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Monday, March 4, 2013

The martins are here

I saw my first Purple Martins of the year over my yard today. I know they've been reported in the Houston area since late January and in my immediate area northwest of Houston since early February, but I had not actually seen or heard any here.

For many years, we had a martin colony in our backyard, and every year I looked forward to the birds' arrival in February, but a few years ago, all of that changed. We got a plague of House Sparrows and then a couple of pairs of European Starlings started harassing the martins. They hung on for a while and we did everything we were able to do to assist them and to discourage the intruder birds, but, though we won a few battles, in the end, we lost the war.

The last couple of years we had martins nesting in our yard, there was only one pair in the apartments, along with several pairs of sparrows. After a couple of years of no martins, we took our martin housing down, because we didn't want to give aid and comfort to the sparrows. I don't see starlings in the yard any more, but the sparrows are still here, although in fewer numbers than at the height of their invasion. But I won't be putting the martin housing back up. Sigh.  

Martins do still nest elsewhere in my neighborhood, and so I have the pleasure of seeing them and hearing their warbling songs over my yard all spring and summer, and I have to content myself with that. I do love the big swallows. They are one of my very favorite summer visitors. Their calls in flight on a late summer afternoon are truly one of the most joyous sounds of summer for me.

And so, I welcome them back to the neighborhood, even if I can't welcome them back to my yard. Those misguided souls who thought it would be a good idea to introduce the House Sparrow to North America back in 1852 have a lot to answer for.

 My last martin in 2009.


  1. At the college we kill the Starlings which try to take over the Martin houses. It's cruel but otherwise the Martins would have nowhere to nest.

    1. I totally agree, and we did some of that, too. Our biggest problem was not the starlings but the sparrows. Together, they were enough to overwhelm our feeble efforts.