Record year for at-risk Purple Martins

Western Purple Martins, a species at risk in B.C., set several new records despite the cold, wet spring and cool summer that were difficult for many plants and animals.

Amy Hsueh

Amy Hsueh

Western Purple Martins, a species at risk in B.C., set several new records despite the cold, wet spring and cool summer that were difficult for many plants and animals.

In B.C., Western Purple Martins are at the northern limit of their range and only occur around the Strait of Georgia as far north as Campbell River and in the Gulf Islands.

The species was almost lost from B.C. when numbers reached a low of about five pairs in the mid-1980s due to nesting habitat loss.

Purple Martins used to nest in abandoned woodpecker cavities in old trees and snags in burned forest, open treed areas or bordering fresh water. But much of their natural nesting habitat no longer exists due to logging, fire suppression, land clearing and urban development.

A nest box recovery program started in 1986 and has grown to 90 sites, 50 of them active this year.

The population of 585 pairs produced a record number of young – more than 2,200 nestlings raised successfully last year.

“Although only about half of adult and young  birds actually return each year, that made for quite an increase in the total number of Purple Martins returning to nest this year,” said Bruce Cousens, project coordinator of the program and senior biologist of Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society in Nanaimo.

The prolonged cool weather this summer made it difficult for adult birds to find enough flying insects to feed themselves and their young and some regional areas produced more young than others.

Overall it was another record-breaking year for production of young – more than 2,300 nestlings raised and 1,900 banded.

“With average survival, this should result in another population increase next year, according to our population forecast model,” Cousens said in a press release.

In the Nanaimo area, Purple Martins can be seen and heard between April and August at nest box colonies at Newcastle Island Provincial Marine Park, Protection Island, Nanaimo River estuary, Gabriola Island, Departure Bay (off Stevenson Point Road), Lantzville (end of Jacks Road) and Nanoose Bay.

There were 82 pairs nesting in the Nanaimo area last year and 110 this year with Newcastle Island being the largest local colony with 25 pairs.

Additional information about the B.C. Purple Martin Recovery Program is available at and

Just Posted

Nanaimo author B.S. Thompson has released his debut novel, ‘The Book of Nodd.’ (Photo courtesy Nora Funk)
Nanaimo author invites readers into dangerous world of dreams in debut novel

B.S. Thompson unveils ‘The Book of Nodd’ with online launch June 20

Potters Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter present their joint exhibit ‘Dig It’ at Art 10 Gallery until the end of June. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Potters show pieces for home and garden at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter’s show ‘Dig It’ on display until end of June

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read