These 18 pairs of Purple Martins died during a prolonged period of cool/cold weather in May of 2002. DON'T LET YOUR PURPLE MARTINS DIE!!!  When faced with three or more days of consistently poor weather (continuous rain or temperatures continuously below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit), Purple Martins begin starving to death because they do not have anything to eat.  Purple Martins eat only flying insects, such as flies, beetles, dragonflies, midges, butterflies, and the like.  When it rains continuously or the temperature gets below 50 degrees, these insects become inactive and the air is deprived of the martins' only source of food. The only way to keep your martins from dying during these prolonged periods of foul, insect-less weather is to train them to eat large crickets, which can be purchased in bulk and shipped to you overnight.

Here it is in a nutshell: When martins have endured several days without food, they become desperate and will eat large crickets if you fling them into the air with a simple plastic spoon. You can also place the crickets on the porches of the martin housing, but flicking them into the air is much more effective in getting the martins to notice and eat them. So here's what to do. Call Fluker Farms at 1-800-735-8537 and order 1000 six-week old crickets. (1000 is the minimum purchase, and six-week old is the largest available). Have them shipped overnight by Federal Express or Airborne Express.  The crickets will cost $13.95 and the shipping will be $15.00 or so. If you have a large colony or plan to feed them through a long period of cold weather, consider ordering more, or consider ordering mealworms.  A martin will eat about 25 crickets per day. You can also try to buy crickets at a local petr shop but they will be smaller and more expensive.

The crickets will arrive LIVE in a cardboard box.  Put the whole box into a garbage bag and place it in the refrigerator or freezer for about 20 minutes.  This will knock out the crickets and make them easier to handle. (Trying to fling live crickets is difficult; they keep trying to escape.)

Locate your Purple Martins.  They may be hunkered down inside the housing. You may need to chase them out of the housing by lowering the house. Once they have landed on nearby perches, phone lines, etc..., place a cricket into the plastic spoon and catapult it (fling it) high and past the starving martins. You may need to fling several dozen before one or two martins starts to go after the flung crickets. But once one martin starts going after the crickets, the others will imitate and before you know it, they'll all be feeding. Once they have been trained to eat crickets, you can substitute GIANT mealworms and even scrambled egg! But you must start with crickets; this is because crickets look like grasshoppers - something that martins normally eat. The wings and legs are critical because theses body parts allow the martins to recognize the crickets as a potential food item!

IMPORTANT: If all else fails, you can also try placing crickets DIRECTLY ON THE PORCHES of the martin houses or gourds. You can even try placing crickets or other food items INSIDE the cavity near the entrance hole as a last resort.

IMPORTANT: With the increase of emergency and supplemental feeding, some martins at an untrained colony may be trained to eat egg without you being aware of it. Many landlords feed scrambled egg because it is cheaper and more readily available, so some martins are trained to eat scrambled egg. Try tossing (flinging with a plastic spoon) several marble sized chunks of scrambled egg. If there is a martin trained to eat egg (and they are hungry), they will go after the egg and others will imitate, just like the crickets.


Here are some articles that go into more detail about emergency foul-weather feeding of Purple Martins:

Train your martins to eat crickets and mealworms.

Emergency Cricket Feeding

Emergency Cold Weather Feeding in the Spring of 2005

Emergency and Supplemental Feeding of Purple Martins in Spring 2006

Check newspaper for weather forecast http://www.nws.noaa.gov, Monitor you birds closely during poor weather. Look for listless behavior and drooping wings. Your birds may resort to "communal cavity roosting" which means they pack themselves into one cavity for shared body heat. Don't wait too long to act. When martins start falling to the ground and dying, it's usually to late.,

If you are not going to feed, then don't lower the house, and hope for the best but check the housing as soon as the weather breaks and remove any dead martins that might be blocking the exit of live ones huddled inside.