Great Blue Heron Snatches Purple Martin off of Nestbox on Puget Sound

Posted for Kevin Li by Ken Kostka, PMCA, 9/22/99.

[My brother, who is working with martins in the Puget Sound area, forwarded this e-mail to me. It is from Kevin Li, a fellow martin conservationist.  I wish I knew more about Kevin, but I do know he is working hard on the martin's behalf in the Northwest]

"Last night was disturbing, but just one of those acts of nature that we saw; Kris and I watched as 5 martins descended on their Ballard nestbox at dusk, and a great blue heron sat on a piling adjacent to the box. The martins buzzed the heron briefly before one martin landed on the entrance, paused, and looked to its left. The heron couldn't resist the opportunity, and adroitly snatched the martin. It seemed to take 15 minutes for the heron to finally kill the martin, flying off the pilings as the other martins mobbed it. Having landed on some nearby rocks, the heron dunked its prey into the saltwater several times before flying to several other perches. A small crowd of people on the beach was visibly shaken by the cries of the hr1low.jpg (64390 bytes)martins and the spectacle of this heron maneuvering a bird within its bill. Someone asked me about this, thinking herons ate only fish. I knew herons and egrets are diversely predatory, but I had never seen such a thing in Ballard. Finally, as it got quite dark, the heron managed to swallow one of Seattle's few martins. Had I witnessed a heron eating any other bird, I would have marveled at having the opportunity to witness such a heron meal. But since it ate a bird that I've worked to restore to the area, a bird that I've watched innumerable times with great pleasure, it was most dismaying to see that martin's fatal mistake.                                                       

It's gratifying to remind myself that overall things are looking up, with breeding colonies expanding around the sound."

Kevin Li,  King County Environmental Lab,  Seattle, WA 98119

Thanks Kevin! And keep up the great work!