Purple Martins Reach Ontario!

Megan McIntosh

Megan McIntosh, Purple Martin Project Coordinator

The first Purple Martins have reached Ontario. The return of these cheerful neighborhood birds from their wintering grounds in Brazil is always a wonderful sign of spring.  But with a winter storm warning in the works for much of Southern Ontario we wish they would wait just a little while longer.  This is because Purple Martins and other song birds are quite vulnerable to poor weather conditions, especially rain and cold. Nonetheless, we welcome their return!

Did you know that it is the older Purple Martins that tend to return first? Most of the adult birds arrive in Ontario between mid-to-late-April, whereas younger first-time breeders return during May.

You can follow the amazing spring migration of the Purple Martin through the Purple Martin Conservation Association’s Scout-Arrival Study.

Purple Martin

Adult male Purple Martin in flight. Photo by Harold Silver

With the Purple Martins on their way, many Purple Martin ‘landlords’ (private landowners who provide apartment-like bird houses for the birds to nest in) are working hard to prepare for their arrival. Since Purple Martin populations are rapidly declining in Ontario and other northeastern provinces and states, Purple Martin landlords in these regions are taking extra precautions to improve their habitat and help recover the species.

Here are some interesting examples of what Nature Canada and our partners are doing to prepare:

Nature Canada will be putting up three new Purple Martin houses in the Kingston Area in partnership with the Kingston Field Naturalists. These new houses are locally sourced and provide the highest standards of breeding habitat for Purple Martin included starling resistant entrances and a winch system so that the house can be lowered for easy maintenance.

Purple Martin House

Example of a locally constructed T-14 Purple Martin house. Three houses like this will be put up by Nature Canada in the Kingston area this spring.

Ed and Lyne Brake are dedicated Purple Martin landlords who live east of Ottawa. This year they are taking steps to make an important update to the habitat at their Purple Martin colony. Over the past several years, they have noticed a big increase in aerial predators such as hawks and owls preying on their Purple Martins. This was very upsetting for Ed and Lyne. At first they were unsure what to do because there are no commercially available predator guards for their style of Purple Martin house. Since they care so much about their birds, they have custom-made a cage to go around the birdhouse and protect the colony. We want to congratulate Ed and Lyne for their good work and thank the Ontario Purple Martin Association for providing this excellent advice!

Image of a Purple Martin house with landlords

Ed Brake and a friend pose at Ottawa River with a newly installed predator guard for a Purple Martin house.

Finally, our Friends at The Friends of the Sanctuary in Cornwall have engaged a local secondary school to construct 10 new Purple Martin condos. Grade 11 students will construct T-14 style houses that will be installed in the meadows at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Ingleside, Ontario, next spring. We are looking forward to seeing the results!


Image of members of Friends of the Sanctuary in front of a Purple Martin

Members of Friends of the Sanctuary pose with T-14 Purple Martin house

To learn more about Nature Canada’s Purple Martin Project, check out our page here.

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