The Prairie Adventures column written by Patricia Stockdill was published April 20, 2012 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}.

I’ve got friends from Canada and Minnesota, just from banded martins.
– Paul Mammenga, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department waterfowl biologist and Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas co-founder.

Just because Paul Mammenga’s purple martins were banded at his Columbia, S.D. colony doesn’t mean they won’t visit – and perhaps even take up residency – in North Dakota or beyond. 

Mammenga is a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department waterfowl biologist and co-founder of the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas with fellow martin enthusiast Perry Vogel, Grand Forks.

 In addition to conducting purple martin research using specialized geolocator tracking devices, Mammenga plans to band 400 to 500 purple martins in 2012. The natal dispersal study helps scientists learn more where the birds disperse from their home colony. 

Mammenga became interested in the research after finding two banded martins in his colony in May 2011. One, a 3-year-old adult male, was banded near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 2008. He discovered its leg band after rescuing the wet, drenched bird following a fight with another male martin. He dried it off and it recovered. Together with its mate, it successfully reared four fledglings. 

Mammenga found another banded martin in June 2011, this time a sub-adult banded near Willmar, Minn. in 2010. 

The band information allowed Mammenga to track down the banders and becoming good friends with his fellow purple martin enthusiasts. 

The band discoveries prompted Mammenga to start banding purple martins for the natal dispersal study. As a waterfowl biologist accomplished in banding ducks, geese and other birds, he has the expertise to band martins, along with blessings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 Together with his brother and fellow martin landlord, Dennis, he plans to band birds at three and possibly four different colonies. They’re also collaborating with banders in Saskatchewan, Missouri and Minnesota. 

But North Dakota purple martin enthusiasts play a large role in the study, even if they’re not actively banding. 

Mammenga encourages martin landlords to be on the lookout for tiny, colored leg bands on their birds, which will help him and others working on the project learn about dispersal. “You may be surprised that you may find one or more with leg bands,” described the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas website. 

Anyone sighting a banded purple martin is asked to contact the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas via their website,({}), clicking “Contact” and sending an email or emailing co-founder Perry Vogel,{}. 

The banding project is just one of the organization’s projects. Its first-ever annual meeting takes place June 9 in Grand Forks. In addition, a fundraising program is underway to establish a martin housing project on Grand Forks’ Red River Greenway, providing opportunities to educate people about martins in a public arena. 

The association wants to hear from fellow purple martin landlords throughout North Dakota and South Dakota, Mammenga said. It doesn’t matter if a colony is a single gourd rearing a family or if there are 100 houses and gourds with dozens upon dozens of fledglings. 

The information exchange benefits martin research and a general broadening of  information and education but is also a great way to meet new friends. 

After all, it’s a tiny leg band that introduced Mammenga to some of his best friends – feathered and human, alike.