring what the neighbors think, but 5 minutes into yelling up at the MPP pole for the martins to, “QUIT IT!!!”, I did notice the ridiculousness of it all. The martins ignored me and untill I lowered the pole, the SY male wouldn’t stop trying to enter the Sunset Inn house. Once lowered, the ASY male and female sat in the compartment quietly. I opened the room and reached in to remove the ASY male (to check for any lasting injury. The female just sat and didn’t move a feather. She stayed the whole time. I released the male, raised the housing and all was well…for a few minutes anyway.

On another note, we have gotten a few new items at our store, These cool Purple Martin metal Silhouettes are both functional and decorative. I can’t decide if I want to attach some to the top of my Aluminum house or up on top of my kitchen cabinets.


(C) 2013 PurpleMartinArt

Still No Vacancies

Monday, May 10th, 2010

SY birds are still looking for homes as I have noticed several birds tonight trying, in vane to be let into a gourd. One continues to sleep on the porch of the Sunset Inn martin house and a couple flew off into the dark. A SY female tried in vane to get into about 5 gourds which was not received well. Fighting and pecking and bickering ensued. The poor girl was determined and I am not sure where she ended up.

Though some SY males have succeeded in winning over a handful of gourds, all but 2 of my 31 gourds have eggs or babies.

I drive by several know locations of vacant purple martin housing and see no evidence of martins and know that just some minor tweaking of the location of the house is all that stands in the way of quite a few folks getting martins. After 2 seasons now of mailing fliers to neighborhood wannabe landlords, I have only heard back from a handful.

In the meantime, I continue to turn away purple martins into the night. I could put up another rack next year but I would much rather show a few how to turn their empty martin houses into active colonies.

Other bird news brings 2 fledgling Mockingbirds fluttering about the yard, a family of Common Grackles that I am not sure where they are nesting and a recently fledged Red Tailed hawk being shown the gourd racks this morning by its mother. Sadly a pair of Greater Crested Flycatchers is nowhere to be seen after they started nesting in the recently vacated Screech Owl box. I believe a Horned Owl returned to the box as I found a large Owl feather clinging to the front of the nest box the same day the Flycatchers disappeared. Now to fashion Owl guards for that nest box.

SY Males-The Enemy Within

Monday, July 6th, 2009
copyright 2009
copyright 2009

When we talk about the dangers and hardships that purple martins face, we usually talk about about the usual suspects. Hawks, Owls, Starlings and Sparrows usually top the list with raccoons and snakes thrown in for good measure. But we often forget to mention the ugly truth about SubAdult (SY) purple martin males. Having survived their first round trip migration, the SY males are full of hormones and bravado and can sometimes make themselves the most unwelcome of guests.

I recently mentioned about the attack I witnessed in Gourd “C” on the Nestcam.  About a week and a half ago I was witness to a  SY male viciously beating on the 5 nestlings in that gourd. The SY was set on making trouble. Several times the SY female “mother” caught the trouble making SY male outside and gave him a good lashing. While she was gone, however, he would return and seemed intent on plucking the poor babies in the nest. Thank goodness for them they were about 23 days old and well feathered and substantial enough to take what he was doling out, but still it made me wince and I thought of the carnage that could have resulted if these babies were younger. This scene is not often witnessed but is actually quite common.

Often times when the younger SY males arrive they find either all the nest sites taken or all the females taken. Some of these trouble making bullies are simply out to break up a happy family with the hopes of convincing the female to re-nest and try again. If there are eggs in the nest they have been known to damage the eggs and experienced it myself this year in a previous blog entry, read about that attack HERE. That attack resulted in no damaged eggs but the male did become entrapped with the resident male inside which could have resulted in both of their deaths as well as the eggs. If there are hatchlings the SY males have been known to kill them.

What is the purpose of all this violence? Well, according to a fellow PMCA forumite and a well known and active martin landlord, Steve Kroenke, there are several reasons why. Read the article HERE. Can anything be done to stop this behavior? The only suggestion that I have heard that is feasible is to keep some housing closed, perhaps another house or gourd rack that is kept closed until the influx of SY’s take place. Even though this technique means that you will be hanging up a “No Vacancy” sign to many ASY purple martins, it can assure that the later arriving SY’s have a place to stake a claim to and thus defuse some of the aggressive behavior. Will this eliminate the problem? From reports it does have a noticeable result. Also important to note as this will not be a suitable technique for colonies that are not full. If there is available housing and you are noticing this aggression then just about all you can do is pray.

