Banded Purple Martins at the Gastown Racetrack Colony, Armstrong Co., PA. 2005

Ken Kostka
American Swallow Conservancy
Pittsburgh, PA


               On the morning of June 30th, 2004, I took my high power spotting scope to the only known Purple Martin colony in Armstrong Co., PA, at the Gastown Racetrack near Shelocta, PA. This 15 pair colony was discovered and is managed by Duke Snyder. I saw eleven banded martins that morning and was able to read their leg bands with my spotting scope. Four were banded at the racetrack colony in the prior two years, but the other seven were from other colonies. Most came from colonies within a 50 mile radius, but one came from over 130 miles west. The map below shows the locations that they came from.

One might ask why all the banded martins at this site came from a westerly direction. The explanation is simple: with the exception of two one pair sites discovered in 2004, no colonies are known to exist in a multi-county area to the east of the Gastown colony; therefore, no martins were banded in the 50 mile area to the east of the racetrack site. In fact, The closest known colonies to the east of Gastown are near State College, PA, in Centre Co., about 80 miles away.

When Duke discovered this site several years ago, it consisted of about eight pairs in one old unmodified Trio Castle on an 8 ft pole. Duke has added several houses and a gourd rack while keeping the Trio, to which he has added owl guards and a climbing animal guard. The site has grown to about 15 pair, thanks to Duke’s efforts.