Sunday, June 26, 2011

Purple Martins and the Drought

One of several groups of purple martin babies currently in the care of Wild Bird Rescue.

This has been a horrible year for purple martins in north Texas. The drought has had a severe effect on insect populations; consequently, birds that depend upon the insects for food are having a tough time of it. Especially noticeable is the impact upon purple martins.

I volunteer at Wild Bird Rescue and the purple martins have been brought in by the droves--most of which are emaciated and dehydrated. A friend brought in the last of her purple martin babies when the parents abandoned the colony. I haven't gone back to count, but literally dozens of baby martins were brought in over one weekend. We easily have 50 that have survived and are eating us out of house and home now. Purple martins are very expensive to raise because of their insect diet. They go through the mealworms. But at least they are fattening up and are looking much healthier than previously. Now if we can get them raised in time for them to leave with the older birds.

I noticed yesterday that the martin house at Wild Bird Rescue was very busy--today, there isn't a purple martin to be found. They usually mass here before taking off south, but it doesn't appear to be the case this year. Although it is a little early for the martins to leave, the food is scarce, so who knows? Have you been seeing the martins massing?

I hope our nest of chimney swifts are doing OK. I have been seeing one of the parents diving into the tower periodically. That's a good sign. I was talking to a couple recently, and they had a nest in their chimney and could hear the babies. But I imagine the lack of insects is having a similar effect on them.

Good birding!

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