Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Death In The Colony

The season hasn’t even gotten off to a good start and I’ve already got a death on my hands. Today I found a dead ASY (adult second year) female purple martin in one of my gourds. This has happened before in the past, each time due to what I expect to be intra-specific fighting among females in the colony.

I wrote an article for the PMCA’s quarterly journal Purple Martin Update on this behavior in which I photographed two females in the act. (this article was also published in this blog- go here to read). In the article I stated:

“Most times I’ve seen fighting among martins it had been between males, usually territorial battles. I have read though that females also get involved in these types of altercations or “Intra-specific fighting". Once the male selects the territory with which to nest he then goes about the intricate ritual of attracting a female. Once that is accomplished and the female bonds with him and selects a nest site in his established territory, she will then, along with the male, defend this territory.” That is defend against other female martins.
Both times the same type of injury occurred- a bloodied, featherless area to the back of the head. Due to the fact that this particular gourd had a crescent entrance rules out the possibility that a European starling was responsible and bolsters the theory of intra-specific fighting. Finding this was unsettling but at the same time interesting.

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