My friend Mark came over to the house with a bit of good news last night. His (our) banding permit has been modified to include color marking Purple Martins at colonies around Minnesota. We have been working over the last few years with a couple of people who have martin colonies west of the Twin Cities by banding young in their colonies just prior to fledging. Because the adults are so hard to retrap, we have only been able to check for returning adult birds by seeing bands on legs as they perch. What we don't know for certain is whether these are our bands or someone else's. We believe they are our birds but we'd have to get them in hand to be sure.
This summer we will be placing colored, numbered bands on all banded young martins along with a standard USFWS band. For Minnesota the protocol is that the colored bands will be red. This will allow us to get a little more information about martin movements. I'm most curious about whether the martins at the colonies we work with disperse to other nearby colonies. This marking will also allow us to possibly find out where Minnesota martins winter.
What I find most exciting is that we've talked about doing this type of project for a couple of years and it is finally going to happen. If you'd like more information about Purple Martins conservation check here.