“It’s spectacular when you see 600 birds flying and swooping in the sky, and then going into the houses.”Unknown
NSC is home to about 700 boats in the summer, but it is also home to almost as many purple martins, the largest bird of the swallow family in North America, thanks to the efforts of Peter Huszcz, a.k.a. “The Purple Martin Man”.
Peter built the first Purple Martin houses about 20 years ago, though they have gone through renovations and rebuilds since then. The current “condos” contain 96 units, and each house a pair of adults and their four or so offspring.
The Martins arrive back from southern migration in mid-April. Peter and a team band the legs of the 2-4-week-old hatchlings each year beginning shortly after Canada Day. Researchers scientifically track and study them. Their lifespan is about six years and Peter recognizes many of the returnees by their plumage and markings. Peter guesses he’s banded 3,500 to 4,000 birds.
The banding is done in cooperation with the Innis Point Bird Observatory whose members keep logs and answer questions from the public. During the banding sessions, the public is welcome to see the birds in their nests, experience how the birds are processed and also touch, hold and interact with the chicks.
Check out this Ottawa Citizen story, from July 2021.
Text and photos by Stephen Kidd