Attempted Establishment of a New Purple Martin Colony by Displacement of a Nesting Pair from a Colony 1000 ft. Away

Ken Kostka
American Swallow Conservancy
514 Painter Ave.
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
Sept 1, 2022

Dedicated to the Preservation of the Purple Martin

My colony at left end of red line and my friends’ uncolonized site at right end, 1000 ft. distant

SUMMARY: In an attempt to establish a new Purple Martin colony in my neighborhood, 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, I displaced three pairs of gourd-nesting martins from my backyard colony while offering identical gourds on a rack in my friends’ orchard, 1000 ft. to the east. One pair re-nested at the new site and fledged 3 young. This lone nesting pair generated a large amount of martin activity by attracting many visitors. Whether a new colony has been established will be determined by whether multiple pairs breed at the new site in 2023.

Purple Martin colonies in the greater Pittsburgh area still uncommon. While having made a comeback over the past 20 years, there are still relatively few colonies in the four-county area around my home (Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, and Westmoreland). Since 2021, I ‘ve tried to help my friends who live nearby start a new martin colony. I knew having my active colony less than a quarter mile away would make it easier, but their orchard is somewhat tree-enclosed, so I knew it would be challenging. However, their orchard is also in a nearly direct line between my colony and the “lake-like” Allegheny River, where martins from my colony often forage, so I knew their site would get a lot of exposure to passing martins.

Orchard clearing with gourd rack

No martins were attracted to the gourd rack in 2021. I tried again beginning in late April of 2022, but none were attracted by late May, so I decided to displace several pairs from my own colony, 1000 ft. away. My backyard colony consists of a lone T-14 wooden martin house. I limit the number of Purple Martins in my wooden house to 8-10 nesting pairs because of its proximity to several neighbors. I am happy with a small colony, especially since I manage a large 40 pair colony 2 miles to the north at a local county park. My yard is fairly wide open. My colony is 12 years old and very popular with the martins since I do a lot of supplemental feeding. The house fills up with mainly ASY (2+ year old martins) pairs by late April.

View of gourd rack from the north

The 10 ft. high gourd rack is situated in an orchard 1000 feet away from my colony. This orchard, long and beautiful, gently slopes to a thickly wooded hillside that drops steeply to the Allegheny River 250 ft. below and 1/4 mile away. The gourd rack is in the center of the most open area in this somewhat tree-enclosed orchard. The overhead GoogleEarth photos of the site are 10 years old. Many of the large, tall pines just north of the gourd rack clearing in the GoogleEarth photo are now gone, creating an even larger clearing. The current photo to the left was taken from the the northern end of this clearing where the pines used to be. The clearing is approximately 65 ft. by 150 ft., with 25 ft. tall trees at the perimeter, but much taller 50 ft. trees (including pines) in all directions at a greater distance. There are several open areas nearby. (All ground level photos are current.)

My T-14 martin house

My strategy for starting the orchard colony in 2022 was to allow my T-14 to fill up with the usual 8-10 pairs in April, then hang 5 gourds under my T-14 and wait for new martins to settle into the gourds. Once the gourd-nesting martins had attracted mates and begun nest-building, I would remove the gourds, forcing the martins to seek out a new site. Hopefully one or two pair would choose to re-nest at my friends’ orchard site nearby, and move into an identical gourd in the gourd rack 1000 ft. away. I hoped to improve my chances of attracting a displaced pair to the orchard by employing the “Social Attraction” technique which involves broadcasting martin vocalizations and deploying martin decoys, among other things, in an attempt to convince investigating martins that a site is already colonized.

On May 1st, after all available compartments in my T-14 had filled up, I hung 5 large plastic gourds under my T-14. The martins using these gourds took supplemental feedings during the month of May, just like the ones nesting in the T-14.

By May 28th, three of the five gourds hung under my T-14 had attracted what I believed to be mated pairs, and I saw activity on all 5 gourds. However, only 1 of the gourds had an almost completely built nest, with green leaves being brought in, a sign that eggs would be laid soon. Therefore, I could not wait any longer, and removed all the gourds at noon, displacing all the gourd-nesting martins. This removal of course created confusion, with the displaced martins sitting on the gourd arms, the porches of unused (blocked) T-14 cavities, and the roof of the T-14 throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening. One big advantage of using gourds is that they can be removed entirely, causing the martins to disperse more quickly, I believe, as opposed to blocking a cavity of a martin house.

