Tag Archives: birding

more on (purple) martins

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Last weeks column on purple martins generated some interesting questions. Here’s a sample with the response from Perry Vogel of the Purple Martin Association of the Dakota’s

I live in Park River,ND.  Several years ago we put up a purple martin bird house in hopes of families of Martins would move in and return each year.


No real luck.


Only one time did we have martins nest there.


It is away from trees and stands in the back yard on a cut off telephone pole that is still high off the ground.


I sometimes  see martins on the electric line not far from the “Martin House”.


Of course the sparrows move in each summer.


I used to get ever so many gold finch in the summer and they no longer come to my thistle seed feeders. My neighbors have pine trees so they do have a place to nest.  I really like birds.  I do get an oriole for about a week in the spring. And hummingbirds come to my feeder each summer.


If you ever are in Walsh County and in Park River please feel welcome to stop and evaluate the situation.


I am a senior citizen and live alone so I can’t climb up with a ladder to check things out.


Dear Laura A.


Your message was forwarded to me from Doug Leier.  What you have described doesn’t seem to be manageable housing; the bulky House Sparrow nests will prevent Purple Martins from entering their own house.


1) “on a cut off telephone pole” – a telephone pole without a pole guard is an open invitation to egg eating predators

2) “the electric line not far” – if the lines are close enough to the house; predators may jump to the Purple Martin house

3) “sparrows move in each summer” – House Sparrows will destroy Purple Martin nests, unhitched eggs, and kill baby Purple Martins

4) “I can’t climb up with a ladder to check things out” – nests need to be cleaned out after every season

5) “gold finch…no longer come to my thistle seed feeders” – this happened to me too; as it turns out the food I bought was stale and they didn’t like what I was serving…

6) “stop and evaluate the situation” – Let’s keep in touch and see what options might be feasible.


I am sure sorry that you have not had any real luck with Purple Martins.  My mother (who turned 77 this year) has a colony in Kulm, ND.  She offers a gourd rack with 12 gourds and hosted 10 pair of Purple Martins last year.  There are manageable systems available so that you may be able to enjoy the magnificent Purple Martins.  I know a gentleman in Park River, ND that called me a few years ago to talk about Purple Martins.

keeping those feeders clean

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An unusually high number of songbirds found dead near backyard bird feeders across the country this spring is a strong message for homeowners to make sure bird feeders and bird baths are kept clean.

Dr. Dan Grove, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said initial reports of dead songbirds – most notably pine siskins, common redpolls and gold finches – occurred in the southeastern United States in February. More recently, reports are coming from northern tier states. Salmonella has been identified as the cause of death in those birds that were sent to various labs.

“Homeowners with backyard bird feeders need to be aware of the consequences of an unclean feeder,” Grove said. “An unclean feeder can perpetuate diseases that are spread when birds congregate at artificial feeding stations.”

Salmonella is a bacteria transmitted through bird droppings. As a precaution, Grove recommends cleaning feeders weekly and removing any seed debris from the ground.

The following steps should be taken to clean a feeder: remove all seed debris and deposit in the garbage; wash with warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly; spray with a 10 percent bleach solution; leave sit for 10 minutes; rinse completely and let sun dry.

Sandra Johnson, nongame biologist for the Game and Fish Department, said that potential problems associated with artificial feeders have prompted Game and Fish to recommend focusing attention on habitat and not feeders.

“Backyard bird feeding is more responsibly accomplished by using vegetation, such as fruit bearing trees and shrubs,” Johnson said. “Habitat in the form of trees, shrubs, native grasses and wildflowers, and vines benefits birds with necessary cover and natural sources of food.”

Homeowners interested in obtaining information on how to provide backyard bird habitat should contact the Game and Fish Department at (701) 328-6300, or by e-mail at ndgf@nd.gov.


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