Comic Relief: Purple Martin Migration in the Year 2204

A. P.  Arody
Purple Martin Propogation League
Pittsburgh, PA

    The Columbia News Tribune. Columbia, South Carolina, March 1, 2204. Once again spring has officially arrived in South Carolina . Today, the Progne Transport IV successfully touched down at Columbia International spaceport, carrying Dr. Paulo Hirundi from South America, to the Purple Martin Propogation League (PMPL) headquarters on the banks of Lake Murray along with 100,000 of the Purple Martins (Progne subis) that will be bred throughout the region this year. The Progne Transport IV is a restored, vintage Boeing-Airbus 77E77v, circa 2144, donated to the PMPL last year by TroyWorld Industries, who, following its acquisition of Gourds R Us in 2170, became, and remains, the largest supplier of Purple Martin hardware in North America. The Progne Transport Program (PTP), was introduced in the early 2100s, in an attempt to reduce martin mortality during their long migration.

Besides protecting the birds from bad weather, PTP also eliminates the need for large premigratory roosts, which were increasingly becoming problematic in North American urban centers, and along transportation corridors. (Accounts of problems associated with migratory martins displaying roosting behavior can be found in the historical record as far back as 2003.) Initially the novel concept of “migration management”, wherein martin growers (in those days known as “landlords”) could have their birds safely and efficiently transported to their wintering grounds overnight, was met with considerable skepticism. However, by 2170, a majority of Purple Martins in the South Atlantic region of North America had been transitioned to supersonic migration. “PTP has greatly increased our understanding of the migratory paths of this regions birds” said Mr. Knoll, the PMPL’s current executive director . “Having them all packed into several air vehicles makes it very easy to track them.” Dr, Hirundi adds, “ Now that virtually all martins in this region have successfully undergone the change, we think its only a matter of time until this practice becomes the norm for the species, continent-wide.”

Dr. Hirundi then turned his attention to the fleet of trucks and vans waiting to be loaded with birds, for transportation to their self contained, atmospherically controlled, reproductive centers, still nostalgically referred to by some employees here as “martin colonies”. In front of PMPL headquarters, a small but vocal group of people demonstrated against transporting martins to and from their wintering grounds using low altitude spacecraft. Their spokesperson, Aves Bumpo, distant relative to PMPL’s founder James Knoll, in recent years has started a grass roots campaign in an attempt to stem the popularity of martin migration management. “ My adoptive great-great- great-great-great-(etc., etc.) grandfather must be turning over in his grave, I tell you ! He never would have approved of this.”

Supporters within the group chanted in the background, “Fly martins fly ! Fly martins fly ! ” One person held a sign that read, “ Give them back their wings.” Director Knoll’s annoyance with the demonstration outside his office was apparent. “We have been seeing this every spring for the past few years.”, he said. “These people need to get real. Ages ago martins lived in old woodpecker holes in dead trees, scattered willy-nilly across the landscape. A return to those ancient and inefficient days is simply not going to happen. Similarly, South-Atlantic martins flying to South America on their own is now a story for the history books as well. The birds simply are not capable of doing it safely anymore. Weather patterns are too unpredictable. Roost locations have become too dangerous. They need our transports. Someday our martin linguists will break the communication barrier between man and martin, and I expect the first thing the martins will say to us is “Thank you. Oh thank you so much for PTP.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bumpo remained with the demonstrators outside most of the day. Later that afternoon he spoke briefly to reporters on the scene. “Look, we are trying to be reasonable about this, ” he said. “Contrary to Mr. Hirundi’s assertions, we are not a bunch of lunatics. We are not suggesting martins go back to living in trees and eating insects. Birdhouses and scrambled poultry eggs have sustained martins long enough now that everyone accepts that. We just think we should let some of the birds try to fly on their own again.”

A PMPL staffer, speaking anonymously, recalls that a few reports of free flying martins within the region come in to their offices every year, but none have been confirmed since 2197, when in July of that year, an adult male martin was documented in free flight near Gilbert, South Carolina. Local residents of that area became quite annoyed as their sleepy little town became overrun by martin growers from across the region, who converged on the area in the hopes of witnessing such a rare event.