Purple Martins are beloved birds. They’re known as harbingers of spring, arriving in Maine in mid-April as a most welcome sign of the changing seasons. They are aerial acrobats known for their great speed and agility in flight, and when approaching their housing, they will dive from the sky at great speeds with their wings tucked. But their numbers have been dramatically reduced as European Starlings and House Sparrows have successfully competed with them for nesting cavities. Throughout the Eastern United States, many people have been working to support and strengthen their nesting colonies.
In 2013, Purple Martins were discovered nesting in a small birdhouse in a Hampton, New Hampshire marsh. The following year, a group of Audubon volunteers placed a gourd rack on town land nearby. Since then, that Martin colony has grown and now serves as a model for York County Audubon to emulate. Dennis Skillman is a member of Seacoast/New Hampshire Audubon, and has been at the center of their work to expand the colony there. On Tuesday, March 21st, York County Audubon will be delighted to host his program on the success they’ve had, which has yielded a colony filled to capacity with over 40 young fledged. The program will be at 7 p.m. in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. Please join us. York County Audubon programs are free and open to all.
Purple Martins only nest in colonies, and are notoriously finicky about their choice of sites. A colony on private property in Kennebunk is the only one in Southern Maine. It’s extremely difficult to establish a new colony, but with the right steps, it has been possible to enrich existing ones. York County Audubon has been working with the Kennebunk Land Trust and the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge to identify potential local enrichment sites, and with New Hampshire Audubon and the Purple Martin Conservation Association to confirm best practices.