Monday, July 6, 2009

Purple Martin Territory

He may be a mild-mannered UPS driver during the day, but this hometown fellow's passion is being a Purple Martin Landlord. He's on a mission to educate and inform others as to the enjoyment of providing a sanctuary for these unique birds.

Dick Wallace was born and raised in Papillion, NE, graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1977. He moved to O'Neill that year, farming until 1984 when he became employed by United Parcel Service.

Wallace first became interested in Purple Martins while still living in Papillion. He said his parents tried unsuccessfully for years to attract the birds, and since he "loves a good challenge", he first decided to try his hand at attracting them in 1992. It took five frustrating years before two pair finally took up residence in his backyard, as Dick informed me that the birds have to come from an already established colony. At present, Dick has 24 gourds (for nesting) and one Purple Martin house. He also has helped approximately eight other town residents install plastic nesting gourds in their yards and jump started residents in six surrounding towns with their own Purple Martin nesting sites.

Purple Martins winter over in Brazil and their migration progress in the spring is avidly followed by enthusiasts who log onto . Maps record sightings as the birds migrate northward to the previous year's nesting sites. Generally, the Purple Martins arrive in our area around April 1st. After the breeding, hatching and fledging is complete, the birds meet up with other area groups with a final departure by September 15. They do not nest in Brazil, rather that time is spent for molting.

Wallace frequently lowers the houses for inspection and to aid in his record keeping. He records the sex of the birds, what gourd they are in, number of eggs and how many successfully hatched, sex of babies, etc.

Tracking numbers on each bird's leg band enables researchers to track migration patterns.

We marveled at the ingenuity of the nesting material. Wallace provides the straw, and the birds line the nests with these fresh, green leaves. Experts believe the leaves aid in keeping the egg shells moist. Below: Female with newly hatched babies.

I asked Wallace, "Why Purple Martins?" He wasn't quite sure how to describe his admiration for the birds, but he said, "I am intrigued by their migration patterns---how they fly all the way up here from Brazil; they are graceful, soothing, and calming." "I enjoy just sitting and watching them."

And the final question: Why O'Neill? Wallace says we have a 'community atmosphere' here. "Everyone knows everybody, people wave, and the New Year's baby is born in July..." He said he "wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life" and this town has a "more laid back, more friendly atmosphere." He feels that there are lots of opportunities here for employment--"not a six-figure income, but jobs that will put food on the table."


1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting story. It's amazing how these brds migrate so far.


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