Wild Wise builds custom homes for threatened birds

An environmental group in Sooke spent part of its weekend creating custom homes for a threatened bird population.

Members of the Wild Wise Society set up about a dozen Purple Martin boxes at the Sooke pier Saturday afternoon.

The custom design allows the Purple Martins to squeeze into their new homes through a tiny slit in the bottom of each box.

“It does prevent other birds and predators from getting into the boxes, but the Purple Martins are able to flatten themselves and kind of squish their way into the boxes,” said Wild Wise Society president Sam Webb.

Wild Wise volunteers spent the winter building the boxes, with materials and expertise from Sooke Gutter, a local business.

“(Owners) Shane and his wife Kelly are two of our volunteers, and so we’re really lucky to have them on our team,” said Webb.

The District of Sooke supplied four, 14-foot yellow cedar posts for hanging the boxes.

A crew of volunteers spent Saturday afternoon erecting the posts at the Sooke pier and attaching each of the boxes. The hope is that these new homes will create nesting opportunities for the threatened species.

”We’re hoping that by providing these ideal Purple Martin hotel habitats, that they’ll choose to nest in these safe boxes rather than other places around the harbour,” said Webb. “Or perhaps it will attract more Purple Martins to the harbour, here.”

Purple Martins are the largest swallow in North America. They are known to live and hunt near or over waterways and feed off mosquitos and other bugs.

Next year, Wild Wise hopes to obtain permits to open the boxes to study the nests and any new chicks.