Why use pine straw in your gourds?

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robinlarry
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:39 pm
Location: Yellow Springs, Ohio

Could someone tell me why we use pine needles in the gourds in the spring? I ask because, having just finished cleaning 120 gourds, not one had any of the pine needles left. The nests consisted primarily of dried leaves, straw, and thin twigs. Should we be using straw instead? Thoughts?

Larry Weinstein
Yellow Springs, OH
flyin-lowe
Posts: 3178
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I've had some martins leave them in and like you have see a lot where they are removed. I don't pre-nest all of my cavities because I see some martins every year that choose empty cavities over cavities that have been pre nested. Where I live it is not uncommon to have temps close to freezing after the first martins begin to arrive. Even if they are going to drag the pre nesting material out later in the spring I assume they utilize it early on for warmth.
2021 Currently 62 nest 138 babies plus 110 eggs (6-317-21) HOSP count-9
2020 42 nest, Fledged 164 HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional lone SY's
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 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair 14 fledged.
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1325
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- Visitors.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
2021- 28 pair. 118 fledged
2022-?
Home colony: mix natural, super and excluder gourds, enlarged compartment house. All SREH.
Satellite colony: Oso Bay Preserve: 12 PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mini castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
2021: 10 pair, 30 fledged
2022: ?
PMCA member

Good question, I too have had martins replace everything I put in the cavity. But all of them? Thats alot!!
I do pre nest with pine needles, ill put a few oak leaves in each cavity.. I second the fact that its cold when they arrive and I'll add that I don't want martins on the ground looking for nesting material. Id rather them focus on eating, nesting and laying eggs.
Last ill say I used straw as a base one year, it turned to mush and had mildew develop. Depending on the orientation, some water is bound to get in.
Pine needles are tough to find in South texas, there's a park near here with 3 pine trees...I go during lunch and collect hand fulls...guess I'm that crazy guy.
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
brent
Posts: 515
Joined: Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:43 pm
Location: Raceland, Louisiana

Hi everyone,
My 1st year I used straw. We get lots of rain here in SE Louisiana. The straw became wet and I even had some chicks get tangled in it. Since then I only use pine needles. They stay dry and they are firm enough to prevent wrapping around little chick's legs. This year we had a horrible freeze that lasted days and I know the pine needles helped keep the martins dry and warm. Also this year I had close to 100% of the pairs keeping some or all of the pine needles. All they did was add whatever else they wanted. We just had a major hurricane hit us, Ida. Many pine trees down so I went around and stocked up on pine needles. Lucky me, lucky martins. 🙂 Brent
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1325
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- Visitors.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
2021- 28 pair. 118 fledged
2022-?
Home colony: mix natural, super and excluder gourds, enlarged compartment house. All SREH.
Satellite colony: Oso Bay Preserve: 12 PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mini castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
2021: 10 pair, 30 fledged
2022: ?
PMCA member

Brent, saw some pictures of the devastation-lots of leafless trees...those that were still standing anyway. Good thinking on getting what you could, should serve you many seasons.
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Martintown33
Posts: 177
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:21 pm
Location: Laplace,La
Martin Colony History: 21 year colony. 2 s&k modified houses and gourd rack

I’ve always used pine needles. 100% of my martins use the pine needles as the base for their nest, as they gather more needles, twigs, leaves, and sometimes, mud to complete the nest.
Rob
Dave Reynolds
Posts: 1963
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:35 pm
Location: Little Hocking, Oh.
Martin Colony History: 2017 Visitors
Satellite Site “Oxbow Golf Course”.
2018 - 15 Pair, 58 Eggs, 36 Fledged
2019 - 26 Pair, 128 Eggs, 97 Fledged
2020 - 30 Pair, 156 Eggs, 137 Fledged
2021 - 30 Pair, 162 Eggs, 144 Fledged

Home Site "Little Hocking, Ohio".
2019 - 1 Pair, 5 Eggs, 5 Fledged
2020 - 1 Pair, 4 Eggs, 4 Fledged
2021 - 8 Pair, 39 Eggs, 36 Fledged

.... Larry ... This was my fourth year hosting Martins .. I have four Trio houses that were 95% used.. I add pine straw into all the rooms in early Spring. My thought process was I didn't want the early Martins standing around on a cold metal floor, when the temp get cold at night.,. Lot of my Martins cover up the pine straw with other material when building their nests.. Most of my Martin hang around the houses for a few weeks before they start building.. So I'm hoping the pine straw keeps them warm and dry.. Oh by the way.. Welcome to the PMCA forum.. Enjoy your time here..

