Special Interest Article and photos by Gary Pung
One of Minnesota’s favorite songbirds is the Purple Martin! I fell in love with North America’s largest swallow as a youngster during my ‘60s summer vacations to central Minnesota. Most of my farming relatives had a purple martin ‘condo’ out in the yard filled to the brim with these singing birds. I would spend hours watching them swoop and dive above the farm yard. I attribute Minnesota in developing my lifelong fascination with this bird so the following is really dear to my heart. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing to list the Purple Martin as a species of Special Concern.
The purple martin has been on the decline in Minnesota, dropping 5.4 percent per year between 2000 and 2010, according to the US Department of Interior’s bird breeding survey.
The decline is steeper when looking at statistics going back to the 1960s, which show a decline of more than 85 percent in Minnesota’s purple martin breeding population, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA).
Purple martin experts say the bird’s decline is mainly due to two nonnative introduced species, the house sparrow and the European starling. Both invade and destroy martins and their eggs. And in recent decades, purple martins have found fewer of the martin houses that once have been in nearly every farm yard or in-town garden. Other predators that need to be controlled include raccoons, snakes, hawks and owls.
Predator control and modern management techniques of a purple martin colony is essential to maintain a healthy and successful colony. If you want to help the Minnesota Purple Martin regain a winghold in the Land of Lakes, the knowledge at the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA), http://purplemartin.org/, from the archives and the forum, is what has helped me and others to start and maintain the colonies we have today. Other helpful Minnesota based websites include MNMartin. Org at, http://www.mnmartin.org/index.cfm , and MinnesotaBirds. com at http://www.minnesotabirds.com/martins.php .