The Port of Vancouver USA continues to grow the purple martin colony at our wetland mitigation bank. For the past eight years, the port has partnered with the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge volunteer bird experts to increase populations in Southwest Washington.

Purple martins have nested in the hanging gourds at the mitigation bank

Purple martins, a rare migratory bird that winters in South America and moves north into the U.S. and Canada in the summer, have special nesting requirements that include occupying gourds at least 10-feet high which are located in open areas with close proximity to water.

By 2018, the port had placed 24 nesting gourds at the Columbia River Wetland Mitigation Bank which resulted in nine successful hatches last summer.  We added an additional eight gourds in 2019 and have seen six hatches so far.

Volunteers with the wildlife refuge, under permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, band the chicks within 12 to 21 days of hatching and document their age using a photographic scale. These fascinating birds develop day by day, to the point where you can identify their age from visual indicators such as feathering on the head or back, and wing feather emergence.

Port Environmental Manager Matt Graves has been involved with this project since the beginning. “It’s great to see the nesting habitat success continue, and there’s still a chance we could see more activity in the gourds this year,” said Graves.

The nesting season continues for another few weeks so the volunteers, and the port’s Environmental Services team will continue to check the gourds periodically until September. Our team continues to find ways to ensure diverse species have access to quality habitat so they can continue to thrive.