Monday, June 29, 2009

Purple Martins

I am really excited about the opportunity to be involved in another new experience! Purple Martins are birds that are colony nesters - meaning, they prefer to live almost like humans in apartments. I was able to visit a colony maintained by some very nice folks outside the metro area. What a wonderful experience to grow up with these birds, as the gentleman who worked with us did. His father had been maintaining Purple Martin houses since he was very young. They, in turn, had introduced their grandkids to the birds, so the ideas of being a part of nature and conservation are being handed down.
As you can see from the first few pictures, the adults were hard at work bringing food in to their chicks. The photo of many Martins is actually a small part of the colony that was maintained.
We were there to band the chicks, before they left the nest. It was a delicate business - they really can't be banded before they are at least 14 days old, and probably only up to about 20 days old. Any younger, and the fat that is stored along their legs as they develop will make their legs the incorrect size for the bands. As you can see from the pin feathers coming in, only someone like Mark with 20+ years of banding experience can do this safely. Note the two different bands on the legs as he takes a wing measurement - the color band is for a colony study, to see if we can find out where they go when they are adults and leave the colony.

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