All my martins are dying. Any advice?

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Post Reply
i_carumba
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:27 pm
Location: Southern Saskatchewan, Canada

This is my fourth year and we had 12 pair in our two houses.
I am located in Canada and the weather has been very bad.
For over a week now it has been cold, rainy, cloudy and windy and the birds are not finding insects to eat.
They are wasting away and about half have died.
Today the remainder are sitting together on the top rail of my wooden fence trying to remain warm but no longer flying much.
I have made an elevated platform next to the houses and put scrambled eggs on it.
I also put some eggs on the fence where they sit but they won't eat anything.
They will actually sit on the scrambled eggs but dont eat them.
I have tried flicking pieces up into the air for them but they have no interest.
I also tried rehydrated meal worms with no luck.
I even saw one trying to drink some water out of the bird bath, which I have not seen before.
It is very sad to see them dying after having such success with them here.
Any advice on how to train them to eat??
If they all die should I still put up houses next year?

[/attachment]
Martins1.JPG
Martins1.JPG (88.23 KiB) Viewed 1837 times
Attachments
Martins2.JPG
Martins2.JPG (125.79 KiB) Viewed 1837 times
Jones4381
Posts: 102
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

So sad....Wish I had advice but I do not. Sorry as that must be painful.
51 year old HY beginner. Year 1 for me!
ToyinPA
Posts: 2174
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.

Wow what a shame. They can not find food during bad weather, so supplement feeding is required to keep them going until the weather gets better. After day 3 of bad weather....rain, cold, high winds, snow, etc., they start to weaken. By day 4 some may be too weak to fly.

Dehydrated meal worms offer little to no nutrients.Try crickets (most use 3/4-1 inch size, which is also known as 5-6 week size). Buy them live & freeze them several hours. Pet stores & fish bait places usually sell them or you can buy them in bulk from suppliers. Most in the USA order them on line by the thousands. Freezing them kills them. Thaw in hot tap water. Drain well. You need a long handled ice cream spoon or some type of plastic spoon that you can flip them with. Since they are so weak I'd start with placing some inside each cavity & on you're feeder platform. Flipping will use up some of their energy, but if they refuse to eat any placed you can try flipping. Flip one at a time & aim towards an adult male. Make a whistle or sound to get his attention. Use the sound each time until he catches several. Once he takes to it the rest will usually follow. Females tend to hang back, so get the males fed up then aim towards the females. Flip them close to the bird & above it if possible. They will require at least 10-12 crickets per bird 3 times a day to survive. Once the weather gets better they will go find their own food.

If your temps are at freezing or below placing pocket warmers in the cavity, under the nest or along the side will keep them warm. 10 hour are best, but often hard to find certain times of the year. Place a good hour before dark & remove the next day. They use up energy trying to stay warm, so if temps are cold it makes them weaker.

Good luck. Hopefully you can save some of them.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
flyin-lowe
Posts: 3158
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I would go to a pet store and buy some crickets. I have only had to supplemental feed twice in my years with martins but the first time I did it I used crickets and it only took about 5-10 flips before one PM took off after a cricket. Once the first one took a few crickets the rest caught on really quick. Try to find a martin and flip them pretty close to them arching so they go a little above their head and then drop. If you see one that seems to be watching the crickets focus on that one. Once you get them eating flipped crickets you might have a better chance of getting them to eat eggs. I've not heard of martins taking supplemental food from a tray unless they have already been trained to eat flipped food.
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: 1247
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
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
PMCA member

Its reminiscent of what we went through way down here in Texas. And what our northern friends go through all too often.

You will need those crickets for sure.
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Hanover Bill
Posts: 633
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Patience, patience, patience. Just keep flipping as others here have said. It took me several years before I got the firs one to take my offering, then you're off to the races. Now if they are hungry they come at me when I go out the back door. Now I have them trained to go down to the bed and breakfast and help themselves. I just flip a few and then they take it upon themselves.

Best of Luck;
Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
Habsboy
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 5:38 pm
Location: LaSalle Ontario

That's too bad. Keep trying flipping crickets or eggs. My only pair came back and lured in some more. Looks like at least 4 pair now. A few weeks ago during a cold windy spell I flipped eggs and at first it seemed futile but all of a sudden the male attacked the offering. A few minutes later they were both gorging on the egg and crickets. They caught on fast. Quick learners they are. Am now happily enjoying the budding colony . Hopefully the weather turns for you before it's too late. All it takes is one to get the rest eating
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.

