Kieran’s Story: Student-led Conservation at Kealing Middle School

It was August 2018 when I first met Purple Martins at a Travis Audubon Purple Martin Party in a parking lot in Austin, Texas. I didn’t know what to expect but the birds immediately mesmerized me with their coordinated flight – the swirling, turning, acrobatic performance was amazing before they all landed in the trees only to take flight again a few moments later. The large number of birds at the roost made it difficult to understand how they could be threatened, but in talking with the volunteers, my family and I began to better understand how the Purple Martins have come to rely on humans and that more people need to take action to help them survive.  

Later that year, I led a group at my school, the Patton Elementary Eco Team, to install a 12-gourd colony on the school grounds in February 2019. The entire school supported the effort by making small donations (pictured left) and we all worked really hard, successfully fledging 20 birds in the first year! At the Travis Audubon Purple Martin Party my Travis Audubon mentor, Denise Daley, connected me with a reporter from the Austin American Statesman for an interview (read it here).

Now I want to install a colony at my current school, Kealing Middle School. The plan for this colony is to have more gourds (18), potentially an informational sign, and I am going to help train the Animal Studies class to learn how to manage the colony so that class will manage it in the long term. I think this will help to instill values of conservation in the next generation as well as teach them to appreciate all birds, including Purple Martins. I also hope that it will teach them to appreciate the environment and how meaningful conservation work can be, like holding a tiny baby Purple Martin to figure out its age. You can support my project today by donating here.

Kieran McDonald
8th Grade – Kealing Middle School