Purple Martins (Progne subis) nest in groups, in tree cavities along the shoreline. By the 1980s, the number of natural Purple Martin nesting spots in British Columbia had dwindled to less than ten. These declines were mainly due to competition from non-native bird species, and to housing and other development in nesting areas.
During this time, the species was almost lost in B.C., but through collaborative recovery efforts over the last 30 years, Purple Martins are now assessed at a lower level of conservation concern, being blue-listed by the BC Conservation Data Center.
A volunteer artificial nest box program started in 1986 and has provided the platforms for almost all B.C. Purple Martin nests today. There are now over 1200 nesting pairs and 120 active colonies on B.C.’s lower mainland and on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island.
The program has had many collaborators over the years, including:
- The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (then the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection)
- The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- Victoria Natural History Society
- Rocky Point Bird Observatory
- Western Purple Martin Foundation
- Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society
- Green Shores
- Indigenous-led groups
- Other conservation groups, universities, regional and municipal governments
Purple Martin's recovery in B.C. is a success story and continues to be because of the efforts of many recovery partners, funders, and volunteers.