I flip both crickets and meal worms, but prefer the meal worms because the bulk pricing is more economical on the live meal worms. Patience, Patience Patience is the best advice concerning birds to learn and understand "Flipping". You will most likely need to make a significant purchase of meal worms at bulk pricing to insure that you have enough worms on site to not run out of meal worms before your birds have figured out the Flipping. Buy meal worms in bulk, and flip at the area where the birds are perched until they figure things out and chase after the flying meal worms!!

Bird
Mike "Bird" Wren
John Barrow
Posts: 958
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:12 pm
Location: Corpus Christi / Sandia , Texas

i-caramba,

If you go back to the forum index you will find some sticky posts at the top of the page. Those have been posted by the forum administrators from PMCA. One of those deals with supplemental feeding of purple martins and contains two articles, one containing links to other articles. Also a link to a video on supplemental feeding. Each of those sticky posts contain valuable information about being a successful PM landlord and are worth reading.

You will likely need to familiarize your colony to supplemental feed beginning with insects, then transitioning to egg. If that is not an option I would recommend cutting pieces of egg to resemble the shape of a mealworm and placing or tossing them on a rooftop or similar structure visible to the martins. I have heard of people getting martins to eat by doing that; the martins becoming interested when the wind moved the egg pieces making them appear alive. Food that is flipped toward the birds can be directed to land on an elevated structure if it is not caught (like your food tray, or preferably a larger target like the roof of your house or a shed). My initiation into supplemental feeding occurred when a male PM dropped from a gourd rack to a nearby shed and consumed a thawed cricket that had been flipped toward the martins and landed on the shed's roof. That led to a significant part of the colony chasing food flipped in the air, as well as food placed in food trays.

Wishing you the best. Be patient, but persistent, and feeding will occur and will pay off down the line.
~~TEAMED WITH A MARTIN GODDESS~~

Member/Mentor-PMCA. I do regular nestchecks and participate in PROJECT MARTINWATCH!! Coordinated 3 geolocator studies-2009, 2010 & 2013. State and Fed licensed bander (retired Jan., 2020)
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1247
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
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
PMCA member

Please let us know how your martins are doing now.
Tom
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
i_carumba
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:27 pm
Location: Southern Saskatchewan, Canada

The weather has finally turned for the better, warmer and sunny but still windy.
I was able to get some crickets but they are not sold locally here.
They were very small and just blew away in the wind when we were flicking them with plastic spoons.
I ordered 1000 large crickets online but they wont be here for a few more days.
We have tried flicking about a dozen eggs worth of scrambled eggs with no success, other than attracting seagulls to come eat the eggs off the ground.

I went up a ladder and opened the houses today and removed 6 dead martins.
While up there I put some more scrambled eggs on the landings outside the door and I put the remaining crickets and some meal worms inside the compartments.
I have yet to see a bird eat the egg, the closest they have come is picking the pieces up off the landing and dropping them over the edge to the ground.
It is pretty frustrating!

We have been finding 2 or 3 dead in the yard each day as well.
The majority of the dead birds have been asy males.
There are so few insects at the moment that I dont get any bugs hitting my windshield while driving, and I put on a lot of miles.
It is possible that some sub adults are arriving as there were 15 birds sitting on the houses tonight and some are chatty and animated.
The surviving martins that have been here though this ordeal are very quiet and sit pretty still.
randyM
Posts: 129
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 - 33 banded SY returned in 2021 (22.0%).
* 2021 - 89 nesting pairs....150 banded.