Dave
PMCA Member
Little Hocking, Ohio
ntkblue
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2021 11:04 am
Location: Centre County, PA

Does pine straw (or any other material) placed in cavities really help in keeping martins warmer? I see a lot of anecdotal references to this being the case, but has any research been done on this? It seems to me that the amount of material placed would have little if any effect.
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1325
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- Visitors.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
2021- 28 pair. 118 fledged
2022-?
Home colony: mix natural, super and excluder gourds, enlarged compartment house. All SREH.
Satellite colony: Oso Bay Preserve: 12 PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mini castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
2021: 10 pair, 30 fledged
2022: ?
PMCA member

I don't have any evidence either, however it just makes sense. If its an aluminum house, the cold will seep in and if a martin is laying on the floor, it will drain its heat, sapping strength. Even in a plastic gourd, seems to me its the same thing. Natural gourds might be better.
Its a tough flight, often battling strong north headwinds, little food when they arrive. Reserve their strength, any way I could.
I like it in that it also reduces energy expended building the nest....and their time on the ground, thus less vulnerable.
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
brent
Posts: 515
Joined: Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:43 pm
Location: Raceland, Louisiana

Good question on whether the pine needles help keep them warm. I know, because I've witnessed it, the martins will group together in the compartments that are not directly in the cold wind inorder to keep warm. I do know, too, that they nestle in the pine. Comfortable, warm? Why not give them all the comforts that we can? When they're ready to nest they know what to do
...either keep the pine or start fresh. Their choice. About 3 months away before scouts arrive. 🙂 Brent
Martintown33
Posts: 177
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:21 pm
Location: Laplace,La
Martin Colony History: 21 year colony. 2 s&k modified houses and gourd rack

Hi Brent, .. Not sure if you remember me from last season. I’m in Laplace. Ever since hurricane ida hit, I’ve noticed the bird population here has decreased drastically. I think maybe because so many trees went down, changing their habitat and protection… Even the hawks are gone. Not enough prey I assume. I was wondering if you’re noticing the same thing in Houma? If so I’m wondering if this will affect the martins when they return. Maybe it will be a good thing. Less tress makes it more wide open which they like. Plus less competition for insects, and no hawk threat. What do you think?
Rob
philsand
Posts: 92
Joined: Mon May 18, 2015 9:54 am
Location: Eastern nc

My martins carry loblolly pine straw to the nest from my mulched shrubbery.
Jones4381
Posts: 104
Joined: Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:54 pm
Location: Rocky Mount VA
Martin Colony History: Newbie 51 years old 2020 and stumbled onto this by accident. Amazing bird. Just wanna help and give/receive happiness and be one with nature. Don't mind shooting an intruder of any kind though. Have a blessed day.

June 18 2021...3 hatchlings. New colony creation established

abundance, ease of use, and martins like it around here.
51 year old HY beginner. Year 1 for me!
John Miller
Posts: 4792
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Large plastic gourds are not something martins would find in nature and pre-nesting helps martins to create a snug nest bowl to hold the eggs and newly hatched young. Whether it keeps adults warm...probably some but I think that the main benefit is to help them get a head start on nest building. If they were nesting in a natural wooden cavity, it likely would have a rough surface and rounded bottom and very little nest material would even be needed.

I have noticed that lightweight white pine needles tend to get pushed out of some plastic gourds that lack a deep bowl, and that may be what you are using. You could experiment with just some broken up wheat straw and see if it stays put better.
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