First Record of the Purple Martin Breeding in Idaho

Austin R. Young, Liam M. Waters
2020 Western Birds  
The Purple Martin (Progne subis), the largest swallow (Hirundinidae) that is widespread in North America north of Mexico, breeds commonly over much of the eastern U.S. and central Canada (Brown and Tarof 2013) . Sparser and often isolated breeding populations are scattered through the Pacific states (Kostka and McAllister 2005, Airola and Williams 2008) and southern British Columbia (Cousens et al. 2005), as well as the interior West from north-central Utah and western Colorado south to
more » ... Mexico (Behle 1968, Doughty and Fergus 2002). The location of reported breeding nearest to Idaho is about 35 km to the south in northern Utah, where Purple Martins nest mainly in abandoned woodpecker holes in mature aspen or mixed forests near water at high elevations (Hayward 1941 , 1958 , Brown and Tarof 2013) . Here, we report the first documented instance of the Purple Martin breeding successfully in the state of Idaho. On 30 June 2019, Evan Lipton and Waters noted a one-year-old female (Figure 1 ; Pyle 1997) and a definitive-plumaged male (Figure 2 ) Purple Martin foraging around Lake Cleveland at 2530 m elevation in the Albion Mountains of central Cassia County, south-central Idaho (42° 19' N, 113° 39' W). The next day, 1 July, Kathy Eklund observed martins entering a woodpecker cavity 20 m above the ground in a dead lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). The nest tree was in a cluster of lodgepole pine snags on a small peninsula jutting into the lake. Lake Cleveland is surrounded by subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), lodgepole pine, and exposed rock. The tree also contained a nest of the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) with a nestling. On 2 August, birders observed both the male and female martin carrying food into the nest cavity, and on 3 August heard the nestlings' vocalizations. Similar observations, including the adults removing fecal sacs, continued through 6 August, until two nestlings were observed peering from the nest cavity on 7 August. Fledglings were first observed outside the nest cavity on 10 August, when two were seen being fed on adjacent branches (Figure 1 ). Observations of adults feeding fledglings continued through the last observation on the afternoon of 14 August. Searches on 16 August proved unsuccessful. It is worth noting the ages of the birds because colonizing Purple Martins are typically one year old (D. Airola pers. comm.); the female was that age, but the male was older. The Purple Martin is considered casual in Idaho with only four records accepted by the Idaho Bird Records Committee (IBRC; Table 1 , Figure 3 ). The additional 10 reports listed in Table 1 that have not been accepted by the IBRC were not rejected but have simply not been reviewed by the committee. Nonetheless, the unreviewed reports are valuable because they indicate potential locations where Purple Martins have occurred in the past and may occur again in the future. Most reports, including those not endorsed by IBRC, have been of birds in female-like plumage (which may have included yearling males, whose plumage may be superficially similar) from late April through June. In contrast, there are also four reported sightings of more than one individual between July and September (see Table 1 ), a pattern that suggests possible breeding or post-breeding dispersal from locations to the south. Two reports prior to ours suggest possible nesting of the Purple Martin in Idaho.
doi:10.21199/wb51.2.8 fatcat:vtsyx23h2nak3bgwn55pn7mwqy