Purple Martin “Scout”: The term scout is given to the very first martin(s) observed back at an active colony site each year. Scouts are the oldest individuals in the population, who migrate north as early as weather allows. They can be either male or female. People once thought that martin scouts flew North in search of suitable breeding sites and then returned South to guide their colonies back to the sites they had selected. This is not true. A martin “colony” is a random aggregation of unrelated birds attracted to a common breeding site. Colony members do not travel in or function as a flock. They arrive in Spring, and depart in late Summer, independently of each other. Martin scouts will stay at a site if they nested there the previous year, or move on if they are migrants, resting on the way to their breeding sites.
The Scout-Arrival Study documents the first arriving Purple Martins at nesting sites. Landlords throughout the breeding range submit their first returning adult and sub-adult to the PMCA. This information is used to track the spring migration progress of Purple Martins.
This information is important to landlords who close their martin housing during early spring to keep out competing bird species. Landlords use Scout-Arrival Data to determine the best time to open their housing for martins in their area. Everyone is encouraged to participate in this ongoing study by sending your scout arrival dates to the PMCA. We will add your dates to our database, and will map the data on our website so that others can track the martins' movements. By adding to our knowledge, participants can help ensure the long-term survival of the birds they love.