My backyard colony at 514 Painter Ave.

Although I did not originally plan to replace the gourds on the orchard gourd rack with the gourds which I was removing from my T-14, it made sense to do this since they already contained partially built nests (without any eggs), which the displaced martins might recognize. But the bigger advantage in moving the gourds, which I had not anticipated, was that two of the five gourds I hung under my T-14 were partially spray-painted different colors from a transplant project I had done in 2007. Two of the three pairs occupied these colored gourds. One gourd had it’s front painted gold – the other red. This was lucky – and may have proved pivotal. In retrospect, I wish I had color-coded all 5 gourds. The martins might associate the color with their nest, making them more likely to recognize and continue nesting in their gourds at the new site. Also, they might be more likely to continue nesting if their nest was moved to the new site along with the gourd.

Closeup of gourd rack at orchard site

I immediately took the gourds I had removed from my T-14 and placed them on the gourd rack in my friends’ orchard, 1000 ft. away, replacing 5 of the 6 gourds on that rack, which were of the same exact type (large white plastic gourds with Excluder entrance holes). I tried to orient them in approximately the same compass direction. Only one of the 5 gourds had a finished nest with green leaves – the gold-fronted gourd. The other two gourds which definitely had established pairs before being removed, a red-fronted gourd and an unpainted white gourd, had only trace amounts of nesting material, although the red gourd had a few green leaves.

I also immediately began continuous daytime broadcasting of Purple Martin dawnsong at the orchard site, and rearranged the decoys. In addition, I placed two unused T-14 sections on a chair and attached decoys to the porches. These T-14 sections were too low for nesting, but I hoped they would serve as another visual stimulus to the displaced martins, reminding them of my backyard colony site. They also served as a weatherproof place to store the smartphones which drove the portable bluetooth speakers that broadcast the dawnsong.

What follows is a day-to-day record of martin activity at the orchard site after the displacement. (Visits by other martins are in bold.)

May 29, 2022 In the morning, there are some still displaced martins hanging around my T-14, but it seems most of the displaced martins have dispersed. I believe removing the gourds altogether, rather than just blocking the entrance holes, expedited the dispersal.

1:00 PM My friend Jameson texts me that many martins are flying above the gourd rack!

2:00 PM When I arrive several hours later, I see two Purple Martins swooping around the gourd rack. An ASY-M landed on at least one gourd porch.

5:00 PM I arrive to check the food and water in the House Sparrow bait traps (situated under an apple tree 30 ft west of the gourd rack), thinking no martins are present, when an ASY-M flies off the porch of the gold-fronted, south-facing gourd.

May 30, 2022 88 F hot, sunny

10:15 AM I increased the volume on the portable dawnsong speakers, and a female martin appears on the porch of the gold-fronted gourd. I think she came out of the gourd when I turned the volume up. She did not flush when I approached. Eventually she flies off and an ASY-M came in and landed on the gourd porch. He eventually takes off and they both flew around.

8:26 – 9:00 PM Two martins are buzzing around – flying above the orchard canopy, occasionally dipping down towards the gourds. I hear bluejays and grackles giving loud mobbing calls above a patch of tall pines just north of the site. Soon I see 3 martins, and eventually 5 circling around. A Great Horned Owl (GHO) flies out and lands at the top of a 50 ft.all pine tree about 90 ft. southwest of the gourd rack. The martins join in the mobbing. The owl soon flies off to the south and the martins disappear. I think the displaced martins are roosting in trees because of the hot weather and because they are not yet comfortable roosting in the gourd rack.

View of gourd rack from the south

May 31, 2022

10:00 AM A pair of martins, ASY-M and F (age unknown), are bringing green leaves into the gold-fronted gourd! There is a wren entering all the gourds, so I put up a gourd on a shepherds hook under an apple tree 30 ft west of the gourd rack. The wren eventually nests in this gourd.

3:00 PM I put a better predator guard on the gourd rack pole, as well as bird netting to stop any snakes. I see 2 martins flying above the site.

8:30 – 9:00 PM I did not see any martin activity at the orchard site.

June 1, 2022

8:00 AM an ASY-M is sitting on the inside porch with just his head looking out. Later in the afternoon, I checked for eggs but found none. There was a big storm later in the day.

June 2, 2022 slightly overcast. a bit cool

8:00 AM The pair was inside their (gold-fronted) gourd and eventually exited. I tried supplemental feeding by tossing egg while the female was sitting inside looking out but she did not go after any egg. Eventually, I counted six martins circling above site at about 40 feet. I kept tossing egg and one did eventually go after a piece but veered away at the last second.

