CLEWISTON -- Purple Martins have been flocking to a gourd nest rack in eastern Hendry County at Bo Pelham Park for just over a year. The Hendry-Glades Audubon Society along with Hendry County Special Districts Coordinator, Tommy Vaughan, and Hendry County Road and Bridge employees, worked together to erect a a brand new Troyer 6 gourd nest rack in March of 2020. The nests have been monitored by Hendry-Glades Audubon’s Stephen Buczynski, and FGCU student, Christopher King.
According to the Audubon’s field guide, Purple Martins are about 7 ½ inches long and weigh only about 2 ounces. Adult male Purple Martins are a dark glossy blue/black color across their entire body. While females have a duller black/brown back with a lighter grey or whitish front. First year male purple martins resemble females but begin to show purple feathers and a darker throat as they mature.
Purple Martins are the largest of the North American Swallows which includes other familiar species here in south Florida such as Northern Rough-Winged Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Barn Swallows.
“Purple Martins are comfortable around humans and seem to prefer to be close to us. Early European settlers to the New World noticed purple martins taking up residences in gourds hung to dry by Native Americans they encountered. Realizing the value of these birds for both eating large numbers of insects and sheer enjoyment listening to their sweet gurgling calls and watching their aerial acrobatics, the new settlers took up this practice as well providing housing for the purple martins,” Buczynski reported.
“Purple Martins are cavity nesters. In the western part of the US, Purple Martins nest in vacant woodpecker holes in trees. However, in the eastern US, due to the close association with the Native Americans and the subsequent loss of old growth forest habitat that provided old, dead, standing trees with woodpecker holes, Purple Martins in the eastern US are now nearly completely dependent on humans for nests,” he explained.
Being migratory birds, Purple Martins first arrive in Florida as early as January and moving northward through the eastern United States and into southern Canada by May. They breed in North America during spring and early summer, returning to South America in the late summer and fall.
“Besides just being fun to watch, Purple Martins provide important benefits to the ecosystem and for people too!”Buczynski described. “Their diet includes many flying insects and agricultural pests that are detrimental to crops. The Purple Martin meal menu may include dragonflies, moths, butterflies, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, midges, stinkbugs, flying ants, and more…all caught and eaten while in flight! Purple Martins also obtain all of their water while flying. They skim the surface of ponds and scoop up water with their lower bills.”
“So stop by the park and get to know your new neighbors!” Buczynski urged.
Visitors to the park can find the Purple Martin housing immediately upon arrival, at W.C."Bo" Pelham, Jr. Park, as the nest rack is adjacent to the parking area. The park is located on 1700 Red Rd. In Clewiston.
If you would like to know more about Purple Martins check out the Purple Martin Conservation Association and their website at www.purplemartin.org.
If you would like to volunteer with nest monitoring or learn more about the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society, you may contact Steve Buczynski at 863-233-3528 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Hendry-Glades Audobon website: hendrygladesaudubon.org or connect with them on Facebook and Instagram: hgaudubonsociety