Operation Martin-Start II: New Beginnings
Ken Kostka
Purple Martin Preservation Alliance
Export, PA

    We  believe that the future of widespread Purple Martin recovery and repopulation in southwestern Pennsylvania and throughout their northern range lies in the establishment of new colonies.  The PMPA has attempted, without success, to establish new colonies at over a dozen sites in a four-county test area since 1999. Single pair breeding attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, have occurred at several sites, but with no new colonies established. The cold weather event of 2002 that killed martins at many colonies in the area was a definite setback, but breeding success has been good in 2003 and 2004.

    In an effort to establish new sites, we propose to limit the number of cavities at existing sites to the number of breeding pairs that populated those sites in 2004. In other words, a site that had 50 breeding cavities but only 30 pairs of martins would be limited to 30 cavities - the same 30 cavities that the martins bred in last year. It is hoped that any colony growth would be diverted to establish new sites. Of course, if a landlord wishes to reduce the number of cavities at an existing site, and force adults to seek out new sites, that would be appreciated as well. We ask that colony managers limit the number of available cavities they make available this year. Instead of growing an existing site, why not take on the challenge of establishing a new site somewhere?

    The management of existing colonies is of the utmost importance in this ongoing recovery effort. Since most martins return to breed within an area of approximately 50 miles of their birthplace, there is perhaps no single more important factor in the widespread recovery of martins than their breeding success at already established colonies. We applaud the efforts and ongoing dedication of long-time landlords. Of course, the more landlords who choose to limit their colony size, the better the chances of forcing SY martins to seek out unestablished sites for nesting. To see a map of established colony locations, go to Maps\MapIndex.htm