Hopefully the weather in you area warms soon and the winds lighten up so the flying insects become active again. I had to supplemental feed martins at my site for the first time this spring - very early arrivals (April 2) this year for northern SD. I had luck flipping June beetles I had collected the previous year and froze. I flipped hundreds of beetles with no luck (2 days each for a half hour), but then tried spreading the wings of the thawed beetles and as they pinwheeled towards the ground the martins finally chased and caught them. After the half dozen martins at my site caught the next two dozen pinwheeling beetles, I started flipping the beetles without spreading their wings and they readily caught and ate them. I fed these 6 martins every day in early-mid April three times a day for a week. I'd go through about 100 beetles a day. They all survived, but other landlords in the area I visited with lost some of their early birds due to their birds not taking supplemental offerings. I now have 80+ martins at my site and once the June beetles and flying grass hoppers emerge, I plan to catch such live insects and flip them towards some of the newer members of my colony. I'm sure the grass hoppers will fly and hopefully get a good response from some of the martins. Once a few start chasing live flipped hoppers and flying beetles, I will flip thawed beetles and mealworms to get as may martins in my colony trained for next year if the weather turns cold for early arrivals.

Side note: As a youngster I tossed flying live grasshoppers to nesting western kingbirds in the neighborhood and they took to these offerings after one or two tosses and would eat some themselves but feed most of the hoppers to their nestlings. I did this for a pair of kingbirds that nested on the same powerline utility pole for 3 consecutive years, as they seemed to remember me in successive years. I'm hopeful to train martins at my site by flipping live flying insects during warmer weather this year to get them accustomed to accepting flipped dead insects during inclimate weather in subsequent years.
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1247
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
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
PMCA member

What you describe is exactly what we had here, but it impacted only 4 early birds but that was enough for me.

Do what you can with the eggs, maybe just maybe they will take it. You have to try. Maybe grass hoppers, bet that will work. I had no crickets when the cold hit. John Barrow gave me some (generous because he was short too and he had more dying birds). I tried flipping the crickets, some small live meal worms, eggs, tried putting the food in gourds, on porches everything. The roof may be the best option as they are still visible and roll a bit. But I had No takers, the martins all passed away.

What Randy M describes is exactly how I got the first martin to take a flipped bug, I used his example to start our birds accepting food. a flipped cricket doesn't look too alive, he describes spreading the june beetles wings..that worked! Martins went right after it and from there it was on. I removed the outer and shell and spread its wings, it helicoptered up and down and they grabbed it.

I still collect June bugs, they have a ton of fat. In fact I go out at night at a local park and look under the lights can get a hundred. BUT now they accept crickets readily and seem to prefer them.

Now when I go out front the martins fly off their porches and hover. Next step is a platform feeder.

do what you can, sorry you are in this situation. Think to the future, train the martins to accept all season.

Tom
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Spiderman
Posts: 825
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:19 am
Location: Gladewater, Texas

I know by now the Martins have probably perished but just info for the future.

An Adult Martin can eat 40 crickets per day. So when your supplemental feeding keep that in mind.

My Martins would never eat eggs, so live crickets put in the freezer and chilled for 15 minutes was the only solution. I flipped them with a spoon and eventually they all began eating.

Depending on how long the cold weather lasts you may be able to save them.
2008 - 33 PAIR - FLEDGED 96 YOUNG
2009 - 51 PAIR - FLEDGED 166 YOUNG
2010 - 45 PAIR - FLEDGED 146 YOUNG
2011 - 33 PAIR - 128 HATCHED, 97 FLEDGED
2012 - 37 PAIR - 119 HATCHED, 101 FLEDGED
i_carumba
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:27 pm
Location: Southern Saskatchewan, Canada

UPDATE: What a difference a few days of good weather has made!
Out of the 12 nesting pairs we lost about 60% and I was never able to get them to eat any of my food offerings.
However we have now had 5 days of great weather and the forecast continues to be very nice and flying bugs are active again.
Our two houses have filled back up with new ASY and SY martins and nest building has started once more.
I now have a supply of 1" crickets but I doubt these well fed birds will show any interest so I think I would have to wait until they are hungry to try supplemental feeding again.
Thanks for the advice posted in this thread.
birds3.JPG
birds3.JPG (119.98 KiB) Viewed 1425 times
C.C.Martins
Posts: 1247
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
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
PMCA member

Sorry for your losses, but glad things have improved! Look for opportunities to train them, Hannover bill inspired me in training ours, and its like you said if they have eaten well may not go after it...tried to feed them yesterday, only a few accepted. Rest just watched.

Its well worth the effort.
Tom
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Post Reply