Catastrophic Nest Check

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Catastrophic Nest Check

Postby Guest » Thu May 05, 2011 3:28 pm

Colony has 36 cavities,the last nest check had 60 babies and 132 eggs.

Found dead in cavity,,,,,,,,12

Missing babies,,,,,,,,26

Missing eggs,,,,,,,,40

That leaves 114 babies left in cavities and approximately 30% of those didn't look like they would make the rest of the day,

I blame it on a combination of starvation,the winds have been high,no rain,cold nights and male subbies,I have 7 male SY's as of today and never witnessed any infanticide but I guess there has been a lot of it.


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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

Postby flyin-lowe » Thu May 05, 2011 4:01 pm

Sorry to hear about that Dick.
2019- Currently 31 complete nests (27 with eggs or babies) 94 babies hatched and 19 eggs still to hatch) 6-22-19
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.

John Miller
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Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby John Miller » Thu May 05, 2011 4:33 pm


I too am sorry you are having poor nesting. While I don't know the usual time for nesting in Texas, I observe in Missouri that sometimes pairs sort of nest "too early." They get started during a period of several weeks of warmth, then suffer during a subsequent period of cool. I saw it last year in St. Louis at one house that got all the earliest arrivals, and then other pairs that settled in several weeks afterward seem to have better nesting success. Hopefully some of yours with nest failures will re-nest, and sub adults pairs also take up some of the slack.

Hang in there,
John M

Louise Chambers
Site Admin
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Postby Louise Chambers » Thu May 05, 2011 4:33 pm

I'm very sorry to hear things went that bad, so quickly. Missing eggs have to be the work of subbies, mostly, though parents might remove bad eggs. Just as often, they leave them in the nest and replace them. I hope your birds will renest.

Martin man RI
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Postby Martin man RI » Thu May 05, 2011 5:17 pm

I have seen a female martin fly off and drop a dead chick into a lake
nothing shocks me anymore. And a pair remove all five eggs. While i was wondering who did it? The same pair.... the eggs were no good and they nested. Smart little birds they do just fine all on there own sometimes.

Tim Mangan-Kansas
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Location: Kansas, Pittsburg
Martin Colony History: 2016 - 22 Pair

Postby Tim Mangan-Kansas » Thu May 05, 2011 5:33 pm


Really sorry to hear this about your colony. I hope it is not a sign of other posts to be made stating the same outcome.

Licensed Bander
2015 - 14 Pair - fledged 68
2014 - Moved to Kansas - 7 Pair, 35 eggs, 28 fledged in first year
2010 Thru 2013 - Moved-Tried to start new colony
2009 - 46 pair, 217 eggs, 178 fledged

Linda Reynolds
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Postby Linda Reynolds » Thu May 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Dick, I, too, am also sorry to read your report. I am also sorry to read the reports from others experiencing *weather related* issues.

Paul and I have had a full occupancy colony since 2005. We offer 46 gourds and most are always used by ASY birds. Some are even used by subbies AFTER the ASYs fledge their gourd. However, when the subbies arrive, all havoc breaks loose.

About 3-4 years ago each morning we were finding many dead or injured nestlings on the lawn, and were positive it was because of subbie attacks. A great landlord and good friend of ours suggested putting up a temporary rack during times like this. We did, and drilled three complete holes into a 4" x 4", inserted rebar, and put the whole shebang into the ground. That *temporary* pole held 6 gourds. I could only do nest inspections by using a ladder, but it did not matter........I wanted the killing of nestlings to STOP.

It did.............

The subbies claimed those gourds and their energies were re-directed. Four of the gourds were used and fledged young by SYs. We have not had to use the *temporary rack* for a few years, but if we ever again see the death of nestlings on the ground, we will again install the temporary rack.
It worked like magic at our place, and the killing of nestlings stopped.

Paul and I do not wish to expand our site. 46 gourds is about all we want to host and handle, however the *temporary rack* worked for us. You might want to give it a try especially if you are at full occupancy.

The Olsons
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Postby The Olsons » Thu May 05, 2011 7:41 pm


I am so sorry for your sad nest check. I think Texas overall is in bad shape this year for hosting martins. Many people have laughed about me trying to feed my martins as often and as much as I can since our temps were high. But like at your place the winds have been so very high, and the drought is not helping. I was told that many Texas landlords are loosing their martins and their babies due to these conditions. It is such an awful thing to experience and I am certainly not looking forward to my next nest check.

I hope for you that the winds will die down and we all will get some rain....I know you are doing the very best you can. Hugs to you *heart*
Love it or leave it~~~Astrid :-)

Patrick W. Dusek
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Location: Sugar Land, Texas

Postby Patrick W. Dusek » Thu May 05, 2011 11:35 pm

I'm going thru the same stuff here in Sugar Land. Many missing eggs and dead young! Weather is not helping us out this year. Very said :cry: Patrick
Spring time yet???

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Postby Winger » Fri May 06, 2011 12:20 am

Hello Dick,

So sad...and I am so sorry for your loss! Our next nest check is scheduled for tomorrow. With so many losses coming out of TX I am fearful as to what we are going to find!

Our first eggs (2 nest/5 eggs each) are scheduled to hatch tomorrow. With the cooler temps I'm hoping they are delayed.

Because of our proximity to you, I read all of your post. We are still new & learning & I thank you for the information you provide!

Wishing you nothing but the best! Sincere regards, Tammy
Chet & Tammy Winger
PMCA Members


Postby Guest » Fri May 06, 2011 7:44 am

Thanks all for the concerns,,,,,,,I guess it is all part if the big picture.

This does follow Buskas description of the larger birds being the first to be affected as thats was what I found in the 12 dead.They were nice soze and nearly feathered out.


