Collier accommodating rare bird species at golf course

A purple martin house at Pymatuning, which is similar to one being installed at Hill Top Park in Collier.
A purple martin house at Pymatuning, which is similar to one being installed at Hill Top Park in Collier.
Megan Guza
| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

One man is looking to build new housing and bring new residents — of the feathered variety — to the Collier Township area.

Carnegie resident Bill Wenger, in a letter to the Collier's parks and recreation board, asked to install a purple martin birdhouse in Hilltop Park.

Purple martins, a type of swallow, live in temperate regions across North America. The birds spend four to five months in the area before migrating to the Amazon area for the winter. The birds nest in holes and cavities, often in manmade birdhouses and hollowed out gourds. They prefer to live in colonies.

“Hurricane Agnes in 1972 killed lots across Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Wenger said. “They have been a very common bird, but then most of them died off. It took decades to get them back in the area.”

He said there are five purple martin colonies in Allegheny County, one of which is in Collier at the Nevillewood golf course.

Apartment-style birdhouses were put on the course early on, but trees had grown over them and purple martins prefer open areas, he said. Wenger worked with the grounds manager to move the houses to more open areas.

Now, Hilltop Park would be a good habitat for new houses, he said.

“Hilltop Park is so close that it would be a great place to start with the least amount of trouble,” he said. “The goal is to start maybe having some educational classes in Collier and put some housing up there.”

Wenger cares for several colonies of the birds in Pymatuning and Crawford County. During breeding season, he checks the houses and counts the eggs, monitoring them until they hatch and the young birds, ultimately, leave the nest.

“It's kind of become an obsession,” he said.

Township Commissioner Tim Young brought the idea to the board at the Oct. 30 meeting. He said he is in favor of placing a purple martin housing structure at Hilltop Park.

Wenger said he hopes to work with the parks and recreation board to get the project off the ground.

Collier Manager Sal Sirabella said while township officials welcome suggestions to improve parks, no taxpayer money would be used for this project.

“We are happy to support the efforts, but we have no intention of supplying any funding or support, direct or indirect,” he said.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

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