Baby Purple Martins

Posted 07/17/06
by Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Columnist

CAPE MAY, N.J. – Dozens of baby purple martins are born each spring at Cape May Point State Park. And, lucky for the tiny chicks, there's a diligent, dependable father figure watching over the newborns.

West Cape May resident Dave Thomas is the primary caretaker for the colony of more than 50 nesting pairs of Purple Martins that use two large white nesting boxes at the state park.

Thomas heads to the park every morning during nesting season to check on the chicks progress.

He uses a winch to lower the boxes so that he can look in each compartment.

He keeps track of egg-laying dates, counting eggs, counting nestlings, and monitoring fledglings through June and July.

When they hatch, the babies are pink and have no feathers. The birds above are just a couple of days old.

As they grow they begin to look like like tiny dinosaurs or lizards. It takes only 28-29 days from the time the eggs hatch until the birds can fly.

A few days prior to being able to fly, the young birds can be seen on their “front porches”, begging for food and flapping their wings in preparation for flight.

By August, the adult and baby martins are getting ready for their migratory journey to South America. By September they are on their way.

Despite being only about two to three months old, the fully grown martins will embark on a journey that is incomprehensible. Their migration involves a one-way flight of more than 3,000 miles.

After spending the winter in warmer climes, martins migrate north and arrive in Cape May in early to mid-April.

Next spring, Dave Thomas will again put out the welcome mat for these birds, giving them a clean, safe place to nest and a helping hand.

Note: If you wish to see the Purple Martin colony, go to the Cape May Point State Park and look for the nest boxes close to the park buildings.

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