Banding Purple Martins

Some Banding Photos at Purple Martin Sites

An article written by a local newspaper regarding Banding at Phil Carnie’s in Morpeth,Ontario by the Ridgetown Independent News, July 2012


If you come across an aluminum or coloured band on a dead purple martin ,  please take the time to report the number on the banded bird.  Send this important information letters and numbers on the ring  to the Banding Lab. The number to call is 1-800 BAND or report it at their website .  You will be awarded a certificate for your effort.

What Is Involved in Banding

The licensed bander affixes a special size band (sometimes coloured) and records the bird’s species, age if possible, the band number, its weight, wing length plus the date and location.
For your own personal  records you can use a Nestling Banding Identification Sheet and a Prognosticator to determine their age and to record the results. Both of these are available from the PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association).


You can record each nestling’s:

  • Box number
  • Date of banding
  • Age in days after hatching
  • Band number

It’s possible to determine a nestling’s sex by plumage or other external appearance by using a nestling identification chart. See above.

When are nestlings banded?
There is a very short window of time for banding nestlings11 – 20 days after hatching. (This is one more reason for keeping a Control Sheet that tracks nestling age at each box). You must resist the temptation to band nestlings outside the window.

Warning! Before day 11 nestling legs are usually too swelled with fatty tissue. Applying a band could squeeze and damage the leg. A 1A band is very tight on the leg but a number 1D, 2 will work well. A 1A band is usually recommended by the Banding Service. The 1D is just beginning to be used by some PUMA (Purple Martin) banders.

Warning! Nestlings older than day 20 should not be handled for any reason, including banding!!! Doing so could cause them to leave their nest too soon, and die. Leave them in their compartment and block the hole until all the nestlings in the house are banded.

Will your young purple martins return to your site as adults to nest?

  • Don’t expect many nestlings to return.
  • While 30-60% of adult nesters will be back, banding studies show nestling
    returns average less than 5%.

Why is there such a difference in return rates of adults and nestlings?

  • Mortality of young, inexperienced swallows is high during their first autumn
    and winter of life.
  • Young purple martins in their first nesting season also tend to migrate north
    later than older adults. If they do come back to where they were raised they
    are apt to find nest sites already claimed and defended by older pairs and will nest if there are an adequate number of compartments available.
  • The options for younger birds are to try to take a nest site away from more
    experienced swallows; float in the area and wait for a vacancy that may never
    occur; or prospect for nest sites elsewhere.
  • The banding information we gather is sent to the Canadian Wildlife Service and then passed on to the Bird Banding Lab in Maryland where it is tabulated and entered into a continent-wide network that tracks the movement of the martin species. Recording this information over time allows trends to be determined and can help us decide whether certain populations are declining, expanding, or stable. This data can also  determining ecosystem health, and the implementation of rehabilitation measures for martins that are being lost or are at risk.
  • Reporting a banded purple martin:  for Canada and U.S The number to call is 1-800-327-BAND (2263) or report it at their website .
  • Banding Purple Martins …………Click on the link. 
  • So You Want to Have Your Martins Banded March 2013  by John Balga
  • A Banding Purple Martin video on You Tube for you as an introduction.
  • Further information about Bird Banding/Geolocators  in the Detroit River Area can be found at Rouge River Bird Observatory  .

Banding Recoveries

Close to 4000 purple martins have been banded since 2008, yet recoveries are seldom reported. If you come across a banded martin, please report it to the Banding Lab.

  • 1232-50674 08/04/2008,PUMA 11/06/11, 2 mi South from Saint Clair, St. Clair County,Michigan,USA
  • 1212-18699 07/03/2006 PUMA 09/75/2010 05, CHATHAM, ONTARIO, CANADA MATT CRAWFORD, 8595 NANCY STREET, CEDAR SPRINGS ONTARIO N0P1E0, Canada
  • 1212-18740 07/05/2006 PUMA 05/10/2008  07, 5 mi SW from ESSEX, ONTARIO, CANADA(Reported MARIE HALL, 2712 COUNTY RD 12,, ESSEX, ONTARIO, CANADA, N8M2X6 County: ESSEX) Desc: 2712 COUNTY RD.12/LOT24