- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Employees at the South Dakota state Capitol are working to ensure scores of purple martins flock back to the area every year.

The Capitol’s Buildings and Grounds department has been providing homes for the birds for more than 30 years, Rex Riis, education chair for the local chapter of the Audubon Society, told the Pierre Capital Journal (https://bit.ly/1WO4icX). He credited Mary Dean Janklow, wife of former Gov. Bill Janklow, with approving the bird houses as a way to bring more purple martins to the area.

“It probably started when they were doing the beautification of the Capitol grounds and Capitol Lake,” Riis said.

There are several birdhouses erected around Capitol Lake and others throughout Hilger’s Gulch.

“They put out these houses every year for them, and it’s a pleasure to have them in our community. I think you have to give credit to all these people that try to attract them,” he said.

Riis said the birdhouses are important because the purple martin relies entirely on man-made structures for its nesting.

“The Native Americans used to put out gourds for them - probably because they’re such a wonderful bird. They have wonderful calls. And they’re 100 percent insectivorous. They eat insects, nothing but insects, and it’s all done on the wing,” he said.

The birds start arriving in the area in April and stay until late August or early September after they’ve bred and raised their young. They then migrate as far south as Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.

Rollie Isaacson, director of Buildings and Grounds, said his crew puts out the birdhouses in early spring before the purple martins arrive, and then takes them down in the fall for cleaning. He estimates that the birdhouse procedure has been in place since the 1970s.

Isaacson said purple martins are nice to have around because they eat insects and are very social birds.


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, https://www.capjournal.com

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