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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Ongoing Research of Purple Martins at Oconto

Issue Date: July 31, 2019

On July 9, purple martin adults and chicks were banded at Oconto City Park by Dick Nikolai, a retired Wisconsin DNR biologist and board member of the Wisconsin Purple Martin Conservation Association. Two housing complexes atop long poles near the water's edge are home to a purple martin colony at the Park.

Annually for the past four years Nikolai, with help of Cordula Van Den Heuvel, Oconto Bird City Coordinator, has banded birds at this site.

Gently cradling the young chicks in his hand, he deftly attached a silver band to one leg and a red band to the other. The silver band is stamped with a unique set of numbers that identifies the individual bird. The red band has three large identification numbers and is part of an on-going study to determine where these young birds will roost this year and where they go in the coming year. The bands provide important information on bird migration, behavior, life span, reproductive success, population growth, toxicology and diseases that is used to help conserve birds and their habitats.

Adult purple martins are also part of two other research studies. Dick has attached external transmitters to some of the adults to allow daily tracking of the bird's locations throughout the year. The transmitters provide information on where the birds roost, their migratory routes, length of their journeys, and where they over winter in South America. The information helps identify threats to the birds, such as loss of habitat in overwintering areas.

Feathers from four adults of both sexes of purple martins were collected as part of a large international study being led by the Northern Arizona University. The feathers will be analyzed for contaminants including heavy metals and organochloride pesticides to look at their accumulation in the birds and their effect on the physiology and health of the birds.

Protecting and helping purple martins population have declined annually for over 50 years. Since 2013 the Wisconsin DNR has listed the Purple Martin as a species of special concern. East of the Rocky Mountains they are completely dependent on man-made housing for nesting and raising their young, making our help especially important.

If interested in helping purple martins by erecting houses, information is available at https://www.purplemartin.org or to learn more about the purple martin program in Oconto or help with monitoring the birds, contact Cordula Van Den Heuvel, Oconto Bird City Coordinator at Birdcityoconto@gmail.com/.


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