This Sunday, the bird is the word as the Western Purple Martin Foundation hosts its eighth annual Purple Martin Open House at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Community Marina.
Attendees are encouraged to wear something purple as they browse through poster displays, check out the birds up close on a webcam and watch bird banding demonstrations at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“Parents can bring their children to see a recovery program in action and actually see the baby birds,” said Charlene Lee, project co-ordinator for the Purple Martin Recovery Program. “People can know how long it takes them to lay their eggs and how long they have to sit on them before the babies hatch.
“We put the bands on so that we know how old they are when they come back and where they were born.”
The Purple Martin Recovery Program initially got its start in the mid-1980s when it was discovered that there were only five to 10 breeding pairs of Purple Martins in the Strait of Georgia (the only location they are found in B.C.).
Thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers over the years, artificial nest boxes designed for the Purple Martins were placed all over Vancouver Island, including Ladysmith.
There are about 80 nest boxes in Ladysmith Harbour, and since July 12, recovery program staff and volunteers have been conducting a nest box check in 30 of the existing 50 colonies across the Island to keep track of the population. That work will be completed in mid-August.
“We’re looking to see whether or not we have a population increase again this year, although with the wet June, we think we lost some adult birds and probably some first-year birds,” Lee said.
In addition to learning about the recovery program, open house attendees will also learn about the biology of the bird.
“It’s a rather gregarious bird; it’s the largest swallow in North America, and people seem to like having it around,” Lee said.
The Purple Martin Open House will run Sun., July 29 from 1-4 p.m.