11:15 AM Female exits gold-fronted gourd. ASY-M brought green leaf and female snuck back in when I wasn’t looking. As I was leaving, I saw 2-3 martins circling. Owl was being mobbed in the pines to the north.

1:30 P M Male brings green leaf. Female comes out of gourd and snaps up a piece of tossed egg I had intended for the male! Later, I see a non-ASY-M martin sitting at the very top of a 50 ft. pine about 175 ft. south of the gourd rack. Is it the female?

3:30 PM I removed the decoys from the gourd rack and put them on the porches of two T-14 sections that I have sitting on a table by the firepit about 30 ft south of the gourd rack. The portable speakers playing the dawnsong are also placed on these T-14 sections.

5:15 PM Male flying around and went after a piece of tossed egg but veered off. Female sitting inside gourd. I tossed egg to lure her out but she stayed put.

I sat on a chair in the landowners fire pit (which is about 30 ft. south of the gourd rack) and female did not flush. I want her to become accustomed to people sitting in the fire pit area because the landowners occasionally use it for parties and I do not want their presence to scare the martins.

View of my colony, orchard site, and the Allegheny River

8:15 PM cool evening and it was rainy today so I tried tossing egg again and 1 martin took a piece. There were 3 flying around so I’m not sure which one. I suspect the pair will spend the night in the gourd. It definitely seems like martins from my site are visiting more frequently since the pair is here.

June 03, 2022

11:15 AM Female enters gourd as male ushers her in. Several minutes later, I hear the ASY-M emit what I believe to be a vocalization intended to recruit other martins to the site. I call it the “screaming banshee” vocalization, and I soon see 3 other martins following him around at a height of about 100 ft. above the site. He is recruiting! I’m not sure if these 3 other martins are from my colony or not but it is really cool! I see as many as 5 other martins flying very high – about 200 ft. – and he continues the banshee call. There is still time for martins to start nesting or renesting, so I am hopeful that at least one other pair will choose to nest in the gourd rack.

Yesterday, a couple who lives about 1500 ft. north of the site, and been trying to attract martins for several years, said they’ve had martins visit twice in the past week. She says these visits inspired them to get rid of the House Sparrows! I think his was the first time they had seen martins in many years.

June 04, 2022

11:15 AM Female inside gourd looking out, and eventually flew out. No other martins around. I turned the volume up on the dawnsong speakers.

June 05, 2022

11:30 AM The pair is in the gourd. Eventually the male flew out and brought back a green leaf. Two other martins are flying around. One briefly landed on a north-facing gourd porch. When all the martins are away, I lower the rack to check for eggs and found 2 eggs in the gold-fronted gourd!

June 06, 2022

11:30 AM 2 martins cavorting above the site.

June 07, 2022 62 degrees. rain

1:00 PM It has been raining all morning, so I try tossing pea-sized chunks of scrambled egg. The female is looking out of the entrance hole and when I toss the first piece, she emerges and eats 7-8 pieces of tossed egg! Male not present. I also fed a lot of egg at my backyard T-14 colony.

7:00 PM Just before a big rain, I fed the female 4 pieces of egg and fed the male 1 piece. He didn’t seem very hungry. Perhaps he was eating egg back at my colony site!

June 08, 2022

8:00 AM Toss-fed female 4-5 pieces of egg. Male not around.

View of the gourd rack from the west

2:00 PM Male exits gourd. 3 martins flying around. When there are no martins in sight, I lower the gourd rack and find FOUR eggs in the nest of the gold-fronted gourd! [No more eggs were laid, so I’m assuming she is an SY-F (“subadult”, first-year breeder, meaning she was born last season)

June 09, 2022 60’s cloudy and a bit cool.

12:00 PM Male emerged from gourd and ate 2-4 pieces of egg. Then the female showed up and ate a bunch too. They both ate a good bit! The female chased a House Sparrow off the gourd rack quite aggressively. Perhaps it’s been trying to enter her gourd. I reset the House Sparrow wire bait traps.

7:30 PM I toss-fed the female 5-6 pieces of egg and the male 2 pieces. My colony on Painter Ave. (1000 ft away) have been taking tossed egg to their nestlings all day.

