The Prairie Adventures column written by Patricia Stockdill was published February 1, 2013 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}.

We want everyone who has purple martins to register their site, regardless of if it’s active or not.
– Perry Vogel, Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas representative

It may be the dead of winter but it’s not too late to be thinking spring – which can include purple martins.

For example, the Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas (PMAD) already has their Second Annual {Outdoor Purple Martin Festival} scheduled, this time in Columbia, S.D. on June 15.

In addition, PMAD representative Perry Vogel, Grand Forks, encourages martin enthusiasts to register their colonies on their website,({}). It’s just a matter of providing name, mailing address, email address, and any comments regarding the colony. The address data entry automatically records longitude and latitude.

Blue pins denote active colonies; red pins are inactive colonies. The data will enhance scouting reports and other mapping, which helps track martin populations and trends.

The association was founded about a year to educate people about martins, expand interest, and increase colonies.

Martins have evolved so they are virtually dependent on human provided housing, either apartments or artificial and natural gourds.

Two PMAD projects already made a difference: A house erected along the Grand Forks Greenway in 2012 fledged 12 young martins. In addition, Vogel adopted a long-neglected colony at {name removed at the request of owner} near Arvilla. He fixed the houses, added straw, cedar shavings, and smeared a paint stick’s worth of mud inside the nesting compartment.

The result: “We fledged 17 young out at {name removed at the request of owner}…that was a site that struggled for years,” Vogel described.

Also, association volunteers presented a series of public lectures in 2012, with several on YouTube for viewing.

Becoming involved with Purple Martin Association of the Dakotas is easy and free. Simply go to their website, ({}) to register a colony, learn about association projects, and ask questions.

It may be the dead of winter here but for martins, the move north is already underway. Vogel said martins began arriving in southern Florida in late December and early January. “There are (past) sightings as early as Christmas Day,” he added.

Even though they’ll take their time arriving in North Dakota and South Dakota, February is a good time to do things to ensure they’ll find housing potential when they start swooping in.

Vogel suggested martin landlords with 6-inch by 6-inch apartment compartments consider opening them up so they’re 12-inch by 6-inch compartments. The extra space is healthier for the birds, Vogel explained.

If the apartment doors aren’t starling-resistant, now is also a good time to replace doors.

February is an ideal time to build an apartment. Vogel will send blueprints of an easy-to-build apartment he designed for those emailing him, at {} or go to the website and request blueprints on the “Contact” link.

Landlords opting for gourds rather than apartments can order them from the Purple Martin Conservation Association (www. The association’s store also has parts to make housing units from natural gourds – even the gourds themselves so they can be up this spring.

Speaking of natural gourds, the dead of winter is a good time to learn how to grow, prepare, and finish natural gourds. They require a little more work but when properly finished – and brought indoors in the winter – they last several years.