16+ yr established site now having tree swallow issues

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DrRachE
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 26, 2020 12:06 pm
Location: West Virginia
Martin Colony History: Colony since property purchased in 2005. Slowly added gourds and removed house. Currently have 20 gourds wiith full capacity, 12 supergourds, & 8 natureline. Started nest checks few years ago, began nest replacements in 2020.

My site was established before I purchased my property 16 years ago. 5 years ago we switched to using only gourds with full occupancy every year. For the first time last year we had tree swallows fighting Martin's for housing. I've never worried about them because I've always read the Martin's will run them off. Last year
I watched each day as Martin's had the nest in the morning and evening but the tree swallows would hang out in the long afternoons. Eventually 2 brownish eggs were laid. Then 3 days later they were pushed aside and 2 white eggs were laid followed by 1 more the next day. TS hung around in afternoon for a few days but eventually 2 Martin eggs hatched, the brownish eggs never did. TS eventually disappeared.

Martin's arrived the other day as did the tree swallows. I blocked the set of gourds the TS used but went back and opened a few as the Martin's didn't seem happy they were closed. I've left the gourd they fought over closed as well a one next to it that the TS would often check out.

Will I lose my Martin's that want this nests if I keep them closed for a week or so? We have 20 gourds in all. 12 on 1 rack and 8 on the rack with issues. I'd appreciate advice if you have any.
Matt F.
Posts: 3922
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Greetings,
Hopefully others will enter in with some additional advice.. However in the meantime, Dan Drew put together a great document sometime back to help folks address issues like this with Tree Swallows and/or Bluebirds:
https://www.purplemartin.org/uploads/me ... cy-377.pdf
Thought the document primarily deals with folks trying to attract Martins to a new site, I would think the rules still apply to folks in your situation that are dealing with aggressive Tree Swallows and an already established Martin colony.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 3137
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I've never seen TS fight off martins at an established colony. Our TS population is so high that one year I did have 2 pair of TS nest next to each other in a gourd rack that also had martins in it. That is the only time I have seen TS actually nest along side each other and the only time I have seen TS nest along side martins.

As for your nest last year I am wandering about the brown colored eggs. Tree swallow eggs are white and can have a pink hue to them. I am a little confused by you description below as to what gourds you have open. My advise is to open some of your martins gourds since they are arriving back and also open up a gourd or two on either side of your martin housing, 30-50 feet away. The tree swallows should migrate to those.
202160 nests with 187 eggs (6-3-20) HOSP count-9
2020 Currently 42 nest, Fledged approx 164 HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 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 (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
randyM
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: 2006 - SY pair, unsuccessful nest attempt, 3 houses = 52 cavities

2010 - ASYM + SYF pair - male disappeared after storm, female fledged all 4 young.

2015 - Lone SYM stayed month of June...added 8 gourds = 60 cavities

2016 - 1 nesting pair (ASYM + SYF) 2/3 eggs hatched 2 young fledged.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched, 16 fledged, 16 banded - 2 banded SY returned in 2018 (12.5%), added housing: 11 houses w/gourds, 4 gourd poles = 376 cavities

2018 - 10 nesting pairs, 46/52 eggs hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded - 3 banded SY returned in 2019 (10.3%)

2019 - 32 nesting pairs, 145/160 eggs hatched, 139 fledged - 87 banded - 12 banded SY returned in 2020 (13.8%).

2020 - 35 nesting pairs, 180/199 eggs hatched, 178 fledged - 150 banded.

In my opinion, your best bet to reduce tree swallow competition for your martin gourds is to "saturate" your yard with alternative nest site options for the TS. I have 3 "bluebird" boxes attached to posts situated within the perimeter of my martin housing (one in the middle, and one each on opposite outside edges of my martin housing). These boxes are about 5.5 feet from the ground, while my martin housing is about 12' high. I also have 6 additional bluebird boxes/gourds within 100 feet of my martin housing. Each year all 9 of these lower boxes/gourds are occupied by nesting tree swallows. Only 1 year did I have a swallow nest in or attempt to nest in my martin housing. In that year, a pair of TS nested in a gourd hanging from one of my wooden martin houses. 4 PM pairs nested in that house without much fuss between the species, and all PM and the TS pair fledged all of their young. I have way more martin nesting compartments than I have nesting martin pairs, but the TS seem to prefer the lower hanging housing options, and/or, the larger martins are keeping the TS out of the more elevated nesting compartments.

Unless the nest you described last year that had the brown eggs was tea-cup shaped and abundantly lined with feathers, it is unlikely the tree swallows got anywhere close to taking over the gourd from your nesting martin pair. Perhaps the brownish eggs were house sparrow, house wren, or cowbird eggs? As indicated in a earlier reply to your post, TS lay eggs very similar in color to PM, but slightly smaller in size.

A STRONG word of caution though, I would not recommend "saturating" a yard with bluebird/TS housing near martin housing that does not have a well-established martin colony. I started attracting nesting TS many years before I was able to get a pair of martins to nest at my site. Although the TS did not nest in my martin housing and only nested in the bluebird boxes, they did tend to drive away any visiting martins from my site for years before a "stubborn/aggressive" pair of martins decided to take control of the airspace around my martin housing. I now have nearly 100 nesting TS pairs on my property each year, and hope to eventually have at least that many martins nesting at my site in the future. TS and martins can peacefully nest and co-exist in close proximity to each other, but it's best if nesting martins are established first before you can enjoy both of these wonderful bird species without too much personal stress about avian disputes over bird housing you provide.

