My Martins just vanished!!!

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Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Radford, VA
Martin Colony History: Lucky to have inherited an established colony in a lakefront Heath house, 18 units. 2020 was my first full season, mostly observing. Still learning how to be a responsible landlord.

New landlord here — moved to a retirement home last spring that had a rundown Heath on the property. Some acquaintances helped me get it down and cleaned. We put it back up, knowing nothing about martins. Martins came around the second week of April, but it was a bad year for me, settling into a new home and new place. I didn’t watch them closely.

After finding this forum, I knew I had to do better. With help, got the house down, replaced all missing parts, repainted it, & pre-nested pine needles The martins returned, but very late — about May 8th IIRC. I had been playing the dawn song for weeks. Eventually I counted at least 14 birds. I have very poor eyesight but I have been watching often through a scope. They seem to have been building nests, very cheerful. I have seen nothing like babies fledging. Nor have I seen starlings or owls. I did install a snake barrier after seeing a black snake by the garage, a long distance from the nest.

I last saw the martins on Wednesday evening when they were behaving normally. I was out of town Thursday and much of yesterday. Last night, we had no martins. This morning, still none. I can see martins swirling in the trees next door, where they have three decrepit houses. This has been our hottest week, but nothing above 93°.

So, is it possible the babies fledged and everyone left that quickly? In just 60+ days? I have gone down to the pole and I see no signs of disturbance. No feathers, no dead birds. I will definitely be replacing the house with a winch system and probably a Trio when they come back in stock this winter. But for now, I am heartsick. I am afraid to take the house down and look inside. I will have to call someone to help me do that. Any chance I will disturb a nest? Pole is rusted and won’t telescope, so taking it down is final. Should I do it?

Many thanks.
Posts: 45
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:58 pm
Location: Moneta, Virginia

I see you’re in Radford, Va. a short hop from my home on SML in Moneta!

I’ve been trying for years and finally have a breeding pair. They showed up in June, laid five eggs, four hatched.

A hawk reached in and snagged two of the babies before I could run it off.
My two remaining babies are poking their heads and sometimes most of their body out of the door as the parents feed them. I’m expecting them to fledge in the next day or three.

(From this sites info) Their eggs hatch in 15-16 days and fledge in 26 to 32 days.

I also understand that they don’t hang around after fledging, they move to the trees.
So, I’d say 60 days is ample time for them to complete their time in your house.

Good job!
Posts: 259
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:13 am
Location: Kentucky/Morehead

Instead of taking the house down now to check it, you might ask someone with a 12-foot ladder to check the house in its upright position. I have experienced the same thing some years. When the birds fledged, the entire colony moved off to a new location and my yard became very quiet.
Posts: 2126
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
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.

I posted a long reply, but for some reason it vanished. No idea why some of my posts vanish like that.

I'd let your house up until late September early October. This gives the parents time to bring chicks back to the house, migrating martins to stop over & SY's looking for housing for next year to find it.

Best wishes,
Toy in PA
PMCA Member
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:05 pm
Location: Covngton, La

My experience every year is the birds come and have their honeymoon, then get down to building nest. They have their young feed and raise them and as the little ones start to fly it's seems to be party time for all.
Then they stop using the house but for the next several weeks do come by for a visit every day which I much appreciate. I can see them in the area, still in groups, flying around doing whatever they do. They then stop coming and join other birds in a roost under the Pontchartrain Causeway, each end and underneath they stay until ready to head South. Is quite a site late in the afternoon at roost time.
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