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July 21, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Purple Martins and a Wren Update

As part of last week’s bird walk, we got an up-close look at a Purple Martin colony. The Martins always nest in groups almost exclusively in man-made multi-unit birdhouses. The colonies require monitoring and one of the members of my bird club is a volunteer for a colony established at a local golf course.

Being a Purple Martin landlord means checking the birds several times a week, preventing competing species such as House Sparrows and Starlings from nesting in the compartments or harming the nestlings, and keeping the nests free of parasites. The multi-unit houses are on a retractable pole and can be lowered for nest monitoring.

The birds don’t mind humans and tolerated our presence while we observed their behavior and looked into their home. They roosted on or near the house while one of the other houses was lowered. We got to peek inside a few of the nests and to observe a young nestling up close. This little one is about 10 to 12 days old.

The Purple Martin is the largest of the North American Swallows. They can be found across most of the US and Southern Canada except for the interior mountain areas. They are migratory and spend their winters in Brazil. They return to the same nesting area each spring. This year they returned a few weeks early, probably due to our unusually warm weather.

Below is one of the females who was patiently observing the humans. The males are solid glossy black.

For more information and photos visit last year’s post from the Purple Martin presentation, which has become an annual event for my bird club.

Wren Update

I am happy to announce the birth of an unknown number of nestlings in my wren house. On July 11th I noticed the parents carrying bugs into the house, a good indication that there are little mouths to feed. After about 15 days the babies are ready to leave the nest.

This morning I saw both parents bringing yummy insects. The male has not deserted his mate, tried to start a second family or become a deadbeat dad as they sometimes do (wrens are polygamous). He’s been tending the nest box all week.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Louise / Jul 21 2012 5:28 am

    Your bird posts are always so fascinating Leslie. The purple martin house is astonishing. I wonder where the birds should be living?


    • Leslie / Jul 21 2012 8:17 am

      They enter the compartments through the half-moon shaped openings. The round holes are closed off.


  2. Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf / Jul 21 2012 6:06 am

    I love your bird pictures! You have really captured some awesome shots! That little nestling is adorable.

    Here’s my Snapshot post.


  3. Trish / Jul 21 2012 6:42 am

    Amazing bird photos! Leaving the nest at 15 days old seems pretty young, gak!


    • Leslie / Jul 21 2012 8:16 am

      The wrens grow fast, 15 days is about average. The Purple Martins stay in their nest about 4 weeks.


  4. gautami tripathy / Jul 21 2012 6:42 am

    Love the series of bird pictures. Adorable creatures….!!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  5. BermudaOnion / Jul 21 2012 7:38 am

    Wow, I’m amazed you can hold the purple martin baby like that. What a good wren daddy!


    • Leslie / Jul 21 2012 8:20 am

      Only the nest monitor is allowed to pick them up. He brings the house down twice a week to check for parasites and predators… so for the birds it’s kind of like living in a hotel with housekeeping.


  6. irene / Jul 21 2012 8:46 am

    I’m blown away that the Martins will allow humans to be involved. How civilized.


  7. laurelrainsnow / Jul 21 2012 9:20 am

    The purple martins are awesome! When I saw them (and the house), I was reminded of scenes from a movie called The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, in which the characters were setting up their birdhouse for the martins.

    I know…extraneous detail…lol

    The wrens are intriguing, too. Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog. And you should have seen my stacks before! lol


  8. Arti / Jul 21 2012 9:28 am

    What a wonderful shot that you could capture the feeding with the bug. These are precious photos, Leslie!


  9. Kailana / Jul 21 2012 9:31 am

    You get some wonderful shots! My father-in-law has swallows in his barn so basically I never step foot anywhere near it because of the smell… If he had a set-up like this it would be much better.


  10. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jul 21 2012 9:56 am

    The Martin house is such a great pick… and that baby – ahhhhh!


  11. Christine Harding / Jul 21 2012 10:24 am

    I do enjoy looking at your wonderful photos and reading the information – I love to read about wildlife in other places. My Snapshot is at


  12. Yay for the wrens!! And what a good daddy, too! I can’t wait to see pictures of the babies!


  13. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jul 21 2012 11:08 am

    That’s one beautiful bug brought back for supper.


  14. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Jul 21 2012 11:43 am

    Amazing that the swallows don’t mind people. Nice that the wren dad is sticking around so far. 🙂


  15. Bev@My Reader's Block / Jul 21 2012 2:33 pm

    Love the Martin apartment-style bird house! Great pictures, as always!

    Here’s my Snapshot.


  16. Marie / Jul 21 2012 4:20 pm

    Very cool! I’ve heard of Purple Martins and have seen lots of houses, but I didn’t know much about them. For example, I didn’t know they were swallows. Interesting! Now that I’ve seen a great photo of them, it’s pretty obvious. 😉 I also didn’t know that a Purple Martin landlord is required to monitor and care for the houses so often. Also interesting!

    The wrens are also very cool. I always learn so much from your bird posts. Thanks a lot for the information.


    • Leslie / Jul 21 2012 9:10 pm

      You can put up a house and not monitor it but there’s a good chance it will be taken over by House Sparrows or Starlings.


  17. Amy Peveto (@AmyPeveto) / Jul 21 2012 6:34 pm

    That baby bird has some features that only a mother could love. He’s got a ways to go until he looks as pretty as his parents. 🙂

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshots for today. Have a great weekend!


  18. Suko / Jul 21 2012 7:13 pm

    What wonderful photos! That baby bird is darling!!


  19. Paulita / Jul 21 2012 8:25 pm

    Okay, but what did the purple martins do before people started making houses for them? What’s their back-up plan? Here’s Mine


    • Leslie / Jul 21 2012 9:32 pm

      Centuries ago all Martins nested in natural cavities or abandoned woodpecker nests. Today only Martins west of the Rockies do so. American Indians were the first to provide housing by hanging up hollowed out gourds for the birds to nest in.

      There isn’t much of a backup plan for them. Starlings and house sparrows will compete with them for natural cavities and usually win. If humans stopped providing housing they might disappear from Eastern North America.


  20. Lisa H. (@AliveonShelves) / Jul 21 2012 8:46 pm

    Great pictures! That’s a pretty full birdhouse you’ve got.

    My Snapshot



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