Hello, Wayne Boyd here –
The Purple Martin; you’ve probably heard of them! I’m sure you have seen their homes in many yards. Maybe as a child your family had one or your neighbor down the street, but it is always the largest and probably the tallest birdhouses with many residents. The Purple Martin is part of the swallow family of North America. The Martin measures 7 – 8″ and weighs 45 – 60 grams. The only difference between the male and female Martin is the female is not as glossy and has a lighter under belly.
Purple martins are the largest swallow in North America and they are the most popular tenant of backyard birdhouses. The best way to attract them is to put birdhouses in your yard. They love to eat different kind of insects such as mosquitoes, beetles, dragonflies and moths. They also prefer grassy open stream sides, large forest openings close to lakes and ponds or even river bottom lands.
Purple Martins are the only kind of birds that are totally dependent on humans especially on providing them a place where they can live . They actually prefer to see human activities around their sites. Purple martin birdhouses should be painted white, to keep the place cool and are typically shaped in the traditional birdhouse style. The houses are usually constructed from plastic, wood or aluminum.
Having a house that will attract purple martins requires a suitable location. The birds enjoy having activity around them so there is no need to hide the house. It can be close to the human habitation and easily visible. Purple martins don’t particularly enjoy trees. They appreciated unobstructed views and uncluttered flight paths. Their house should be situated with those considerations in mind in order to attract a vibrant colony.
A large house requires proper, secure installation. The house should be mounted on a pole between ten and fifteen feet off the ground. There should not be any trees taller than the house nearby. The mounting should be secure because shaking by the wind may loosen fixtures. Predators can take an interest in the purple martin colony so suitable pole guards should be installed to prevent the birds demise.
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Martins are colonial breeders and will share a single large birdhouse as long as there are multiple compartments to it, otherwise called bird condos. A good Martin birdhouse will have a minimum of 4 large rooms; 6 or more inches on all sides with a 2 ¼” entrance hole that is about an 1 ½” above the floor.
Now that you know a little about the Purple Martin let’s talk nesting preferences and the Purple Martin Birdhouse. The Purple Martin breeds near and around humans. They actually like to see human activity, as they feel human activity will keep predators away that’s why it is important to pick a spot within about 30 – 60 feet from your home for the Martin birdhouse. Air space is vital to the flight path of the Purple Martin. There should be no trees taller than your selected Martin Birdhouse within 60 feet. The home should be 10 to 15 feet from the ground.
Purple Martin Bird Houses are large bird houses and are put up by a number of people. However a large amount of people who use these bird houses find it difficult to attract or keep breeding martins. Most often it is found that once these birds nest in your location they come back as long as their site is managed properly. The following tips will increase your chances of attracting martins and keeping them.
Location – Location – Location
Location is the number one reason why people find it hard to attract or keep their breeding birds. Martins like their space, so placing their bird house in the largest open space you have with approximately 30-120ft. from human housing is preferred. The bird house should be the tallest thing with no other trees as tall and be far away from trees if possible 40-60ft is good but not required as others have attracted purple martins with as little as 15ft. from trees. It would benefit the birds if you were to keep all shrubs, bushes, wires and vines away from the pole.
Don’t Forget The Timing!
Timing is Everything. Well timing does play a part in attracting martins. Once you have established a breeding site, your purple martin birdhouse, the same birds are likely to return year after year. Why is this? Female purple martins are known to exhibit high levels of site fidelity. It doesn’t matter where you are located, keeping your home open through August would be sufficient. In North America, martins can start nesting and arriving in early to late June. In July and August this years young will start searching for next year’s breeding sites. These birdhouses should be stored or put up during the winter months.
Competition is another reason these birds may not return as the sites have been claimed by others and then aggressively chase the martins away. Tearing out nests may prevent the competition from housing in the purple martin birdhouse. Resistant entry holes or plugging with paper cups or door stops and possibly putting up other housing will assist with keeping the competition out. You should check the birdhouse regularly.
Martins like primarily white houses. Dimensions should be at least 6×6 with the holes at least 1 inch above the floor and 2 1/8in diameter. You will want to have easy access to your home for site control and cleaning out any unwanted nests. To replace any active housing it is recommended to place the new birdhouse close to the current housing for at least one season.
Availability Of Insects
Weather variations effect insect availability causing the martins to starve as insects are the primary source of food for these birds. Some weather extremes can produce insect numbers causing nest parasites. Never use pesticides in your homes. To get ride of the nest parasites, you may need to replace the infected nest.
By following these simple tips and being proactive. You will increase your abilities to keep and/or bring the desired Purple Martins to your site. You may also want to learn more about migrating maps for the Martins to find out when you should expect to have the martins migrating to your specific area.
If you happen to own one of the many purple martin houses that is resident to this migratory bird then you know what a treat it is to see them.