©2009 S.Halpin /

Such an Exciting Day!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

My husband came home to an earful of stories. Beyond the good news of the nest check there were several interesting observations at our colony here at PurpleMartins-R-Us HQ.

Let me get the good news of the nest check out first.

Nest check for April 25, 2009

Total eggs:   66              Total young:   54               Total nests:    27

I am not sure if I will break the magical 100 mark but my birds are trying to comply with my wishes. What is the magical 100? Well, I don’t know if this applies to everyone. It may just be a perception in my mind of the number of fledged young that I am aiming to reach. It seems to me that 100 fledged young is the number that takes a small martin colony and turns it into something special. Super colony status? Probably not, but still…over 100 purple martin fledglings-to me- is a badge of honor. I look up to those landlords. Maybe because once you have reached that number your colony is faced with other problems that a smaller colony just does not have to deal with. The amount of time that a nest check takes, in itself is no small feat. Nevertheless, I am not sure that with the natural percentage of eggs to fledge I will make it.

On average about 75% of purple martin eggs that are laid will hatch and survive till fledging age. So statistically, my chances are slim. On a hopeful note, I did have an above average success rate last year of about 88%.

So on my way out to do the nest check, I see a Purple Martin flapping furiously at the entrance of  “K” Gourd. ( I have 2 Economy 12 Gourd racks so to distinguish the gourds and decrease my own confusion-the gourds on one rack are numbered the others are lettered) I take a pic and go out to the rack. At each step I am thinking she will see how close I am approaching and like all the other martins, will fly up sounding her displeasure. She does not. Not only does she not fly off, she looks down at me and then sticks her head back in the gourd to continue biting whom ever. OK, so now I know there is a real fight going on. I know she is not entrapped in the SREH entrance. So what is up? I start talking to her. “OK now, cut that out!” Eventually as I begin to remove the predator pole guard, she releases her hold and flies off. Once I start lowing the house, even with me talking quite loudly, several other birds fly out from this gourd and that and I quickly forget about the tussle and focus on the check. After all, I am curious as to how the rack is doing as egg laying had seemed to stall before the few days of heavy rain we had late last week.

I begin opening gourds and counting eggs and I hear a scratching noise. Uh oh, now what. I go over to gourd “K” and there is a beautiful SY male looking at me. Head out, body in..stuck. I open the access port to the Troyer gourd and reach in with one hand and gently push his head to try and determine how he is stuck. For such small birds it is really amazing how taut there little bodies are. One bigPurple Martin fight flying muscular machine. As light weight as they are, purple martin are compact, lean and strong. But wait…if I am feeling his wings then how can his head be out of the gourd? He would have to have a 4 inch neck? Slowly it dawns on me. He is not alone. Apparently another SY male is trying to force himself out at the same time and has the one martin pushed up and unable to get out. Apparently the female was trying to get this fellow out while the females mate was punishing him from the rear. A small amount of smeared blood on the inside portion of the gourd but all eyes are intact and no obvious injuries. Just his own wounded pride. I work them free and look them over. Overjoyed that I can hold these magnificent birds in my hands and grateful that I was there to break up the fight before any real damage occurred. I open one hand…then the next and they rise up to greet the sky. Crazy kids!

In an upcoming blog entry I will talk about issues one can have with SY males and the problems they can create.

And I didn’t even mention the hawk we saw! I will save that for tomorrow!

Nest check schedule: Mon 4/27 and Thurs. 4/30

Happy Easter 2008

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Happy Easter!

Today brought torrential rain interspersed with new nest building in Gourd #5 and the arrival of sub-adult purple martins. A SY male had high interest in gourd#10. Which is where my original ASY pair has 4 eggs on nest cam. They both guarded their eggs from within their Troyer horizontal gourd. I am not sure what had the SY male so intrigued with this particular gourd. Again and again he attempted to breach security.  Without success. A few SY females made an appearance and seemed rather impressed with the many ASY bachelors who attempted to woo them. It’s too early to tell if anyone succeeded in obtaining one of the prized girls. It seems as though males outnumber the females at least 3:1…which is a slight improvement. My success so far has me wondering who’s housing has gone down that so many ASY pairs have located to my site so willingly and quickly. Don’t get me wrong, my location and site are ideal. But usually the ASY return to prior nesting sites. Whatever the reason, I am thrilled and up to the challenge.

Nest check tomorrow, I’m estimating at least 11 eggs…maybe more!!!

Blog Contents Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin /