The Western Purple Martin (Progne subis arboricola) is a Blue-listed species in British Columbia that is entirely dependent on artificial nest boxes.
The population reached an all-time low of 5 breeding pairs in BC in the mid 1980’s as a result of habitat loss and competition from introduced species, the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Stewardship programs on Vancouver Island and the lower mainland began an extensive nest box program in order to save the species from extirpation in BC. Their numbers have since rebounded to approximately 585 nesting pairs in 2010 and then doubling to approximately 1200 pairs in 2018. The population is still limited by lack of suitable nesting habitat, competition from introduced species, and inclement weather conditions.
There have been sporadic sightings of Purple Martins in Squamish. In 2015, a nest box was installed on a marine piling in the central channel of the Squamish Estuary within the Skwelwil’em Wildlife Management Area. In 2016, it was occupied by a breeding pair and 3 young. Additional nest boxes were installed on marine pilings in the Squamish Estuary in 2016, 2019, and 2020, for a total of 26 nest boxes. We hope to install nest cams in 5 custom-designed nest boxes to monitor nesting success in 2021.
We are actively seeking the assistance of the birding community and other interested community members in reporting Purple Martin sightings and use of the nest boxes. Purple Martins can begin to arrive as early as April in some areas. Nesting season takes place sometime between May and July, depending on weather and other factors.
If you would like to learn more about the project, report sightings or become involved, please contact our volunteer coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is a collaboration between the Squamish Environment Society (SES),
the Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS), the Squamish Birders and the Squamish Community.
SRWS and SES recognize the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and anglers, hunters, trappers and guides who contribute to the Trust, for making a significant financial contribution to support the Squamish Western Purple Martin Nest Box Program. Without such support, this project would not have been possible.
Header Photo: Purple Martin and young at a nest box in Iona Regional Park, Richmond, BC, by Ed Dubois. One hungry chick is swallowing a demoiselle.