Purple Martins

Purple Martins

Purple Martins: Nest Box Monitoring

Purple martins spend 4 to 5 months using the nest boxes located in East Bay for breeding and rearing their brood. Twenty-six nest boxes are attached to pilings in East Bay located off Marine Drive in downtown Olympia. From April to early September, Stream Team volunteers monitor the birds’ activity at the nest boxes to identify breeding pairs and watch the feeding and fledging of the baby birds.

Purple Martins are the largest of the eight swallow species that breed in North America and fly the longest distances between North and South America during their twice-yearly migration. In the Pacific Northwest, purple martins once nested exclusively in large tree cavities along rivers and coastal shorelines. Overall the populations of purple martins have declined, as development along shorelines has eliminated the birds’ natural habitat and nesting areas.

Things You Can Do To Help Purple Martins

  • Retain dead and dying trees (snags) on the landscape (especially near saltwater and wetland sites)
  • Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides. Pesticides such as insecticides, directly kills beneficial insects. Herbicides affects plants that provide habitat for insects which birds rely on as a food source.

If you go: What to Expect

Training takes approximately an hour to go over basic bird identification, purple martin facts and record keeping. Volunteers observe and record the birds’ activities at the nest boxes. Ideally, the boxes are monitored once per week for one hour. At the end of the season, volunteers help clean the nest boxes so they are ready for the spring.

  • Equipment needed: binoculars, bird field guide (City of Olympia has extra binoculars and a field guide to loan)
  • Optional: spotting scope (City of Olympia has two scopes to loan)

For more information contact Michelle Stevie at  mstevie@ci.olympia.wa.us or

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