“Vacancy”

Our Purple Martins are back! They arrived today in a large group. This is not the typical arrival which usually begins with what is referred to as a “Scout” bird that comes a few days or even weeks early to check out the digs.

Here are photos of today’s arrivals, including males and females checking out the gourds and also the red house.

Our first year of offering Purple Martin housing, we put up a single, 12-unit house that we bought at the local farm store. Within days, we had Purple Martins checking it out, and moving in. I think we may have had six pairs that first year.

The next year, we hung some individual gourds on a pole near the original barn-red house and the population grew to about ten couples. Some chose the 12-unit apartment, while others made nests in the new gourds.

Then, last year we added an additional six gourds that we hung on a horizontal bar next to the gourd tower. We had birds rearing their chicks in all three modes of housing.

Over the winter we had some extreme winds and several gourds fell to the ground. I purchased a new, 12-unit house (this one is white) a few weeks ago, hoping to get it up before the birds’ arrival. Curiously, Robert had moved it to the kitchen table, which I took as his way of reminding himself to put it up today. When he spotted the birds, I suspect that pushed him the rest of the way and he was able to put it up this afternoon. Immediately, there were birds examining the new white house. I didn’t get any good photos of those birds, but here are a few of a female that was checking out one of the gourds.

Then, I caught a bit of a tiff between males. One had entered a gourd. When number two peered in the hole, he met the first bird and these photos show what happened next.

All the while, the nice couple in the red house and a few other birds observed the spat.

I feel very happy that our Purple Martins are back. They are very vocal birds – they chortle constantly to each other. As social nesters, they seem to go off together to hunt (they catch their pry while in flight; insects like dragonflies) then return together which is always a very vocal event. They also have no concern for humans in their realm, and sometimes seem to be attracted to human activity. I can view their houses from my office window, which isn’t great for trying to get work done, but it sure brings me a lot of joy!

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