WILLMAR — A wave consisting of several thousand waterfowl reached west central Minnesota during the night of March 27, and with that, the spring migration is officially underway.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to ready bird houses for the guests that will be arriving with intentions of staying around and raising a family.
Randy Frederickson of Willmar, an avid birder and science instructor with the Willmar Public Schools, was busy last week preparing the purple martin houses erected at the Pet Hospital along 15th Avenue Southwest (Minnesota Highway 40) in Willmar four years ago.
Dick Doll of Willmar, who maintains a long-standing colony of purple martins, and Fredrickson worked with the Pet Hospital to install the houses to serve as a demonstration site and encourage others to erect them.
The Pet Hospital site has proven a good one. Last year, 17 pairs occupied the houses, which offer 18 nesting cavities. They fledged 68 birds.
The house uses a T-14 design that is proving very successful.
Whether it is houses for wood ducks, bluebirds, martins, wrens or other species, it is important to check the structures before the birds arrive.
Frederickson urges anyone maintaining bird houses to commit themselves to an on-going effort through the season to remove any invasive species that may move in. Raising English sparrows or starlings is counter-productive, he noted.
He recommends using live traps for removing invasive species so that any desirable birds that might be caught can be safely released.
Those offering housing to purple martins should be on the lookout, as Frederickson said it is possible that some of the first birds could reach the Willmar area any day now.
Be prepared to provide supplemental feeding for any purple martins that do arrive this early. It usually requires 50 degree weather to produce the flying insects the purple martins feed on.