[Tweeters] Purple Martins gleaning insects from tree branches (really).

stan Kostka lynn Schmidt lynnandstan at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 12 07:47:06 PDT 2019

Good Morning Tweets,

Recently someone posted to OBOL an observation of Purple Martins gleaning insects from the branches of trees. I was most skeptical. However, Charles Brown’s 1997 species account, Page 7, Food Habits, capture and consumption, says, “Very rarely may glean insects off foliage or alight on ground to take caterpillars …” and cites Gullion, G.W. 1980. Purple Martins feeding on tent caterpillars. Loon 52: 190-191.

Gullion 1980 describes martins in Northeastern Minnesota eating tent caterpillars.

The OBOL observation is from the Illwaco marina on July 5. I followed up with the observer and a return to the site found the same behavior on July 8. Martins are gleaning small yellow caterpillars or something similar from birch trees at the marina. The birches are along the harbor walk, between the shops and restaurants, and the boat harbor. There may be 12 or so. The martins are nesting in pilings at the marina. There are 5 eBird reports of martins there this year, between 2 and 12 birds from April 25 thru June 10, plus the OBOL report.

I strongly encourage anyone who can make a trip there to look for this very rare phenomenon and further document it. Photographs would be extremely valuable.

To the best of my knowledge, this has never before been documented for Western martins.
Please let me know what you find. Photographs would be extremely valuable.

Stan Kostka
lynnandstan at earthlink.net <http://earthlink.net/>
Arlington WA
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