Migration tracking study of Purple Martins and Wood Thrushes

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Site Admin
Posts: 314
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 1:16 pm
Location: Erie, PA

The PMCA is very pleased we can now share information about an ongoing research project that tracks migrating Purple Martins to South America and back.
The latest news on Purple Martin migration is officially out, and it is stunning. York University scientist Bridget Stutchbury, her staff, and PMCA staff have tracked two female martins from PMCA’s research colony at Edinboro, PA to Brazil and back.
See http://purplemartin.org/main/geolocator.html for articles and more information.

The April issue of the Update, Vol 18(2), will include an in-depth article with maps, etc. Please check it out—we think everyone will enjoy learning more about martin migration. This study marks the first time small songbirds have been tracked on their migration. The support of PMCA members helped make it possible - thank you all.
Last edited by Forum Admin on Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Linda Reynolds
Posts: 1308
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 8:33 pm
Location: Adamsville, TN

Kudos to the PMCA for funding and participating in this long-term scientific migration study. Our sincere thanks for announcing the results to the Purple Martin Forum community.

This is fascinating news and the links provided are interesting and informative. Certainly much will be learned from the information gathered. Like others, I am surprised and astounded to read about the distance they cover. With a smile on my face, I was amused to read that they travel faster in the spring when returning to OUR yards.........

Thanks PMCA. This is major news for the birding world, and I am happy you played a major role. Good job by all.
James Strickland FL
Posts: 2249
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2003 8:04 pm
Location: Reidsville NC
Martin Colony History: 2017 Had a lot visitors no Matins nesting, hoping 2018 will be different.
2018 Had 1 pair
2019 had 30 pair

:grin: After reading the report and finding out that a martin can fly 398 miles in a day coming back to the US and it only takes 13 days to make that trip was like WOW. I feel that their is alot we do not understand about this amazing bird. We see them flying around our site and they are slow flying, but we now know that it is not the case. Great Repot!
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

This is the kind of information I so enjoy reading: quality scientific research about purple martins that is unlocking the mysteries of their behavior and biology. A fellow Forum member had sent me a link about this research and I visited the National Geographic website, too.

I have been a member of the PMCA for many years and provide support through purchasing martin related products. The PMCA is the leader in providing the latest information about purple martins and educating the public about our favorite bird. I greatly appreciate all the work the PMCA has done for the purple martin and this migration research is an outstanding example.

I hope more folks will become members of the PMCA which in turn will benefit the purple martin.

Sandy - NC
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:40 pm
Location: Rocky Mount, NC

I agree that this is top notch and insightful research. I can't wait for some to be fitted with small transmitters that can be tracked in real time.
Don't ever, ever give up. It will happen.

Tim Mangan-Kansas
Posts: 1728
Joined: Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:25 am
Location: Kansas, Pittsburg
Martin Colony History: 2016 - 22 Pair

I don't believe there could be any other revelation that will add a spark to the dedication of being a martin landlord or do more to spark interest in potential martin landlords then what has just been announced about the successful tracking of a round trip migration by a purple martin.

I was fortunate enough to have been advised a couple of months ago about the success of this research project and have been anxiously waiting to read the details. It is a moment just as this that I am happy to say I am a PMCA member and the success of this joint venture will no doubt go a long way toward the further accreditation of the organization and THIS website. All members of the PMCA should feel good knowing that a portion of what we pay for our membership has gone to help fund this research project. I echo Linda and Steve's kudos to the PMCA. Hopefully this announcement will encourage all who post on the forum, or just log on to read and/or search the archives, to become members if they have not yet joined. No doubt, the initial success of this research project is only just the beginning and many more martins will be tagged.

To John Tautin and all of the PMCA board members, I want to say thank you for your dedication and determination regarding this specific research project.

(I would also like to put my name on the list to volunteer any of the martins from my colony as potential donors for a tracking device. :grin: )

Licensed Bander
2015 - 14 Pair - fledged 68
2014 - Moved to Kansas - 7 Pair, 35 eggs, 28 fledged in first year
2010 Thru 2013 - Moved-Tried to start new colony
2009 - 46 pair, 217 eggs, 178 fledged
Scott D.- La
Posts: 823
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:35 am
Location: Louisiana

Like the other members, I was very excited too see this migration research when it made headlines in the national news. I look forward to supporting the PMCA, in any way I can, so this valuable information can be gathered and distributed to our members. I certainly look forward to more research and what will be learned from it.
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

Scott, I am a member of the PMCA, and I too am glad to see this research being done...
John Barrow
Posts: 946
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:12 pm
Location: Corpus Christi / Sandia , Texas

I send my congratulations to Bridget Stutchbury, Scott Tarof, Patrick Kramer, and John Tautin, all of whom have represented PMCA so well in this endeavor. The scientific community has embraced the project and its analytical results. All of you have taken a giant step to advance the modern study of birds, and your reward for this pioneering study brings pride and esteem to our entire membership. Even as you, Bridget, travel the country, expounding your findings, it is as heartwarming for those who know of your commitment, to applaud the many other contributions you have made to the knowledge of purple martins for so many years.

I offer my best wishes to you all, and thank you for what you have accomplished in behalf of PMCA, not only during this study, but for many years. Congratulations, for your accomplishment, and for making those who understand its significance, proud to be PMCA members.

