Wildlife Rescue Provides Care & Releases an Orphaned Purple Martin

Wildlife Rescue hospital staff and volunteers graciously welcomed an orphaned Purple Martin, Progne Subis to our facility on July5th, 2019. Island Wildlife rescued this little one after it was found orphaned on a boat near Salt Spring Island. When this nestling arrived at our doorstep it had no feathers and appeared to be lethargic, requiring our immediate attention and care.

Over the course of 5 weeks Wildlife Rescue staff and volunteers witnessed the development of the Purple Martin through various stages as it grew from a tiny nestling weighing 27gm to becoming a healthy and alert young fledgling at 50gms. “It is common for the weight to fluctuate once the nestling becomes a fledgling. The Purple Martin was given a full enclosure to practice its flying for over a week. The weight dropped from 62gm to the current weight, but this is normal once the bird species is flying and active” shares Janelle Stephenson, hospital manager.

Initially the Purple Martin was kept warm in an incubator and its eyes remained closed. Staff provided feedings every 15 minutes that included meal worms and nestling formula. In more recent week’s staff observed brighter, open eyes, vocal sounds and gaping behavior during feeding

On August 8th the Purple Martin took its first flight on dry land at Rocky Point Pier in Port Moody with the help of a reputable conservationist Kiyoshi Takahashi.

Kiyoshi Takahashi of Coquitlam is known for his work with Metro Park and passion to preserve bats, owls and Purple Martins. Kiyoshi played an instrumental role in the return of Purple Martins with nesting boxes after a 25-year absence at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody.

“Over the last 10 years we have had the privilege to rehabilitate and release 5 Purple Martins it is very rare to see them show up at our doorstep because of the declining population in Canada, however; when they do our vision and goal are very clear just like with any animal we serve. Provide optimal care and release back to the wild.” states Stephenson, hospital manager.

Purple Martins, Progne Subis are the largest bird species in the swallow family in North America and according to the North American breeding survey they make up only 3% of the population in Canada followed by 90% in USA and 7% in Mexico (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) The decline of Purple Martins in Canada results from urban environment encroachment and spells of bad weather. It was not until passionate humans like Kiyoshi started to build bird boxes that they have returned.

Purple Martins, Progne Subis nest in an old-fashioned way in woodpecker holes and find their food when they are in flight which includes bees, wasps, dragonflies, moths and grasshoppers to name a few. They perform aerial acrobats to snap flying insects from 150 to 500 feet in the air. On occasion you can spot Purple Martins in towns, cities, parks, open fields and in urban environments where nesting boxes are being placed.

These large species from the swallow family are on land unless they are scavenging for material for their nesting season. Once the breeding season ends, you will witness a flock of Purple Martins, Progne Subis headed to the South, but in the meantime if you have a chance visit the Rocky Point Pier in Port Moody and listen for the sounds of this beautiful specie. You will be amazed!


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