A second-year male purple martin (Progne subis) approaches the landing pad of a nesting gourd. Male purple martins don’t get their full set of dark purple feathers until after their second year. Patterson Park, Austin TX.
Laurie Evans, a volunteer at the Barton Springs purple martin colony, lowers a gourd rack to do an egg count during early spring in Austin, TX.
An adult female and male purple martin (Progne subis) perch on a gourd house rack in early spring, Hornsby Bend, Austin, TX. Males are covered with dark purple feathers and females have a buff chest and stripe on the back of her neck, a purple head & dark wings
Andy & Julia Balinsky from Austin, Texas are purple martin ambassadors extraordinaire. They manage two purple martin colonies, a large one at the Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant and another near downtown Austin. Additionally, they mentor purple martin landlords around town, and present workshops to the public about managing purple martin colonies. Like proud parents, they happily watch the antics of the purple martins at the Hornsby Bend Colony. Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant & Environmental Research Center, Austin TX.
Ten day-old purple martins (Progne subis) peek outside the entrance to their nest, hoping to see one of their parents coming in with insects to feed them. Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant & Environmental Research Center, Austin, TX.
A dedicated community scientist, Andy Balinsky documents how many nesting pairs and how many martin eggs & hatchlings they have at their colonies during the nesting season. He submits the data yearly to the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA). Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant & Environmental Research Center, Austin, TX.
A tray of unviable purple martin eggs sit atop nesting data and a hatchling sizing chart. Austin, Texas
Purple martin landlord Andy Balinsky carefully shades a 2-day old purple martin (Progne subis) from the sun. He checks the age of the bird on a sizing chart before documenting the data. Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant & Environmental Research Center, Austin, TX.
Andy & Julia Balinsky check out purple martins with purple martin landlord Cathy Schneider, whom they mentor. The Schneider’s manage a small colony in Meuller Prairie park, which their HOA owns. Meuller Prairie Park, Austin, TX.
A temporary sign alerts parkgoers to the purple martins nesting site. Meuller Prairie, Austin TX.
Andy & Julia Balinsky enjoy a laugh with fellow purple martin landlord Cathy Schnieder. Meuller, TX
Purple martin landlords, Cathy & Dennis Schneider do nest checks together once a week to collect data on their martins, which they submit to the PMCA. Meuller Prairie Park, Austin, TX.
Purple martins (Progne subis) roost on a gourd rack at Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Facility & Environmental Research Center in Austin, TX. This land, owned by the city, hosts a large colony of purple martins that are taken care of by Julia & Andy Balinsky, and Travis Audubon volunteers.
Purple martin landlord, Laurie Evans, lowers a purple martin gourd in her urban backyard located minutes from the city center of Austin, Texas.
A dapper looking male purple martin sits on an owl guard of a purple martin rack in Austin, Texas.
The purple martin nesting colony at Laura Joseph's property in Austin, TX.
Laura Joseph owns the land that the Barton Springs purple martin colony is on. However she makes the land and the purple martins available for her community.
Donna Lipman, a Barton Springs neighborhood volunteer, counts eggs during a weekly nest check at Laura Joseph’s large purple martin colony in the Barton Springs, neighborhood of Austin, TX
A female purple martin (Progne subis) sits on her nest while her landlords perform a nest check.
An “inside-the-nesting-box” view of a purple martin nest with hatchlings and eggs. Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant, Austin, TX.
Purple martin babies grow fast! On the left is a ten day-old nestling and on the right is a day-old hatchling and an unhatched egg. Patterson Park, Austin, TX
Andy & Julia Balinsky host a girl scout troop at their purple martin colony at Hornsby Bend Environmental Center. The girls learn about the birds’ nesting habits and get a close-up look at the nestlings. Hornsby Bend, Austin, TX.
A topdown view: Andy & Julia Balinsky host a girl scout troop at their purple martin colony at Hornsby Bend Environmental Center. The girls learn about the birds’ nesting habits and get a close-up look at the nestlings. Hornsby Bend, Austin, TX.
This is what a perfect purple martin nest looks like. The green leaves are from nearby trees and brought in by the parents.
A second year male brings a fresh oak leaf to his nesting gourd to add to the nesting material.
A European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) has taken over a purple martin nest. In the foreground, a second-year male martin sits unaware on a nesting perch. European starlings are non-native birds and compete intensely with native martins for nesting cavities. Hornsby Bend, Austin, TX.