June 11, 2022

12:15 PM Pair inside gourd. Female exits; male stays inside. I notice that the tall grass around the firepit area (25-30 ft. to the south of the gourd rack) has been weed-whacked. Erica and Jameson (the property owners) have talked about having a get-together tonight around a fire that night. (The firepit is only 30 ft. from the gourd rack) At first, I was unconcerned, remembering how, when I worked at the Purple Martin Conservation Association, campers would have gatherings around fires at similar distances from the large colony at Indianhead Landing on the shores of Edinboro Lake, without bothering the martins. However, I later realized that that was a large established colony where the martins were accustomed to the activity. Here, this was a lone pair nesting for the first time, and I was worried that the nightime activity could spook the incubating female off her eggs and cause abandonment, and I relayed these concerns to the landowners. But moving the firepit or foregoing the get-together was not to be, so we decided to take a “whatever happens, happens” approach. It would be a learning experience either way. I did suggest they avoid going near the gourd rack at night. I also consulted with Jamie Hill, Founder of the PMCA, and he said that even if the female were scared off the eggs on this warm summer night, so early in incubation, the eggs would not be harmed. I did not attend the get-together but I did walk down very late and briefly observed while the party was still going. It was pretty loud, with guitar music and general revelry – and I have to admit I went to bed a bit worried.

June 12, 2022

My fears were apparently unfounded, as the pair is still present and attending the nest! In retrospect, I’m glad the landowners didn’t cancel or relocate the firepit gathering since I learned the martins will tolerate such activity. Adam Troyer of Conneautville, PA, suggested that the martins may have been accustomed to noise at night since martin roosts in South America are sometimes very noisy. The roost can form in the trees above crowded city streets or in oil refineries. I wonder, also, if all of my supplemental feeding and management activity helped to accustom the martins to general human activity and further bond them to the site, making them more tolerant of this unusual nigh-time activity. I fed the pair of martins on at least four separate occasions several days prior to the party, and was present daily while starting, adjusting, or ending the dawnsong, in addition to trapping House Sparrows nearby.

June 13, 2022

I finally caught the House Sparrows that were snooping around the gourd rack and attempting to nest in an unused gourd.

June 21, 2022

12:30 PM The male exits. After I’m sure neither parent is present, I lower the gourd rack and find that 1 egg has hatched!

3 day old nestlings inside gold-fronted gourd

June 22, 2022

12:30 PM I do a nest check and find 3 hatchlings!

6:00 PM I do another nest check after a big windstorm and the nestlings are fine. I reorient or substitute several unused gourds so that they all face a more open direction (see diagram)

June 23, 2022

12:15 PM Another ASY-M is snooping around the gourd rack!

8:30 PM As it is starting to get dark, I count 6 martins flying in the sky above the area of the gourd rack. I realize an owl is nearby and it eventually flies off in a northerly direction. I see or hear owls quite often in this orchard. There are quite a few tall pine trees just north of the site and I suspect there must be an owl nest nearby. I have noticed on several occasions that when the male exits the gourd, he flies UNDER the apple tree 70 ft. to the south. There is about 6 ft. of clearance under the tree and it must be easier to exit the area of the gourd rack by doing this rather than climbing steeply.

June 24, 2022

12:30 PM Found 1 mite on a nestling. Saw a House Sparrow snooping around, so I set the bait traps again but did not catch it.

June 25, 2022

12:45 PM All 3 nestlings look very healthy. I saw 4 martins flying around. I reset the sparrow bait traps.

June 26, 2022

12:20 PM Both parents inside gourd. When they exit, I did a nest check. All 3 nestlings look very healthy. I removed the old, unhatched egg. It was infertile.

June 27, 2022

12:00 PM All 3 five day old nestlings look very fat and happy, There are 4 martins flying around.

My friend Jameson and his kids with the 15 day old nestlings born at their orchard site.

June 28, 2022

12:30 PM I saw a pair of Cliff Swallows (I think) flying above the site.

June 29, 2022

6:00 PM Nest check – all good.

July 02, 2022

12:30 PM The 3 ten day old nestlings are doing well. Saw 4 martins at the site – male was giving alarm call.

July 04, 2022

12:00 PM All 3 young, now 12 days old, are doing well. Interestingly, there has been a LOT of activity at my backyard colony site, 1000 ft. away- way more than usual. I had 2 very late nests at my colony – much later than ever in the past 12 years. (I saw martins as late as Aug. 31st!, While one of these very late nesting pairs was a renest, I believe one of these pairs may very well have been displaced martins that re-nested in a T-14 compartment after being displaced from their gourd. (I reopened several unused T-14 cavities sometime on or after June 22 that had been closed on May 28th, the displacement day.)

