CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — You might look up at the sky at the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and see a familiar bird flying: the Purple Martin. They came back to the preserve around this Spring and will be staying here until around September.
Volunteer at the preserve Tom Sullivan said he’s been into birding for years and said a few years ago he tried housing Purple Martins at his home, but he was unsuccessful. Through trial and error he was able to move their house and now he has Purple Martin’s at his home, but that’s not the only place he takes care of the birds.
He also has a house for the birds at the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve, which he donated, and he goes about once a week to check on the birds. Recently, he noticed that out of about 30 eggs, 4 of them hatched.
The Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve said they usually reproduce in areas where they have already successfully reproduced. Right now there are about 9 pairs of fully grown adults, which is up from last year when the preserve had 3 pairs.
“Your colony will grow and grow and grow because Purple Martins are good at attracting Purple Martins,” Sullivan said.
Purple Martins is a bird species that relies on humans for housing, and Sara Jose, the manager of the preserve, said that’s what sets them apart from other birds.
“What’s really unique about Purple Martins is they’re one of the few species that completely relies on people for their housing. 98 percent of Purple Martins live in man-made bird houses,” Jose said.
However, when it comes to feeding she said they’re pretty self-sufficient and are beneficial because they eat insects and not birds, so many people who house the birds at their home, don’t have as many insects.
Sullivan said that the birds can be threatened by predators such as snakes and raccoons, so he puts a guard and net at the bottom of the pole leading up to the birds’ house so the predators can’t climb up.
He said in order to give the birds a good home, the house must be big enough for them to fly in and out.
“If you want to get into Purple Martins, I highly suggest it, but you know, look around and see what you’ve got, whether or not you’ve got an open area,” Sullivan said.
Jose said the chicks typically leave the nest and start flying in about 24 days from when they are born. The birds will leave the preserve with their babies around September and go to Brazil before coming back the next February or March.
Many of the chicks born will not return to the Oso Bay Wetlands, but they do stay around the preserve, like at the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.