Sunday, July 8, 2012

Banding Purple Martins

Connecticut Audubon Society joined the talented Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection banding crew from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 5 and banded all of Gazebo Phil’s Purple Martin chicks. CAS staff assisted DEEP staff and volunteers in lowering the gourd trees, removing the young ones from each gourd, transporting them to be banded, aged, weighed, and more. DEEP places a silver federal band with a unique number on each bird as well as specific color bands to identify individual birds from a distance – our birds are sporting red bands, as they did last year. The total number of chicks banded was 174, down a little from the 185 that were banded in 2011. 

However, this may be only because of the fact this year’s gourds had much older chicks on average at around the same date, and it is likely a handful had already fledged. While we were placing them back into the gourds, a few of the young took flight for the first time, sneaking out of their gourd and soaring through the sky. A couple others hopped on the ground, not quite ready, and were placed right back in their home. Additionally, two of the gourds had four egg nests, probably from young birds that arrive later than their older counterparts and have less experience in breeding. Unfortunately, we did find a couple hatchlings that had died in the nest as well. One of those chicks still had six more brothers and sisters in the gourd – a very large family! Having to feed so many young often ends up in the death of one or two chicks. Of course none of the chicks or adults died in this process, and all were quite safe, only a little agitated for a short period of time.

There were also plenty of dragonfly parts here there and everywhere. I identified Common Green Darner, Spot-winged Glider, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, and Black Saddlebags making up most of the Purple Martin prey flying around us with the birds. I also found a Red Admiral butterfly that was probably a lost meal. Let us hope we will have more band returns in the upcoming "fall" migration. During banding we learned from DEEP that one of last year’s chicks has a nest at Greenwich Point Park! This is the sort of information we hope to learn more frequently as time goes on with thousands of color-banded Purple Martins from across Connecticut. An upcoming post will show you another banded martin we found a little closer to "home"...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

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