[Tweeters] Re: Subject: Do nest box programs help establish Purple Martin pairs in natural cavities?

stan Kostka lynn Schmidt lynnandstan at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 4 13:11:11 PST 2008

Hi Kelly,

Sorry for the delay in responding to that email you sent me last
week. I have no information on the snag nesters near the Centralia
Steam Plant other than what has been posted to Tweeters.

Regarding the subject line of your post, to the best of my
knowledge, no band returns or recoveries exist of a nestbox fledged
martin having ever bred in a natural cavity. But I suspect they
would and do, as long as suitable snag habitat exists within a
reasonable dispersal range of the nestbox site. I dont have the
specifics in front of me at the moment, so going from memory here,
I do know that a banded second year male was scoped investigating a
snag cavity at Halverson on Fort Lewis some years ago, other
unbanded pairs were breeding in different cavities in the same snag,
and in another nearby snag, we never observed direct breeding
behavior by the banded SY male on that one visit, and unfortunately
that snag went down in a storm the following winter. Ive color
banded quite a few nestbox martins in Spanaway over the years, but
never have had the time to do a thorough search of the nearby known
snag sites on FL to know for sure if any showed up there. We do
know with certainty that martins do not imprint on cavity type,
nestbox and gourd fledged birds show up in an assortment of
incidental cavities, ie rot pockets and ledges and old pipes on old
waterfront structures. We also know with certainty that martins do
not imprint on habitat type, that is, a bird fledged from a nestbox
on an inland prairie will disperse 80 miles and breed in a nestbox on
an intertidal area. And we know with certainty that the Columbia
River birds are dispersing into the Puget Sound and vice versa, so
those steam plant birds could have come from just about anywhere.

I'm glad to see you have your martin juices flowing again, missed
seeing you at the working group meetings past few years. Since you
read Tweets you likely know that martins for the most part got
clobbered by the weather this year in this region, pairs down 70% in
the north Sound, best site was only down 50%, numbers way down lots
of other places in WA except one site Ive been told that had a slight
increase. And, reproduction was dismal as well at the sites I
banded, so most likely another reduction will occur next year, no
matter what the weather.

And speaking of nestboxes, and weather, here's an interesting
thing, the number of nesting pairs of western bluebirds in our small
north Snohomish County project tripled this year, amazing to me that
such a thing could happen in the same weather that killed so many
martins. One reason for sure is that bluebirds are regular ground
foragers, but also we observed bluebirds feeding salal berries to

I'd be happy to hear if you come up with anything else about martins
in the Centralia area.

Stan Kostka
lynnandstan at earthlink.net
Arlington WA

Subject: Do nest box programs help establish Purple Martin pairs in
natural cavities?
From: "Kelly McAllister" <mcallisters4 AT comcast.net>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2008 18:14:41 -0800
Prompted by an inquiry on the closest nesting Purple Martins to a new
group of
nesting birds south of Littlerock (Thurston County), I dove into the
archive to refresh my memory on what was observed around the
Centralia Steam
Plant in the last couple of breeding seasons. What I found was more
than I
remembered. Tim O'Brian, Ruth Sullivan, Paul Hicks, and Gary Wiles
have all
contributed to the knowledge base on this topic, all conveniently
stored in the
Tweeters archives.

Purple Martins have been found nesting in natural cavities at three
(minimum) around the Centralia Steam Plant, along Teitzel Road, pond
along Tono
Road, and at the 90 degree bend near the end of Big Hanaford Road.

Fort Lewis is an example of a location where an ambitious nest box
program was
likely responsible for increasing numbers of Purple Martins and,
producing birds that colonized natural cavities. I wondered if there
was a
similar pattern at the Centralia Steam Plant. I contacted Glenn
Waugh, an
Olympia-based federal employee who oversees surface mining in
Washington State.
Glenn supplied the following information about the nest box program
at the
steam plant:

I reviewed my files and found some historical numbers regarding the
installation of bird boxes at the Centralia Mine.

On February 15, 1997, 241 volunteers from several environmental/
organizations, Scout Troops and Centralia employees put in
approximately 1,300
hours building and installing the following:

50 Hen Nests
20 Kestrel Boxes
30 Wood Duck Boxes
15 Bat Boxes
25 Bluebird Boxes
12 Goose Nesting Platforms

The following year, on February 21, 1998, approximately 200
volunteers built
and installed the following:

100 Wood Duck Boxes
Created several wildlife friendly brush piles
Built a nature trail
Cleaned up an 1871 graveyard

I don't know that anyone ever monitored nest box use on the mine. I'm
that the first nesting martins in this area were probably attracted
by the nest
boxes and that pairs were likely nesting on the mine, in boxes, well
before the
2007 and 2008 discoveries of birds in natural cavities nearby.

I think I need to send some more emails. Unfortunately, scouts and other
volunteers, while great for providing a pulse of quality labor,
aren't into long-term monitoring or even short-term follow-up.

Kelly McAllister
Olympia, Washington_______________________________________________
Tweeters mailing list
Tweeters AT u.washington.edu

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