Does the runt really have a chance?

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RC Moser
Posts: 1537
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2003 3:25 am

I have noticed at my colony that runt survival rates are next to nothing. It seems a large clutch the last baby born seems to never catch up or get left out of feeding alot, or gets bullied out. IMO most just get weaker and smaller and the rest seem to get twice as big in some cases. Some times their are two in this delima out of a clutch of 6 when I do nest checks.


Have you considered fostering them into other nests? This year, we had a nest of 5 (SY dad and ASY mom) and one of them was obviously not going to make it- it was a lot smaller than it's thriving siblings. I placed it into a nest of similar age- it was a nest of an ASY pair that only one egg had hatched so the nestling had been an "only child." It all worked out great- the "only child" had a sibling and the parents had plenty of energy to tend to their foster nestling. They have both fledged and the family is still coming in to roost at night.

I have let nature take it's course before, and you're right, the runt almost always dies. Maybe you have the opportunity to foster? I hope so! :grin:

Good luck!
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

RC, I have noticed also that the runt has a tough time surviving. On some occasions, its OK to move them, but great care must be exercised when doing this, as he may take over the new nest, and cause the other babies to be runts. In some cases, more harm than good is created by you trying to help them out.

It is difficult not to try to help them, so I always have mixed feelings about such things.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
Posts: 407
Joined: Thu May 20, 2004 6:38 pm
Location: Kentucky/Murray

RC, I had a runt in a batch of 6. I found it yesterday on the ground dead. I didn't discover the runt until Tuesday. I even started flinging a few crickets to the PM's to make sure they were getting enough food to feed the nestling's. I was hoping they would feed the runt, but apparently they didn't... :-( ...There may have been something else wrong with it, I just don't know. It's sad when you lose a little one like that, but I guess they know better than us if something is wrong... :-( ...Pat
Posts: 1480
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 12:30 pm
Location: Missouri/Lone Jack
Martin Colony History: Active since 2003

I have a runt with 4 siblings, and I am gonna try to move it to a nest with 1 baby that was born the same day. I hope I don't mess up the single babies life though. Both the parents of the healthy baby are asy's. I will do this tomorrow so I can make sure no new post tonight will encourage me not to do this. It sounds like most people do this with success
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
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.

So, Craig, did ya' do it?

It's not a bad concept. Fostering PM young from a nest where they are certainly doomed to a nest where they have a fighting chance. You said,
"It sounds like most people do this with success."
I just wanted to let you know a little secret.

You will hear most of the good stories, the success stories. You won't hear most of the sad, unsuccessful stories. People don't want to tell you that their idea didn't work...that the baby PM died anyway... or that moving him to the other nest caused the death of all the other nestlings and only he is left. That's what happened to me.

I had a nest of 6 hatchlings. One was "the runt". Right next to it was a nest that now contained 11 eggs - none of which had hatched. So, I took the runt and plopped him down in the middle of all those eggs. Low and behold, the adults birds started feeding him and he grew. He'd been in there maybe four days when my nest check revealed 4 eggs had hatched. Well, stupid me, I left him in there. My next nest check revealed one big nestling and no sign - gone without a trace - of the other four hatchlings who belonged in this nest. Now, I had caused the death of these PMs natural young and they would now raise a foster child from next door.

That's why I'm careful about messing around in Purple Martin Business.
RC Moser
Posts: 1537
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2003 3:25 am

I have found that this year in my area has produced a larger amount of runts. Must of been the cool weather while egg laying/incubation was going on is the only explanation I can think of. Some was born at least 3 to 5 days after the first hatching I suspect. So, they were behind from the get go in my opinion. When I find them up side down in the nest cavity I know it not too long before they are gone.

Seems like this season is all screwed up. First set of fledgling gone and new borns just the other day. I am afraid some will get left behind this year. The martins in my area seem to be gone by the second week of July.
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