July 06, 2022

2:00 PM Saw 4-5 martins flying above and around gourd rack. I notice how the parents circle above the orchard canopy and swoop down steeply when coming in to feed nestlings. When leaving, they seem to have zero problems climbing steeply to clear the apple tree 50 ft south of the gourd rack. Sometimes, they fly under the apple tree, which has about 6 ft. of clearance.

7:30 PM Again, I see 4-5 martins flying in the area of the gourd rack.

July 07, 2022

3:00 PM Nestlings are 15 days old and look very healthy. I did a nest replacement to rid the gourd of any nest parasites. This just means removing the old, sometimes parasite-infested nest material and replacing it with 2-3 inches of chopped straw or soft white pine needles.

July 09, 2022

12:30 PM the 3 nestlings are fat and happy. They scolded me when I removed them to take a photo. There are 4 martins flying around.

July 13, 2022

5:30 PM The 3 nestlings look good.

8:30 PM An owl (GHO) in the pines flies off when I approach, as I count 6 martins flying around. Back at my colony, I counted 20-25 martins come in for the night. (This includes fledged young. Six nests have fledged.)

July 15, 2022

2:00 PM I decided to try tossing 5-6 giant mealworms to the ASY-M. He caught some but did not take any into the gourd.

July 18, 2022

1:00 PM 6 martins flying around. 3-4 ate some tossed giant mealworms. It is raining lightly.

July 20, 2022

1:30 PM 5-6 martin flying around. The nestlings are 28 days old today (the day they normally fledge) but I don’t want to cause premature fledging. The ASY-M parent scolds me when I go near the gourd rack. I tried tossing mealworms but no martins were interested.

8:00 PM 6-7 martins flying around.

8:30 PM 8 martins flying around the orchard area in a group.

July 24, 2022

2:00 PM ZERO martins present during nestcheck.

8:30-8:45 PM Only 1 martin (non-ASY-M) calling and circling.

Aside from the evening of the 24th, I did not have the opportunity to be at the gourd rack in the evenings when the fledged martins (and parents) would have been due to come in for the evening.

In late July or early August, I did find one dead juvenile martin in an unused gourd. I assume it was a fledgling from the gold-fronted gourd.

DISCUSSION: While I cannot definitively prove that the pair I displaced from my colony was the same pair that nested in the orchard gourd rack (since they were not banded) there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence to suggest they were the same pair. First, the pair appeared at the orchard site the day after I displaced multiple pairs from my colony. Second, the male was ASY, just like the male that was displaced from my colony. Third, they used the same color-coded, gold-fronted gourd that was removed from my colony. Fourth, they seemed rather tame, and took multiple supplemental feedings just like the pair that was displaced from my colony.

SUMMARY: On May 28th, I displaced 3 pairs of gourd-nesting martins from my colony and placed their gourds on a gourd rack in my friend’s orchard, 1000 ft. away. The next day, many martins were seen investigating the orchard site, and one pair moved into their transplanted gourd at the new site. By June 7th, they had laid 4 eggs in their gourd and on June 22, they had hatched 3 nestlings. The 3 nestlings fledged sometime between July 21 and July 24.

Of course I will not know until 2023 if I was successful in establishing a new colony, since one pair is not a colony. But several facts make me optimistic. First, there were multiple visits by other martins over the course of the 2 month period during the successful nesting of this lone pair. On at least 20 occasions, anywhere from 1-7 additional martins (usually 2-3) were seen flying around the area above the gourd rack. These may have been martins from my colony, the colony 1 mile north, other colonies, or non-breeding floaters. They may have been nesting or non-nesting martins. and since I was only present at the orchard site a fraction of the time, I think it is reasonable to assume that there were many other martins that visited the site when I was not present. One breeding pair attracts a lot of interest from other martins!

