Emergency Feeding


For keeping your martins alive in bad weather

Weather can take a terrible toll on martins that are already weakened by their long migration.

Here is some good information about when the weather may prevent food from being available.

50 degrees, sunny, no wind = bugs

50 degrees, overcast, strong wind = few or NO bugs

Although 50 degrees is the often-stated threshold for flying insects, there are factors other than temperature that affect the natural food source.   Strong wind, persistent rain, and consecutive overcast and cold days can limit the number of bugs available, even if the temperature reaches into the 50s or higher.    Following their long migration, the earliest returning birds are in a weakened state.    Non-stop foraging for a small insect supply can expend as much energy as is gained.

Martins are able to survive intermittent days of no-feed condition, but after about 3-4 consecutive days of no food, they are weakened to the point of not being able to fly even if the weather improves.   There is great information available about supplemental feeding here (from the PMCA website):



 “An adult martin can maintain its weight on 40 crickets a day if that’s all it is eating.

One cooked egg will feed two adult martins for one day, so one egg = 80 crickets.”

No info on mealworms, but a guess would be that 100 mealworms per day would be required

 To prepare scrambled eggs for Martins, crack the desired number of eggs into a bowl and stir well.   Microwave on HI for a minute at a time.   Stir.   Repeat till eggs are formed and no longer runny.    Use a potato masher to break it into pieces.   Or, some people like to flatten the cooked eggs out and then cut them into roughly ¼ pieces.

To fling eggs (or crickets), use a plastic picnic spoon. ( A paint stick is also wide enough to fling your crickets and is not as flimsy)  Put the food into the bowl of the spoon, and bend the spoon backward to launch it into the air.   It will go quite high.  It may take a few tries to get your birds to fly after your offerings because their instinct is telling them there are no insects flying.   But it only takes one bird, and then they seem to all catch on.   Once they’ve learned, they don’t forget.     If leaving eggs in a feeding tray, be aware that other birds are very attracted to them as well:  robins, starlings, and even seagulls!     (Get your frozen crickets ready to use either by letting them thaw at room temperature or, putting them in a small sieve and running warm water over them for a few seconds.)

If you haven’t trained your Martins to accept supplemental food, give it a try anyway!     Supplemental feeding has been going on south of us throughout the US for many years now, and landlords often report that their numbers swell and then decrease as the birds move north.     Many feel that they are feeding birds other than their own, so yours may have picked up the skill already.