NSC is home to about 700 boats in the summer, but it is also home to almost as many purple martins, the largest 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 re-builds since then. The current “condos” contain 96 units, and each houses a pair of adults and their four or so offspring. “It’s spectacular when you see 600 birds flying and swooping in the sky, and then going into the houses.”
The martins arrive back from southern migration 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 are welcome to see the birds in their nests, experience how the birds are processed and also touch, hold and interact with the chicks.
Watch the Telltale and this website for notices about the banding sessions, or check the NSC calendar. Check out this Ottawa Citizen story, from July 2021. And for more about Peter and his purple martins, see this YouTube video.
Written by Stephen Kidd.
Page updated: 2022-06-21.
2022-01-08, HM: Shell of page created.
2022-01-14, HM: Page updated with text from Stephen Kidd:
2022-06-21, HM: Gave ownership to Stephen Kidd.
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