View of gourd rack from the east

I believe attracting a lot of visitors is key for a lone pair to establish a colony the following year. When I established the colony in my backyard in 2011, the lone pair had many visitors, and in 2012, there were 12 breeding pair! Similarly, in 2005, when a lone pair nested at the USACE Lock 4 colony in Natrona, PA, after being displaced from their T-14 wooden martin house at Saxon Golf Course near Saxonburg, PA, many martins visited the site, even though the closest colony was 8 miles away!. Here is an excerpt from that article: “Perhaps most amazing is the fact that a total of AT LEAST 17 additional martins visited the Lock 4 breeding site on at least one occasion between June 17th and August 28th, demonstrating that one breeding pair of martins acts as a magnet in attracting other martins. Many of these martins were frequent visitors to the site. It will be interesting to see if any breed there next season.” 6 pair bred at the Lock 4 site in 2006! (3 successfully and 3 unsuccessfully). In fact, the original banded male was not one of the martins that returned in 2006, and yet six pairs attempted to nest!

The martin pair at the new site accepted supplemental feedings on multiple occasions. Could this supplemental feeding have contributed to their breeding success? Could the fact that they became accustomed to these feedings make them more likely to return to the new site in the following year?

Factors that may have contributed to the pair accepting the new location of their gourd:

Close-up of
gold-fronted gourd

Advanced nest. Of the three pairs displaced, the only pair that stayed with their transplanted gourd and nested at the nearby site was the pair with an advanced nest that was ready to receive eggs. The other 2 pairs had scant nests in the early stages of construction. Perhaps the advanced nest was a sign of a strengthened pair-bond which increased their chances of staying together and staying with the nest.

Color-coded gourd. Also noteworthy is the fact that their gourd was color-coded. The front was spray painted gold. This may have been key in allowing them to recognize their gourd in its new location. Might they have moved into a non-color coded white gourd if their gourd wasn’t available. Yes, but I think the color-coding was a big factor.

Adult male. The fact that the male was ASY may also have been significant. Adult males are more attractive to females, and he may have been more effective than a subadult male in convincing the female to stay with the transplanted gourd.

I do not plan to hang any gourds at either of the two nearby colony sites in 2023. Hopefully this will insure that the returning pair and any visitors or displaced gourd-nesting martins in 2022 will nest at the new site.

One possible disadvantage of the orchard site is the stark presence of Great Horned Owls. Owls were spotted on multiple occasions, so much so that it is possible they may have been nesting in one of the nearby tall pines. Martins participated in mobbing the owls on 2 or 3 occasions.

A few words about the “social attraction” element of the project: I feel that one important factor in getting the displaced martins to accept the orchard site may have been that it was open and available to them even when they began nesting in my backyard colony, allowing them to become familiar with it. Not only did they encounter the site when flying towards the river to forage, but I played the same dawnsong vocalizations at both sites and deployed decoys at the site. I probably should have put some decoys on my active T-14 as well! My point – they may not have adopted the orchard site if the gourd rack was not put up until after the displacement.

PLEASE NOTE:: Trapping, banding, and transport of Purple Martins or their eggs requires state and federal wildlife permits.

POST SCRIPTS: Adam Troyer suggested raising the gourd rack from its current 10 ft. height to make it more attractive to other martins next season, considering the somewhat tree-enclosed nature of the orchard. I gave this a lot of thought and feel it is an excellent idea. Therefore, I am adding 6 feet to the rack. The gold-fronted gourd will sit at a height of 16 ft. in 2023, rather than 10 ft. At first, I thought the drastic increase in height might put off the returning pair (assuming they both return), but I felt it would not, and that it was important to make the site more appealing to other martins investigating the site in 2023. I will also continue to use the social attraction technique in 2023. I think a significant portion of the overflow from my backyard colony will go to the orchard site in 2023, considering it was an active site in 2022. In December of 2022, seven additional large dead pine snags were cut down from the area just north of the gourd rack! This removal has created an even larger open area north of the rack. In fact, there is now a 120 ft. long by 60 ft. wide “corridor” just north of the rack, and the land owner plans to remove even more!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Kostka has been involved with Purple Martins since 1981 when he built a martin house in 10th grade woodshop. He was a writer and research assistant for the Purple Martin Conservation Association from 1999-2003, where he played a key role in developing an emergency feeding technique that has saved 1000’s of martins from starvation during martin-killing weather in Pennsylvania and nationwide. In addition to his backyard colony, he manages three other colonies in the Pittsburgh area, a 20 pair colony at Saxon Golf Course near Saxonburg, PA, a 30 pair colony at Crooked Creek Park near Ford City, and a 40 pair colony at Harrison Hills County Park in Natrona Heights, PA, about 1 mile north of his home. He established 3 of these colonies and has managed them for many years. The orchard site is also adjacent to the property where he grew up and tried to establish a martin colony for 27 years, without success, making him especially motivated to make this project succeed!

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