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Cara J

WSB: Do purple martins face a housing crisis?

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The purple martin (Progne subis) is in the midst of a long-term decline, and researchers worry that without humans continuing to put out birdhouses for them, their numbers will fall faster. In a study published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, researchers found that eastern purple martins (P.s. subis) have very high nest survival in artificial housing, making it an important component in the bird’s conservation. “If people are interested in helping out a species, this is a really easy solution,” said Texas Tech assistant professor Blake Grisham and an author on the study. In the centuries since European settlement in North America, eastern purple martins have become almost completely dependent on artificial housing, from gourds suspended from tree branches to deluxe high-rises with pitched roofs and balcony perches. The shift began even before colonization, Grisham said, with martins nesting in gourds placed by Native Americans. Since then, with the exception of a Florida population that still nests in the wild, the birds rely exclusively on birdhouses, Grisham said, and that could present a problem. “Most of the individuals who have purple martin cavities are greater than 56 years old,” he said. “What happens if they stop providing those cavities?” Researchers found [...]

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