Purple martin houses: Bird bander assists colony of the birds at Garlo
Master bird bander Jim Coffman this week banded the first young birds in the first nests of his new purple martin colony at Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve.
“I managed to band five of the nine purple martin young (Tuesday), which were about 15 days old, and in very good health,” he said.
The banding session turned into a bird education class when park visitors became curious.
“I had the help of a lady, Leslie Bogner, and her two son, Grant and Ethan,” he said. “They actually just wandered up while waiting for another child to finish the camp activities.”
Bogner agreed to take photos during the banding process.
“By the end of July, the first ones will have fledged, and by early August, the next ones will fledge,” he said.
Young purple martins remain in the nest, growing quickly for 25-36 days after they hatch, Coffman said.
A growing number birds is good for the park, he said.
He also banded bluebirds and tree swallows — all of which are excellent birds to have around for controlling the insect population.
Last winter, Coffman received permission from the Seneca County Park District board to place purple martin nests at Garlo preserve.
He bought 60 gourds and enlisted the help of friend to turn them into nest boxes.
“Actually, they’re almost preferred by the purple martins,” he said. “After they mature on the vine, those gourds have a natural skin to them.”
After the interiors dry and begin to rattle, he said, gourds are cut open to create an entrance for birds and to remove the seeds. Another hole is cut for a “service entrance” to allow the person monitoring the nest box access for banding and cleaning.
A good gourd for a bird house is about quarter-inch thick.
“It’s very sturdy, but delicate at the same time,” he said.
Each gourd then is soaked in copper sulfate to sterilize it, and holes are drilled in the bottom to allow water to drain. They added a “roof” at the entrance to help keep rain out of the nest.
The outside then is painted.
“We used a white, glossy latex,” he said.
The boxes were hung on an aluminum frame in early spring and guards were added to make it more difficult for predators to reach the birds.
At Garlo preserve, the boxes were placed not far from the cabins, but away from tall trees.
“I happen to believe Garlo park is the ideal place for purple martins,” Coffman said last winter.
And it turns out he was correct.
He was expecting a couple breeding pairs of birds the first year, which now are nurturing their young in nests.
“Next year you’ll see even more,” he said. “We’re well on our way to a colony.”