Indiana Fledgling Spotted in SW Pennsylvania


From: Ken Kostka,, Purple Martin Preservation Alliance, Natrona Heights, PA

 In mid-July of 2000, during a routine Friday evening stop at Moraine State Park in southwestern PA, where I manage a 50 pair colony site, I spotted a martin wearing an interesting leg band while looking them over with a high power spotting scope. It was a hatching-year martin (recently fledged), and the type of band indicated that it had fledged from a colony site in the state of Indiana.  Reading the markings on these tiny bands can be difficult, especially in marginal lighting, and the light but steady rain and unseasonably chilly temperature were causing me to retreat to the car to wipe off the lens of the scope quite frequently.  The banded fledgling would occasionally take off and be gone from time to time, causing my heart to skip a beat; I really wanted to get that number, and I my heart was pounding so fast that it was hard to be steady! The banded martin hung out mainly on the top perch of a T-14.  There were many other martins perched in the very tall treetops at the edge of the lake, and on the electric lines nearby.  But it reappeared enough times for me to get all the numbers, and, as I suspected, this bird had been banded in the state of Indiana!  It had fledged from the colony site of Joe Bontrager of Ligonier, IN on June 24th, 2000, and had made its way some 300 miles ESE to the Moraine State Park colony site in Pennsylvania, where I spotted it in the late afternoon of July 14th, 2000, only 20 days later.    

            I thought it was interesting to see a fledgling so far from its natal colony site, and in so short a time.  I had driven through a hellacious thunderstorm with strong winds on my way to the park, and I wondered if this weather event played some part in the birdís appearance so far from home.  We know fledglings will travel great distances prior to migration, but it seemed a bit unusual for a fledgling from Indiana to have traveled east to Pennsylvania.  It will be interesting to see if it breeds in the area (assuming it survives its migration to Brazil and back).

 Ken Kostka

             Thanks to Master birdbander Terry Carter of Arlington Heights, Illinois
 under whose permit this martin was banded as a nestling.