John Barrow, Corpus Christi, TX

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)
Donnie Hurdt MN
Posts: 1717
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:14 pm
Location: North Prairie, MN

I cant add to what has already been said but I am thankfull to the PMCA and all others who have made this reasearch possible. I and many others have often wonderd what and how the martins live when they are not with us. Hopefully this reasearch will be able to expandquite a lot more.

edit, I cant get these links to load up on my slow dial up so I guess I have to wait for the next issue of the Update to come out.
PMCA member and Martin fanatic....
2011 A pair of subbies fledged three young but none returned in 2012 :-(
2015 One Pair of subbies came and stayed a few nits but got chased away by Bluebirds and Tree swallows. :-(
2017 0ne pair of subbies nested and fledged 4 young
2018 Tree Swallows AGAIN chased away any martins that wanted to nest :evil:
2019 Same old story................ :-(
Bernie Nikolai
Posts: 402
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:44 pm
Location: Edmonton, Alberta

There is a full half page article on page 3 of today's Edmonton Journal up here in Alberta on this migration study. When I read it, I thought, "what, how come nobody knows about this?". But I understand now...

In brief the "geolocator device" weighs less than a dime, so martins and wood thrushes can carry them on their backs without the problems of too much weight.

What surprised me is one of the two female martins AVERAGED 577 kms or 358 miles PER DAY in her migration back from Brazil to Pennsylvania in only 13 days! We always assumed martins take perhaps a couple of months to migrate back. Less than 2 weeks is really moving far faster than we ever assumed! This same bird took 43 days to migrate to Brazil, but spent three or four weeks lounging around in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico before continuing to Brazil.

VERY VERY interesting stuff! I look forward to the data from the martins returning this spring. According to the article in today's paper, another 20 martins were fitted with these geolocators for this year's migration. So there should be more data this spring when they arrive back in Pennsylvania.
He who harbors the nesting bird shall have health and happiness all the year
Donna - TX
Posts: 889
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2006 6:44 pm
Location: Texas/Pearland

Love the research!!!! Ditto on what everyone else has said!

If you google purple martin geolocator you will find several newspaper articles, etc.
Donna Gillbee
Posts: 675
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 12:08 pm
Location: Kentucky/Shepherdsville

Amazing !!

I can't add much than has already been said, but this makes me a very proud member of such a leader in Purple Martin Conservation. Always has been, always will be.

This comes with good timing for me. I have recently been asked to speak at The Beckham Bird Club in Louisville. It went very well, and the PMCA handout booklets was very impressive. Now, I am excited that this group of very serious birders finds the PMCA and sees this very impressive and exciting study... from THE Leader in martin conservation and education.

Thanks to everyone involved in this study. I have always been proud to be a member of the PMCA.

Thanks PMCA. For being there when I wanted to learn more about how to attract martins to my backyard in the first place.... and keeping me up to date on the latest info about my favorite bird.
I manage 2 public sites, and one at home, for a total of 172 cavities. Board Member / Non Profit PMCA.
Find videos that I edit for the PMCA Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/PurpleMartinPMCA
Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

We're glad you're all as excited about this project as we are. We'll have a complete article, photos, maps, etc., in the April issue of the Update.

Thanks to our members for their support, which makes work like this possible. We'll have more news later this spring as tagged birds return to NW PA.


And of course my first thought is this-wouldnt it be great to see a well done piece on national geographis, or nature channel about this very information... Never see anything really about martins on these channels. As many people who love them and are dedicated to them a show about them and their habits, migration, etc would be sooooo great. Could even interview some of our great landlords from this site. I will send an email to national geographic. I know PBS likes suggestions for future shows...any thoughts?
Bob Buskas
Posts: 600
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2003 8:08 pm
Location: Wetaskiwin Alberta, Canada

I too cannot wait to hear more of this study. For years I have been so curious about the migration of our Martins. This is wonderful. Keep up the good work PMCA, I will try my best to get more Landlords here in Western Canada to become members.
Bob Buskas, Alberta, Canada (The Northern Sky's Colony) Supplimental feeding is the key during bad weather, but you must train them to feed ahead of time.
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

What a great study!

This would explain why martins can arrive in the middle of snowstorms; they may have come in from 300 miles or more to the south!

I'm wondering if the data also shows they migrate at night as well as by day. Probably a slam dunk that they do out of necessity when crossing the Gulf, but it would be interesting to know if they did so over land too. That would make sense out of the phenomenon of the pre-dawn chorus over the colony by resident males.

Shorebirds, some of which are martin size, can accumulate enough fat for 2,000 mile or more non-stop flights. Again, it would be interesting to know how often martins stop to feed if at all on their return trip.

Interesting to read about their winter movements over the Amazon Basin. Presumably huge flocks following the food supply. I have read that there is quite a lot of seasonal migration around the Amazon Basin by at least some of the bird species that reside there year-round.

Now we need to figure out a way to track dragonflies and maybe noctuid moths, and perhaps shed light on the extent to which martin movements are keyed to the abundance of high-flying migratory insects.

Louise Chambers
Site Admin
Posts: 6208
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 1:07 pm
Location: Corpus Christi, TX

A reminder, for those wanting to read all about this research, be sure your membership is current - the spring issue of the Update goes to the printer shortly and mails in mid April. We are very excited to be able to share this story.


This accomplishment must be another among many benefits from our Space Program. I knew Monkey Baker personally and she let us know man could learn much we didn't know after she orbited the earth successfully. After her brief trip our space people and satellites moved us forward rapidly to understanding much that would still be mystery.
D. Doll MN
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun May 08, 2005 11:05 am
Location: ST CLOUD MN
Martin Colony History: Formally from Willmar MN moved in 2015 and started new colony in 2019 i had 27 pair.

Was wondering if there is any other information I could read on the geolocator other then what was printed in the Update Vol, 18(2) and 19,(3) Was there anything printed anywhere how your birds from Texas did last year. MN is going to do the geo study this year and they are going to release eight birds from my colony site, that’s the reason for the interest. A local TV station and the local paper might be doing a little segment on the martins so I would like as much information I can get.
Dick Doll
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