There will be a Purple Martin Open House at the Ladysmith Community Marina on Sunday, July 21st, 2013. You can see the largest active colony of purple martins in BC right here on Vancouver Island at the Ladysmith Community Marina.
It is a great time of year to see adult birds feeding their young. On Sunday there will be opportunities to participate in banding of the purple martin nestlings and other activities such as story time.
Purple martins are the largest swallow found in North America. They begin to fly south in early August and they fly all the way down to South America arriving in October.
Close to extinction:
By 1949, purple martins had disappeared from the Lower Mainland and in 1985 only 5 breeding pairs remained on Vancouver Island.
There are many reasons for their disappearance including: loss of habitat, pesticides, and invasive species such as European starlings. In a single incident in Brazil, reported in 1989, 50,000 purple martins were killed from eating insects which had been sprayed with pesticides. All these factors contributed to the near extinction of western purple martins.
The purple martin colony in Ladysmith has increased in size from 5 to about 60 breeding pairs.
A volunteer nest box program to rebuild the western purple martin population was started in 1985 with the installation of nest boxes at Cowichan Bay when martins were seen nesting in piling cavities at this estuary. These boxes and others located around Esquimalt Harbour rescued the BC purple martins from the brink of extinction.
There are now over 145 volunteers actively involved in this western purple martin recovery program. Below is a webcam at the Ladysmith Marina so people can see inside an active purple martin nest.