|Purple Martin in Silva Bay, Gabriola Island
|Nesting pair of Purple Martins in Silva Bay
Incredibly agile, high speed acrobats, these birds have been a favourite of farmers and Native North Americans since day one thanks to their voracious appetite for insects. In the 1960's a conservation movement to promote the Purple Martin as a natural insect control agent, instead of using pesticides, got the nest box program started with a slogan "Two thousand mosquitoes a day" and there are now over a million nest boxes in North America. In the 1980's the invasion of non-native European starlings and house sparrows caused a severe population crash across North America as the Purple Martins got pushed out of their own habitat and they are now almost completely dependant on the artificial nest boxes for their survival.
|Purple Martin colony in Tod Inlet
|Purple Martin pair and fledgling in Silva Bay
In the winter the Purple Martins migrate to South America where they soak up the sun east of the Andes in Columbia, Bolivia and Brazil. They roost in large groups with as many as 5,000 reported on one site in Brazil. There was already an established colony on the dock at Silva Bay on Gabriola Island but, at the end of the nesting season, I decided to put up a nest box to see what would happen. Sure enough when I returned to Silva Bay in late spring I was pleased to see it had been occupied and the parents were busy teaching the babies to speak Spanish.
|Nelson installing a Purple Martin nest box in Silva Bay
A symbiotic success story between Mankind and Nature isn't something that happens very often so it's nice to be part of something that's good for everyone, except of course the insects!!! The birds are heading back to South America now after a great summer of warm weather and feasting. Over the winter people are invited to build more nest boxes and wait for the little purple birds to fly back. Check the link below for more information.
|All Purple Martin photos by Junie Quiroga