Good luck this season!

Randy
DrRachE
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 26, 2020 12:06 pm
Location: West Virginia
Martin Colony History: Colony since property purchased in 2005. Slowly added gourds and removed house. Currently have 20 gourds wiith full capacity, 12 supergourds, & 8 natureline. Started nest checks few years ago, began nest replacements in 2020.

Thank you! I'm sure they were TS eggs. The PM and TS both built the nest and battled for it. The PM worked in the morning then would be gone for several hours in the afternoon while the TS worked. In the evenings the PM would return and run the TS off but the battles were pretty aggressive. Our neighbor always had a box or 2 for TS up until the summer before. The eggs didn't exactly look like PM eggs, they were smaller and a slightly different shade. They weren't brown or even tan but they weren't the white of Martin eggs so when I'm saying brownish it may sound confusing. They were in a teacup like hole with a lot of tiny features. Up to that point I thought the PM were winning the fight and my heart sank when I saw the feathers. Within a couple days the PM put a leaf layer in and laid eggs as well. After that the PM stayed around to incubate the TS gave up. This year they are fighting for the same gourd and its the closest to my neighbors yard.

I think I'll try to put up a few old blue bird boxes a friend gave us, we've never had them but my neighbor did. His grandson now owns the property and the boxes are gone. How many feet are your boxes from your PM housing? Our 2 gourd racks are about 20-25 ft apart. I really appreciate your help and ideas.
randyM
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: 2006 - SY pair, unsuccessful nest attempt, 3 houses = 52 cavities

2010 - ASYM + SYF pair - male disappeared after storm, female fledged all 4 young.

2015 - Lone SYM stayed month of June...added 8 gourds = 60 cavities

2016 - 1 nesting pair (ASYM + SYF) 2/3 eggs hatched 2 young fledged.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched, 16 fledged, 16 banded - 2 banded SY returned in 2018 (12.5%), added housing: 11 houses w/gourds, 4 gourd poles = 376 cavities

2018 - 10 nesting pairs, 46/52 eggs hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded - 3 banded SY returned in 2019 (10.3%)

2019 - 32 nesting pairs, 145/160 eggs hatched, 139 fledged - 87 banded - 12 banded SY returned in 2020 (13.8%).

2020 - 35 nesting pairs, 180/199 eggs hatched, 178 fledged - 150 banded.

The 3 bluebird boxes within the radius of my 10 martin house poles are anywhere from 10-20 feet from the base of the closest martin house pole (basically equal distance between two martin house poles). My martin house poles are each about 20-40 feet apart. The 6 bluebird houses outside the perimeter of my martin housing average about 50' from the nearest martin house pole. My martin housing layout is shaped like the capital letter "I" (6 poles in a line north to south, then a pole on either side of the north and south end to make the arms and feet of the "I").

Randy
mwren
Posts: 142
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Location: OH/Athens
Martin Colony History: I have had my martin colony on the dam of one of my ponds for nine years. The colony has grown each year, but I am now concentrating on helping friends and acquaintances who have shown interests in martins. My colony consists of three T-14's with 8 Troyer gourds attatched to each T-14, a Troyer gourd rack with 12 gourds, and another gourd rack with 18 Troyer gourds for a total of 96 nest cavities. I am having serious predation issues with hawks and owls and am experimenting with various hawk guards and "screens". Established successful supplemental feeding the last few seasons and have had a blast flipping mostly meal worms and some crickets. Faculty from Ohio University are using my colony as a research site to study parasites that target cavity nesting birds. In exchange for access to my bird trail nest boxes and martin housing, they are banding all birds involved in their study.

DrrachE,
Scatter bluebird houses mounted on half inch conduit posts around your property in the open areas. This technique has helped me to win the battle of "air space" versus the T.S. for years now. As martins arrive, you will observe your TS's move on to the alternative housing away from the martins.
Bird
Mike "Bird" Wren
bootjack farm
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:30 am
Location: Russell, Pa
Martin Colony History: 9 years of trying hard...finally in 2017 I had 3 pair w/ 11 babies. T-14 +4 w/ 4 Troyer horiz. gourds. Troyer Super System 24. Fast forward to 2020... 64 fledged.

I try to co-exist w/ TS and so far so good. I have many TS. Here's what works for me:

1) Keep PM units plugged until they arrive.
2) Place one open BB house within short distance of unit. 30-40 ft.
3) Plug other BB houses in vicinity until this one is taken up by TS.
4) Others in the past have recommended putting up a gourd rather than a BB house. I disagree with this. My thinking is that this encourages TS to associate gourds with good nesting sites and thus encouraging competition with the PM.

Good luck
Northwest PA
DrRachE
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 26, 2020 12:06 pm
Location: West Virginia
Martin Colony History: Colony since property purchased in 2005. Slowly added gourds and removed house. Currently have 20 gourds wiith full capacity, 12 supergourds, & 8 natureline. Started nest checks few years ago, began nest replacements in 2020.

Thank you all for your help. We put up a bluebird box Friday roughly 25 ft from the gourds. We noticed the TS checking it out yesterday and they've been back and forth today but seem to be going to the box a little more than the gourds. So hopefully this is the solution.

I intend to put up another as there is another male hanging around. Thank you for recommending the box over the gourd as I was wondering if the TS might think the gourd is a better place. I plan to put another box or 2 about 25 ft away then if needed I'll still have room for some 40 to 50 ft away.

Thank you all so much!
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