Western Purple Martins

We are fortunate to have Western Purple Martins nesting on Mayne Island during the summer!¬†They are using nest boxes mounted on pilings in the water in Bennett Bay, beside the Mayne Island Resort’s dock, and in Miners Bay on the government dock. The nest boxes are Mayne Island’s contribution to the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program coordinated by GBEARS, the Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society, with support from many sponsors and volunteers.

The western subspecies of Purple Martin is at risk in BC, because their numbers declined drastically in the last half of the 20th C. They have been displaced from nesting cavities and boxes on land by House Sparrows and Starlings. Changes in building design and habitat loss associated with land development also have decreased their nesting opportunities. The BC purple martin stewardship project is helping the birds recover by providing nest boxes mounted on pilings over the water, where competition from starlings and sparrows is minimized. Mayne Island’s purple martin colonies join more than 50 others on the east side of southern Vancouver island and the coastal lower mainland.

Purple Martins spend the winter in South America and return to North America to breed in late spring. They are tireless insectivores, beautiful in flight and a pleasure to see and hear. The photo shows a handsome adult male on the porch (with a band on his leg) and a female on the top of their nest box. GBEARS graciously allowed us to use this photo, which was taken by Carley Colclough (July 2004). If you click on the audio button, you’ll hear a sample of their delightful chatter. We are indebted to John Neville, who kindly allowed us to use this recording from his CD, Bird Songs of Canada’s West Coast (1999) [http://www.nevillerecording.com].

For more information about the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program, visit the “projects” section of the GBEARS website [www.georgiabasin.ca]. For more information about the project on Mayne Island, contact Herbie or Bernard Rochet Bernard Rochet .

Listen to the song of the Western Purple Martin