written by Brian Haas
In the waning days of this past spring, the Field Station staff were thrilled to see purple martins at last investigating the housing structure that was erected in the Fall of 2018. The weeks that followed were filled with impressive displays of aerobatics and the distinct sounds of courting purple martins. The result of all this commotion was the construction of a nest followed by the laying of two white eggs, which hatched about 20 days later. The nestlings grew rapidly as both parents hunted and carried insects back to the nest. Approximately 30 days after hatching, the nestlings took flight from their cavity and became the first purple martins to fledge from the Field Station grounds.
Purple martins are the largest swallow in North America and have become almost entirely dependent upon humans for nesting sites across large portions of their range. These birds prefer to nest in large colonies and often show site fidelity, which is why it can be difficult to attract purple martins to a newly established housing structure. While one nest and two fledglings seem a far cry from a bustling colony, it is definitely a very important first step. We are hopeful that the purple martins from this summer will survive their long migration to their wintering grounds in South America and make their way back to the Field Station to breed next spring.
Photo gallery: First purple martin fledglings
Image caption: The pair of 27-day old nestlings, almost ready to fledge.
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