Our Small Colony Wiped Out

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gmmajor
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:44 pm
Location: Galveston, TX

We have had a small colony of 14 pairs of PMs here at our home on Galveston Bay for over 20 years. Not a single bird returned this year. No clue if from the deep freeze or if they just moved some place else this year. I'm still shooting sparrows and starlings out of habit.
Archer
Posts: 778
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:09 pm
Location: Manitoba/Altona
Martin Colony History: six pair in 2014, have grown to 52 pairs in 2017.

That's tough news for sure, but don't give up. Younger age class birds will follow. If you had predation issues last summer, that could be a different story.
2011- first year trying, a few visitors.
2012-One ASY pair, raised two young, lots of subby visitors. So thankfull.
2013-daily subby visits.
2014-Six SY pairs
2015-18 pair, 83 fledglings
2016-36 pair, 147 fledglings
2017-52 pairs, 192 fledglings.
2018-60 pair, 246 fledglings.
2019-59 pair, 238 fledglings.
2020-62 pair.
gmmajor
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:44 pm
Location: Galveston, TX

Could be that a pair of red tail hawks have been hunting along the shore line. Frankly, the sparrows and starling are pretty scarce although the white wings and mexican doves are still plentiful and I know hawks prefer doves in this area.
Whippy
Posts: 856
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: See Signature

Major,

The red tail hawks will pick off the babies when they land in the trees after fledging. I haven't seen or heard of one chasing a full grown martin and catching it. Keep an eye out for other hawks such as the sharp shinned hawk and coopers hawk. These guys will chase and/or catch martins all day long. Merlins are also an issue if they are in your area.

Although I do live in North Texas, and have a ranch in the Bryan/College station area, I am not familiar with or know if you have a rat snake population that close to the coast. THey are mentioned to be in the Houston area. These are very sneaky and can climb anything. They will decimate a martin colony without you even knowing it.

Just throwing possibilities at you.

Coolwhips
2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged
deancamp
Posts: 672
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

Looking back at last year, did you have a good success rate of fledglings?
Jeff Dean
gmmajor
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:44 pm
Location: Galveston, TX

Fledging rate has never been very high. Last year a thunder storm destroyed one bird house. Only two pair from that house started over. We replaced the house this winter. We also lose some fledglings in the bay as all our houses are adjacent to water or over water.
deancamp
Posts: 672
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

Sounds like some of your problems from last year could be contributing to the lack of returning birds. Hopefully some will find their way home, but if not you are starting over. That means playing the dawnsong, decoys, etc.. Good Luck
Jeff Dean
colliemom
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:13 am
Location: Sandwich IL

Usually, about half of the PMs that come here early (about 15) leave when friend across the lake
gets home and opens up his housing. They will come back later to eat or use perches to train their
fledglings. And, I'm sure some of the SY's return here the following years. Sometimes they will
check out your housing then go off looking for a mate. Then they will bring others back later.
Whippy
Posts: 856
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: See Signature

gmmajor wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:28 am
We also lose some fledglings in the bay as all our houses are adjacent to water or over water.
I've known martins to interact with their young after fledging for quite a long time. I am wondering though, if being over or near the water and losing some fledglings to drowning, might give cause and concern to the parents that they are not successful in that area. If the loss percentage to water is low, probably not a concern but, if the loss percentage to water is high, it may be something to look at.

I've returned a lot of martin babies back to their gourds after they Peter Panned off the porch or have been pushed off the porch by a sibling. If that occurs over water, you may not even know the babies are lost. But the parents will know they were lost without knowing how they were lost.

Again, just throwing possibilities at you with no scientific background to support.

Coolwhips
2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged
Stingray
Posts: 352
Joined: Wed May 11, 2005 9:45 pm
Location: Plantation/Florida

Sorry to hear about your situation.
It may very well have been the cold weather.
Hopefully your colony will flourish again.

Regards,

gmmajor wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 10:26 am
We have had a small colony of 14 pairs of PMs here at our home on Galveston Bay for over 20 years. Not a single bird returned this year. No clue if from the deep freeze or if they just moved some place else this year. I'm still shooting sparrows and starlings out of habit.
Have a great season!
robdaubs
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri May 06, 2005 2:31 pm
Location: Ontario/Forest

They may have moved on to superior housing.Perhaps your cavities are not deep enough,so predators can be an issue.Do you have mites?
Matt F.
Posts: 3922
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

GMmajor,
Keep an eye out. There's an established colony on the UHCL campus not far from you to the north that as of yesterday had not seen any returning Martins. This colony usually hosts 10 - 14 pairs, and has been active for about 12 years. They usually get their first arrivals in mid Feb, but thankfully none were seen (or found deceased in the housing) during and after the major freeze back in Feb. In previous years, we would start getting larger numbers of adult birds coming throughout early and mid-March. This year - nothing throughout March until today. What's going to be really interesting to see is if these arrivals are in fact adult birds that are way behind schedule, which based on the timing means they could be a mix of late adults and on-time subadults. If these arrivals are only subadults, that will be creepy, meaning that our successfully nesting pairs from last year are MIA.
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