Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 47

Kathy Freeze builds a
purple martin paradise
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,
prior to the arrival of Europeans in North
America, Native Americans hung gourds
very March as winter turns to spring,
from trees to provide the birds a home. That
Kathy Freeze expects company. The
behavior has carried over to the present day.
gourds are clean, the nets are up and
"That's why it's imperative to teach other
soon 150 guests are flying into her
people about purple martins and their
backyard near Licking. The tenants won't be
dependency on us," Kathy says, adding
paying rent for their summer stay, but for
that when her grandsons, Alex and Logan
Kathy the privilege of hosting them is its own
Lovergine, visit during the summer they often
reward. Such is life as a purple martin landhelp her with the weekly checks. "Without
lord.
us putting up housing for them, their
Sleek, glossy and dazzlingly acrobatic,
populations would dwindle."
North America's largest swallows make a
Kathy, like many purple martin landlords,
massive yearly migration from the rainforests
was enchanted by her first encounter with
of South America. Mid-March is typically the
high traffic time for the birds
the birds. In 2007, a regular visit to
her aunt's house on the other side of
arriving in Missouri, although
town turned into a lifelong calling.
some will push on to southern
"I walked by one day and
Canada before spring's end. While
thought, 'what is that cool
in the Show-Me State they find
sound?' " the Intercounty
mates and hatch and fledge their
Electric Cooperative member
young before making the return
Licking
recalls. "I just kept admiring
journey in late summer.
them for weeks - the
"And once they've nested sucthings they do, the noises
cessfully at your site, they'll come
they make. They're a very
back for the rest of their lives,"
unique bird."
Kathy adds.
That year, Kathy set up a
Known for their lively, social nature,
nest and attracted her first pair of purple
purple martins have become a favorite of
martins. Every year after, the numbers grew
birdwatchers in Missouri. That's a good
exponentially. Evidently having cracked the
thing, too, because one unique aspect of their
code, she wrote newspaper articles and gave
behavior makes these birds in the Midwest
presentations offering guidance to others in
and eastern U.S. almost totally dependent
the hopes they could replicate her successes.
on humans. Purple martins don't create
Since 2009, she's provided that assistance
their own nest cavities and have come to rely
as a mentor to other landlords through the
on human-supplied housing for centuries.

E

MARCH 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

47


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Rural Missouri - March 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 6
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