Subject: swimming Martin
Date: Aug 5 23:12:01 2002
From: Stan Kostka - lynnandstan at

Hi Joyce,
I would say that almost certainly that fledgling did not survive. As
you know the weather has been cool and wet lately and the martins there
at English Boom are having trouble getting enough food for their rapidly
growing nestlings. This becomes apparent for several reasons. When I
checked those nestboxes on Saturday morning , some of the young
continued to beg for food . Ordinarily, well fed young of the ages I
observed would remain motionless in the back of the box whenever they
encounter me. I was there yesterday not long after you left, and I did
not see anything that indicated to me that any adults were tending to a
new fledgling. I was wearing a windbreaker over a sweater as it was
rather cold and windy, and I had just driven through some heavy rain on
my way out there. While there, I observed something else that indicated
to me that the young were very hungry. In one of the boxes where the
young are about 25 days old, I watched them come out onto the porch to
get food from the incoming parents. When they are well fed they dont
usually do this, rather they take turns sticking their heads out the
entrance. When they are hungry enough to come out onto the porch, the
competition for who gets the food can get intense, and if they get
knocked off at that age they can sort of fly but not very well. They
actually dont seem to fly very well at 28 days old which is considered
the earliest a martin can successfully fledge, and if they get real wet
soon after fledging, they will become grounded, or swamped. Adult
martins will most likely not feed young on the ground . Maybe a
nestbox without a porch would eliminate this but Ive seen them push each
other out of porchless boxes under similiar conditions. The nestboxes
have those porches in order for the starling resistant entrances to
function. And the porches help successfully fledged young return to the
cavity at night . The first few times they come back to the nestbox can
be described as a crash landing. Also, hungry nestlings continue to
call for food after dark, making them more vulnerable to owls or
climbing predators than they would be if they were quiet. Why exactly
martin populations here were reduced so drastically after that 12500
bird roost was recorded in Seattle in the 1940?s has most often been
explained by the establishment of starlings into the region. While I
agree that starlings have probably been one leading cause, I think
perhaps that multiple factors might have been at work . It would be
interesting to research weather data over those years as it occurred
during the martin breeding seasons. When I lived in Pennsylvania back
in the early 1970?s, hurricane Agnes turned into a tropical storm as it
moved up the east coast and then turned west and stalled over the state
at the height of one martin breeding season. It rained almost daily for
nearly a month. Martin populations were decimated by this weather
event and it is my understanding that they have not recovered there in
many localites even unto this day. I assume they would perhaps recover
faster without the added burden of nestsite competion from starlings and
house sparrows. The next time you see a martin in the water, do not
hesitate to pick it up and dry it off in your heated car and then put it
up on a perch somewhere. Your handling of the bird will in no way deter
its parents from continuing to care for it. You can call me anytime at
425 308 7728 in my truck or 360 435 7236 at my home and I will try to
followup on any martin you observe in distress. The juv bald eagle you
mention was likely one of the those fledged from that nest there .
Yesterday I watched the martins mobbing a peregrine perched there in
those tall trees.
Stan Kostka
lynnandstan at
Arlington WA