Thursday, February 16, 2012

Purple Martins Returning to North America

Gourds Painted White to Reflect the Sun
After wintering in tropical Brazil, Purple Martin sightings are now being recorded in Texas.  These large swallows are faithfully returning to their backyard landlords in North these two Amish gourd condominiums that are all cleaned out and waiting to welcome them back for the summer.  The condos are located about thirty miles from where we live.

It warms the heart of a nature lover to see this interest in the Martin, because in our part of the country they're completely dependent upon us humans to supply their housing.  If humans would stop supplying Martins with homes, they most likely would disappear as a breeding bird in eastern North America.  West of the Rockies, however, they mainly live in natural cavities, like holes in trees, in cacti, or crevices in cliffs.

Mrs. and Mr. Martin
Anyone who has tried to attract Martins to their back yards will say it's one heck of a challenge.  Hubby remembers as a little boy their next-door neighbor being a mighty dedicated Martin landlord.  If the three little boys went anywhere near his Martin houses, not only would he whoosh them away with a broom, but the birds themselves would start dive bombing to get them out of their territory.  Most days after taking his afternoon nap, the old guy would come out on the back porch, plop down in his rocker, a low-impact pellet gun right beside him, just daring the poor little sparrows to mess with his Martins.  I suspect there were more than enough times that he would have much rather taken a good pot shot at the three little pests with pants on.

The Native Americans were the first to lure the Martins into their villages by hanging up gourds with holes cut in the sides. Picture the excitement in the village when that very first Martin accepted their gourd for its family home.  Little did they know that besides acquiring a new villager, they also got a dependable alarm clock, a calendar, and a trusty watch dog.