Video: BTG Purple Martin Chats share the secret life of birds

Video by Greg Funka.

Beverly Hazen | Staff Writer

Members of the swallow family of birds, the purple martins living in birdhouses at Chautauqua are taken care of by naturalist Jack Gulvin. For four Fridays during the season, Gulvin will have conducted Purple Martin Chats, with the last Chat happening Friday, July 20. Photographer Greg Funka attended and filmed Gulvin in action at the birdhouses along the waterfront near the Sports Club.

Gulvin conducts a running commentary about the behavior of the birds while working with the nests. He lowers the birdhouses so his audience can see the nests and baby birds up close, and he maintains records that determine when he should change the nesting material to keep parasites under control. Gulvin welcomes questions from his attendees.

Dispelling two myths about the birds, Gulvin notes that dragonflies, not mosquitoes, are purple martins’ favorite food, and the parent birds are more than willing to reconnect with their young after he has cleaned out the nests.

In August, the birds will gather in the pre-migratory roost in Erie, Pa., before heading south to Brazil for the winter. In spring, they will return, some to the same compartments at Chautauqua. The Bird, Tree & Garden Club sponsors the Purple Martin Chats at Chautauqua.