Peggy Riley
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Postby Peggy Riley » Fri May 06, 2011 8:43 am

Dick, I'm sorry to hear this. It does look like we are in for some rough times here in Texas this season. Weather predicts the winds to start up again this weekend. I've lost a few nestlings too. I lost a fully feathered brood of BB's. It has to be drought and the high winds. Hang in there.


Louise Chambers
Site Admin
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Postby Louise Chambers » Fri May 06, 2011 8:54 am

It's a bad combo all right - high winds and drought, plus that cold last week.

The drought monitor map shows TX, OK, LA all dry and it's spreading.


Postby Guest » Sat May 07, 2011 8:37 am

Bad year here in Fulshear as well. New gourd set this yr with the Starling resistant entrances. The martins are fly-by but no takers. This is disappointing since we've had them for the last several years. I just evicted 3 starling nests this am. Apparently they didn't read the "Starling Resistant" label.


Postby Guest » Sat May 07, 2011 5:27 pm

Same bad news down here in Victoria.I picked up 10 off the ground today that were just beginning to feather out. The older ones in the nests are looking good far. They are probably about two to three weeks from flying. Hope they make it.

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Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

Postby ToyinPA » Sat May 07, 2011 6:49 pm

Sorry you're all having such terrible losses.

You could pack them all up & send them north ;). Unlike TX the north has had way too much rain. Temps are finally starting to warm up here.

Toy in PA

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Postby Sparky » Sun May 08, 2011 2:03 pm

Dick, sorry to hear on the losses. I too am experiencing the same. I watch the parents on the food they are bringing in. Very small insects and they are working very hard because of multiple trips as compared to the norm. I wonder about the missing eggs. The adults may also figure this season is not turning out to be a good one and they are eliminating eggs and young in order to keep the clutch sizes low. Of course, I've being seeing the Subbies up to their normal tricks. I had one gourd with 6 eggs one week and the next all gone. Not a trace anywhere of egg shells.
I think the severe drought is talking it's toll. We're almost at 4 months with out a drop of rain, not to mention the dry fall months from last year. We need rain soon, but the forcasters are not seeing any.
We may all have to regroup for next season and hope it's a better one.
I'm a "nestcamaholic" Is 18 hours a day a bad thing? (I have 2 this year, luckily I have 2 eyes!)

The Olsons
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Postby The Olsons » Sun May 08, 2011 2:39 pm

I now have 2 weeks old babies starting to come to the entrances of the gourds....that has me really worried. Like for you and many other Texas landlords there is no rain in sight and the few bugs that are being brought in are very small. I have been feeding every day cricks and meal worms....the martins eat the crickets and then garble up as many meal worms as they can to bring to the babies. They make many trips to the feeder to use the worms, but I do not think that this is nutritionally sufficient for the babies. I am holding my breath and hope that Mother Nature will have some mercy sooner than later. It is a very sad season for many landlords and their martins!!!
Love it or leave it~~~Astrid :-)

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Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

Postby Laverne » Sun May 08, 2011 4:43 pm

Catastrophic is what I found!! I have been beside myself. I have never seen anything like this before. We usually have too much water around here and the mud causes more trouble than the dust does. Well, not this year! We've got the same kinda thing Dick reported.

I was watching out the window. The Purple Martins were sparse - you know, there weren't very many sitting around on the racks. It's like every bird was in the air, trying to catch something, trying to find something to catch, trying to keep their babies fed, trying to keep their babies alive. Apparently, they are failing... As I watched, I noticed that none of the nestlings in Gourd 17 were sticking their heads out of the entrance. So, I finally decide to go out and check. When I lowered the rack, I found two of the four were dead. The two that were still alive had that really sharp breastbone and my spirits sank. That was Friday, today, I feel better... those two are still hanging in there - and their parents are still trying really hard to get enough food to get them all the way to fledging.

I can't believe the difference a day can make - the Hawk doesn't even matter any more. We're dealing with an opponent who is as deadly to the Hawk as he is to the Purple Martin. We are dealing with starvation due to drought! I've never seen it this dry before. The grass is literally dormant - just sitting there - it's not dying, but it's not living either. There is absolutely no growth. There are still "some" insects - but, they are becoming few and far between. There is still water in Mustang Bayou and that water source must be fueling some insect life. But, the babies are dying! The ones that have gotten big enough to be demanding large quantities of "big" bugs are losing the battle. I have been struggling with what to do next.

Do we take extreme measures to keep these birds alive? I have finally decided that this is another one of those Purple Martin matters - and I have no control over it - and I have no business sticking my nose in it. Every egg that is laid will not result in a fledgling.

I believe if my colony should become so devastated that I would be risking abandonment - well, then maybe I would go get some crickets and try to keep a few alive. But, where do you stop? Where do you draw the line? I've been thinking about this alot lately, and I have decided that I will do what I can to assist. I am keeping the dead removed from the nest cavities. I think this helps the parents (I know it would help me). I believe that once the huge numbers are reduced to a manageable number that the colony will level out again and maybe - just maybe - with a little luck these birds will all manage to successfully fledge at least a couple of young per pair.

I've been very sad - and depressed - and I've given all of this a lot of thought.

I'd like to thank Linda Reynolds for her post about erecting the "temporary gourd rack". This is another serious point of consideration. I have lost many eggs and hatchlings this season while my Purple Martins have been fighting and fighting and fighting over cavities. To relieve the stress by supplying some additional cavities is a brilliant idea! Thanks again, Linda.

I hope this post helps some of you to understand what may be happening in your own colonies. It took a while for me to figure it out. I don't like it when our mud hole goes dry. I'd rather have too much rain than not enough. I'm sure we will all make it through this disaster. Y'all keep your chins up and keep smiling when you see the survivors.

Remember to enjoy...


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