The Prairie Adventures column written by Patricia Stockdill was published December 23, 2011 in Minot Air Force Base's Northern Sentry featuring the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas.


This article has been modified from its original version indicated by the {curly brackets}.

​They just bring a life to your backyard that other birds don’t...and they’re very loyal. 
– Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas co-founder Perry Vogel, Grand Forks.

It’s the dead of winter, you’re a dedicated purple martin enthusiast and you’re laid up after a second ankle surgery in less than four months.

What do you do?

If you’re Perry Vogel, Grand Forks, you tunnel your energy into helping purple martins, sharing that passion with fellow martin landlords and establish the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas.

The group has 12 members, five partners – other purple martin and birding organizations from throughout the region – and three friends – people volunteering to assist the fledgling organization in some capacity within two weeks of launching the effort in early December with South Dakota’s Paul Mammenga.

Joining is easy.

Simply have an interest or curiosity about purple martins, the largest member of the swallow family in North America, a phenomenal insect eater and a sociable, friendly bird dependent on humans for housing.

“Right now to become a member, you say you want to become a part of the club,” Vogel described.  Call Vogel, {(701) 732 - 0246}, email him at {} or visit the organization’s Facebook page, ({}).

Vogel’s introduction to purple martins came as a child growing up in Kulm where his father and grandfather had martin colonies.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t too fond of martins because I was the one responsible for cleaning out their houses,” Vogel admitted.

His interest in martins rekindled as an adult after adding a 20-unit plywood apartment built by his late brother, Murray, in 2001 at his Grand Forks residence.  “The very next day, I had my first birds,” he said.

He had four pair that first year and has been hooked ever since.  In 2011, 29 pairs fledged 109 young from Vogel’s three natural gourds - inherited from his father – commercial gourds® and a homemade apartment house.

Vogel feels many North Dakotans and South Dakotans have houses – or an interest in martins – but may not be attracting martins to nest, perhaps in large part because of competition from non-native house sparrows and starlings.

Humans have a long, historical connection with purple martins with American Indians providing houses from natural gourds.  Over the past hundreds of  years, purple martins evolved to become intensely dependent on housing provided by humans, an evolutionary shift from natural tree cavities to plastic and natural gourds and apartments.  “It’s really important to focus on purple martins because they’re 100 percent reliant on human housing east of the Rocky Mountains,” Vogel explained.

Plans call for applying for Purple Martin Conservation Association affiliation and Vogel is currently looking into obtaining 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt status. 

He hopes the newly established organization will provide networking to broaden people’s understanding and knowledge of martins, help increase occupancy and nesting success and encourage people to establish, monitor and maintain colonies.  Vogel is pleased with amount of the interest in the new organization
so far.

It’s all about helping a sociable, friendly bird and sharing a passion with fellow martin enthusiasts.

Besides, what better way to spend the winter than to learn, plan and prepare for the welcomed arrival of purple martins next spring?