Page 12 - Discover Summer 2021
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      M a r t ins C O NTINUED
      and cliffs. Their exposure to man eventually           cluster. Daily checks are recommended, and may
      resulted in a complete “tradition shift”, to the       involve removal of parasites, counting eggs and
      point now where they nest almost exclusively in        hatchlings, and even supplemental feeding of
      man-made structures. Humans pose no threat,            both nestlings and adult birds when necessary.
      provide ready opportunities for nesting, and           Their relatively tame nature allows the landlord
      discourage the presence of natural predators.          to handle the young and manage the nests
      For their part, Purple Martins are desirable           without fearing that the adults will abandon the
      neighbors who are both beautiful to observe, and       nest.
      effective at insect control.
                                                                Serious landlords keep detailed written
         The activities of Purple Martin                     records on their units and tenants, which
      conservationists have spawned an entire multi-         is valuable in detecting and correcting
      million dollar industry. Five major martin             problems, and also can help the Purple Martin
      house manufacturers now produce and sell               Conservation Association. By registering a
      approximately 125,000 units annually. Aggregate        colony and submitting detailed records to Project
      sales of Martin housing and related products           Martinwatch, participants can provide the
      are estimated at as much as 30 million dollars         PMCA with valuable data on population growth.
      annually. The Purple Martin Conservation
                                                                Prospective hobbyists are cautioned not to
      Association publishes an annual catalogue of
                                                             buy into some advertised claims that Purple
      these items, which also contains information and
                                                             Martins will consume up to 2000 mosquitoes
      advice for enthusiasts.
                                                             per day. This is a myth, perpetrated by vendors, in
         One interesting aspect of being a “landlord”        order to increase sales of housing units. In truth,
      is the need to regularly inspect and maintain          martins eat very few, if any mosquitoes. The
      the housing. Regular monitoring allows the             normal activity patterns of Purple Martins and
      prompt removal of the nests of Starlings and           mosquitoes overlap for a grand total of about 10
      House Sparrows, and also tips the landlord off         minutes per day, or about 1 percent of the total
      to the presence of predators and parasites, of         time that martins forage in a typical day. Purple
      which there are many. Martins regularly fall           Martins prefer larger, more substantive insects,
      prey to owls, hawks, and snakes. Established           such as butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and
      management techniques are used to combat               cicadas, just to name a few.
      these threats, including properly sized entrance
                                                                Therefore, don’t be misled into thinking that
      holes, and external predator guards.
                                                             establishing a Purple Martin colony will be an
         While some landlords prefer traditional             effective means of eradicating mosquitoes from
      bird-house type structures, others opt for either      your yard. Instead, consider it an opportunity to
      natural or artificial gourds. In any case, it is       help ensure their continued survival, with the
      crucial that the cavities have the proper features     added benefit of meeting some interesting new
      to discourage predators, as well as those that         neighbors.
      promote the safe and healthy development of the
                                                                To learn more about Purple Martins and the
                                                             Purple Martin Conservation Association, visit
         Housing is usually mounted on a vertical pole       them online at:
      that either telescopes downward, or employs a
      winch system that raises and lowers the housing

      10     Discover Smith Mountain Lake  SUMMER 2021
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