Wildlife: Purple Martin

The beautifully iridescent Purple Martin is the largest of the swallow species found in British Columbia. Many of its smaller relatives, including the Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow and Cliff Swallow, nest and fly around our golf course now. The habitat is excellent. Consequently, we have decided that it’s time to invite the return of the once locally-rare big brother of the swallows, the Purple Martin.

Virtually gone from the coast as recently as the 1980s, as many as 1400 pairs of Purple Martins now nest annually on Vancouver Island and the mainland coast. Why? Because of an organized nest box program. This rehabilitation project was initiated by Bryan Gates and others on the Cowichan River estuary in 1984. It has been carried on by many conservationists since, with amazing success..

Purple Martins are colony nesters. In central North America, large apartment-like boxes (with individual entrances to separate “rooms”) are the choice of martins.

However, the western race that we have here, prefers individual nest boxes that are grouped together. Tall posts holding two or more boxes are especially attractive to them. Open space with water nearby is also preferred…Highland Pacific has both.

You can’t miss the 4-nest martin tower that has been placed at the north end of the lake between Highland 4 and 5. Additional towers in the same area may eventually be installed here to expand the colony.

Like all swallows, martins feed mainly on flying insects, tending to select the larger and higher-flying insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, flying ants and butterflies. Mosquitoes are also fair game.

So, enjoy the birds as you chase your ball. Watch for more nest boxes to be added around the course. These will be targeting different bird species.

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