Authored by Gerry Luginbuhl
Scientists with the N. C. Museum of Natural Sciences will be banding Purple Martins at Prairie Ridge on Friday, June 13th from 9:30 to noon. They are inviting interested Wake Audubon members and others to come out to the colony site to watch and help with the banding. This is a great chance to see these birds up close and to observe the banding process, which also includes collecting data on the birds’ weights, wing lengths, and more.
The eastern U.S. population of Purple Martins is almost completely dependent on human-supplied nest houses and has been for over 100 years. The western population will use the nest houses, but also uses natural cavities. Because of the dependence of the eastern birds, Wake Audubon worked with the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Purple Martin Preservation Alliance to establish new breeding sites for Purple Martins in Wake County, including the Prairie Ridge Ecostation site. Wake Audubon helped to erect the Purple Martin nesting gourds at Prairie Ridge in the summer of 2004, too late for the birds to nest that year. Birds used the site in 2005, didn’t nest there in 2006, but have returned every year since then. This is their ninth season! It will be exciting to see how many of the current nesting birds have been previously banded, and if they are returnees to Prairie Ridge.
Purple Martins are voracious eaters of large aerial insects such as dragonflies. They catch their meals on the wing. They put on great displays of flight prowess and sometimes fly so high that it is hard to see them. This time of the year, the adults will be bringing lots of food to the nests for their rapidly growing broods. There will be lots of activity.
Prairie Ridge Ecostation is located at 1671 Gold Star Drive, Raleigh, NC.