Disaster At Purple Martin Colony

We had a terrible day in our Purple Martin Colony today.  I’ll describe what happened, and if anyone has any ideas as to the cause, please leave a comment or send me an email.

In our Colony, we had one nest with 4 babies, and one nest with a near fledgling (with the bird we called Berry).

In the past week and a half or so, we’ve only seen 3-4 adults tending to the babies and near fledgling.  This morning, there were lots of Purple Martins hanging around the Colony.  I have a brief video showing the number of Purple Martins hanging around the house this morning.  The bird you hear whistling is our African Grey in the background.  Towards the end of this first video, Berry, the near fledgling Purple Martin had jumped out of the nest once again.  It still couldn’t fly.

In this next video, we again rescued Berry since it was just flopping around in the grass.  This bird appeared to have problems with its coordination.  You can see that as it tries to balance on Leecy’s finger.

Now the bad news.  I had a weird feeling about all these Purple Martins that were hanging around the house.  I’m not sure if they were juveniles or adults, but I thought it strange that I hadn’t seen this many in the colony in a few weeks.

I mentioned to Leecy we should do another nest check this evening.  We found out Berry had died (no injuries that I could see).  I also smelled a bad smell coming from the housing.  When we checked the nest with 4 babies, 2 were dead, 1 was missing, and only 1 remained.  The two babies that were dead looked like they might have been attacked by something, although I haven’t seen any predators around.

Any ideas what may have happened?


Don & Kate - Sorry to hear about the misfortunes with the martins. Perhaps something is out of sorts with the drought, and something same across the martins looking for food that normally wouldn’t be there like some kind of water snake or something? We’re just grasping at straws.July 18, 2011 – 11:16 am

texdr - Don’t think it was a snake since all birds were still within the nesting area. Susan over at http://mypurplemartinblog.com/ suggested that one of the birds may have become dehydrated and that the others may also be suffering from the drought as well as the possibility that many of the more mature adults have started migrating.July 18, 2011 – 9:45 pm

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