2017 Purple Martin Workshop

The 12th annual Purple Martin Workshop was held today near Kalona, Iowa. The organizers, Jim Walters and Evan Gingerich, planned another wide ranging session. The morning included information about waste management and recycling, why citizen science and conservation are important, and an update on the reintroduction of Eagles, Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons in the Midwest.

The afternoon began with a presentation about Purple Martins (Progne subis) and appropriate landlord practices which was followed by a panel of Purple Martin landlords answering questions from the audience. Everyone learns a bit more from the questions and answers.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions the crowd enjoyed a hearty lunch provided by women in the neighborhood. Mr. Walters also showed a short video about an Eagle Scout project involving a new Osprey tower.

There were exhibits of birding books and equipment, information on a variety of birds and organizations but especially information on Purple Martins, our largest swallow. The end of the program is always followed by door prizes and an auction. The proceeds from the auction are donated to the charity whose building hosts the workshop.

People come from all over the state and some from neighboring states to visit and learn more about birds, but more particularly about Purple Martins. Purple Martins are almost completely dependent on humans for providing nest houses and gourds in the Eastern U.S. That is why those who provide homes for the martins are called landlords.

The one above is sub-adult – probably a male. It is not turned far enough to see for certain if there are any purple feathers on its chin, chest or tail. The chin is darker than sub-adult females, so that is our guess. The bird behind is crawling into the gourd appears to be a brownish female.

The first “scout” Purple Martin has recently been reported in southern Iowa so they are on their way back. Just as we are awaiting Spring, we hope the Purple Martins will also be arriving soon, even if they do not nest until the big insects are hatching.

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