A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) sits at the entrance of a purple martin nesting gourd that he and his mate have taken over. At the bottom right, 2 baby purple martins wait for one of their parents to come home with a meal. House sparrows are non-native species that compete with purple martins for nesting cavities. Este Garden, Austin, TX.
This nest has suffered an attack from a house sparrow or a starling.
Julia Balinsky celebrates her birthday with her purple martin volunteer friends at Aster’s Ethiopian restaurant. These friendships were made by bonding over their love for purple martins. These little birds have a way of creating community. Austin, TX.
A beautiful male purple martin (Progne subis) perches on a tree near his nesting box.
Purple martin landlords, Kevin & Alex bike from their house to the community gardens where their purple martin gourds are.
Purple martin landlords Kevin & Alex happily check on a purple martin nest in one of their house style nesting boxes.
A male purple martin proudly displays his catch of a buckeye butterfly. Moments afterward he fed it to his brood of hatchlings.
A male purple martin (Progne subis) feeds his nestling fire ants. Purple Martins eat many types of insects including dragonflies, butterflies, bees and moths. However, approximately 30% of their diet is fire ants. This is important for places like Austin, Texas where fire ants are a troublesome invasive species.
A female purple martin takes a break from hunting for food for her brood. Meanwhile her nestlings wait for the next meal.
Purple martins do well in urban settings. These birds are taking advantage of an electric wire to perch in between hunting trips.
A male purple martin (Progne subis) feeds one of his young a dragonfly.
This baby purple martin jumped from the nest a couple days before it was physically ready to fledge due to unusually high temperatures which made the nesting gourds too hot for the young. this bird was rescued from the ground and put on a perch near the nest where the parents fed it for the next couple days until it was ready to properly fledge.
Scientist Dr. Anna Forsman traps a purple martin in its gourd. She will extract it and then take it over to an examination table to take measurements and data of the animal before releasing it unharmed.
Dr. Anna Forsman removes a purple martin from his nesting gourd in order to do some feather & data collection before releasing him unharmed.
Dr. Anna Forsman collects a tail feather from a male purple martin. The feather will be used to measure the amount of mercury absorbed in the feathers due to pollution.
A first year male juvenile purple martin (Progne subis) flies in to land at one of the nesting gourds at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory and Water Treatment Plant. Spring 2021 Austin Texas
Purple martins perch on top of a gourd rack in front of an elementary school in Cedar Park, TX. Among the fledglings, there is an adult male & female. Purple martin babies fledge after 29 days. Cedar Park, TX.
As purple martins flock by the the thousands to their pre-migratory roosting trees in mid-July, they commonly become drawn to parking lot lighting. The lighting can temporarily confuse them and blind them, as well as cause fatal collisions. Capital Plaza, Austin, TX.
A deceased female Purple Martin (Progne subis) lies on the side of the curb near the roost in Round Rock Texas. Purple martins are very suseptible to collisions with windows, light poles and other birds during the frenzy of roosting.
These three purple martins (Progne subis) are part of the specimen collection at Texas A&M Biodiversity Research and Education Center, in College Station, TX. Deceased purple martins found by volunteers at the pre-migratory roosts in Austin are brought here to become specimen skins. Genetic material is also collected from them, which is made available for scientific research
A purple martin specimen displayed with the tools used to create the taxidermy. College Station, TX. This bird was found deceased by volunteers at a pre-migratory roost in Austin, TX.
Travis Audubon volunteers, managed by Julia Balinsky, rescue purple martins that have been injured at a pre-migratory roost which is usually in a parking lot at a strip mall. The volunteers take turns roaming the roosting area every morning looking for injured or dead martins. Volunteer Tamer Hassan holds an injured male purple martin. Soon after, volunteers took this bird to the Austin Wildlife Rehabilitation center. La Frontera Mall, Round Rock, TX.
After injuring his wing, this male purple martin was brought to a wildlife rescue in Houston, TX. Once nursed back to health, he was still unable to fly. He is now an educational bird for the Houston Audubon Raptor & Education Center.
The scene in the oak trees at a pre-migratory roost. A multitude of purple martins roost together at night and leave together in the morning. La Frontera Mall, Round Rock, TX.
Every year, in mid-summer, hundreds of thousands of purple martins stage for migration together in Austin, TX. At dusk, thousands of purple martins swirl in the sky near their roost and eventually find a place to land in one of the oak trees. Travis Audubon of Austin sponsors “Purple Martin Parties” every year at the martins’ chosen staging site. More folks show up every year to these “parties” to marvel at the natural spectacle of the purple martins coming in to roost. Capital Plaza. Austin, TX.