purple martin gourd house

purple martin gourd birdhouses

Purple Martin Gourd Bird House – The Purple Martin Connection

Here is an interesting article about purple martins and how the purple martin gourd bird house came to be and how the purple martin gourd bird house has since evolved.

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The Purple Martin Connection

Let us briefly explore how the bond between Purple Martins and humans became so strong, and examine the opportunity that bond gives us to step into our roles as stewards and caretakers – rather than ravagers – of the natural world.

East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins almost exclusively nest in birdhouses provided by humans. This bond between man and bird did not always exist, of course. It evolved over centuries naturally and likely by accident. Now that Purple Martins are so dependent upon us for their housing, it becomes incumbent upon us to foster this uniquely beautiful relationship. Let us briefly explore how this bond became so strong, and examine the opportunity it gives us to step into our roles as stewards and caretakers – rather than ravagers – of the natural world.

purple martin gourd companyOriginally, Purple Martins nested in abandoned woodpecker holes, decaying trees, or wherever they could find a cavity big enough to contain their nest. Native Americans initiated the human connection with the birds. Gourds were hollowed out and hung from poles or tree branches to cure, to be later used as water vessels. The people were probably surprised when first they saw a pair of steel-blue martins making a cozy abode in their beverage ware!

Later, European colonists and frontiersmen took note of the ties between Purple Martins and the Natives. In 1831, a man named Alexander Wilson observed, "Even the solitary Indian seems to have a particular respect for this bird." ["Thanks to Native Americans, Purple Martins Underwent a Complete Tradition Shift" - James R. Hill, III] The Native Americans may have nurtured the relationship with Purple Martins because of the massive amounts of insects they eat. (It is important to understand, though, that mosquitoes are not on the martins’ menu; that myth was an invention of unscrupulous marketers trying to sell more birdhouses!) It is also quite possible that the Natives simply enjoyed the aerobatic feats of these nimble flyers, as many people do today.

As people expanded into the Purple Martins’ territory, there were fewer and fewer places for martins and other birds to nest. Luckily, people already knew how to provide homes for the martins, at least in a rudimentary fashion.

However, our encroachment continued, and the pressure on Purple Martin populations increased exponentially. Urban expansion, suburban sprawl, road building, deforestation, river damming, and many of our other activities nearly spelled the end for the enchanting, gregarious martins.

purple martin gourd poleFinally, concerned citizens began to try to reverse the downward trend in the number of Purple Martins. New types of housing were developed, eventually evolving into the multi-unit bird apartments that can now be seen all across the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. The designs and specifications of Purple Martin birdhouses continue to change as we learn more about these wonderful birds. The large, mansion-like houses, made of wood, plastic, aluminum, or some combination of these, supplanted the natural gourds as the favorites of Purple Martin landlords; but the gourds, like the martins themselves, are making a comeback. Many people spend days carving and curing gourds to hang from wires or mount on poles. The birdhouse manufacturers have also thrown their hats into the ring, producing durable, attractive artificial Purple Martin gourds that the birds seem to love.

The Purple Martin enthusiasts began to spread the word about the plight of the birds, and, over time, more and more people ventured into the realm of Purple Martin landlording. The number of martins nesting in the U.S. and Canada has rebounded significantly, though the population is still meager in comparison to its former size.

The prevalence of competitors like European Starlings and English House Sparrows, coupled with the effects of human society will prevent Purple Martins from reestablishing their former number, but there is no reason why they cannot have a robust and healthy population. Their fate is now in our hands. We, who initiated the Purple Martin Connection so long ago, can make all the difference.

By Michael Rasco
Published: 2/1/2008

Ten Birds That Help Control Garden Pests

Tina Phillips, project leader of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird House Network, adds, “The most important thing to do to attract birds to your yard is to provide an enticing habitat, not just a nest box. West of the Rockies, purple martins often nest in tree cavities and building crevices, while in the East they typically nest with as many as 30 pairs in hotel-like boxes or hanging, hollow gourds.

Purple Finch Added To Bird List

On their trips to Northeast Tennessee, however, Toni said they have not seen very many gourds or houses for Purple Martins. She wondered if the temperature is too cold for Purple Martins.

Purple Martin Birdhouse Gourds

Add smaller hole at the top for hanging and in the bottom for drainage. You can custom paint each house or use wood burning tools to decorate… Consider hanging a collection of gourds together for swallows or purple martins.


Purple martins need elbow room, so if you can, allow at least a twenty-foot diameter of clear space around the birdhouse. These birds like a high perch and like to have an abundance of egg shells at their disposal. The Native Americans knew the advantages of having martin colonies around their corn fields. That’s why they put up birdhouses made from gourds and calabashes to attract them.

Build A Purple Martin Gourd Bird House For The Birds

Build a Purple Martin bird house and attract these bug-eating birds to your yard to help make your summer pest-free. … More than 100 years ago, Native Americans made homes for purple martins out of gourds, attracting the friendly swallows to their camps. Build a four-family house and attract these bug-eating birds to your yard to help make your summer pest-free.

Purple Martin Gourd Birdhouse Is Fun And Easy To Make

For Purple martins, paint your gourds white. Two or three coats of exterior latex will put a good finish on your birdhouse gourds for martins. Martins, swallows, and wrens delight in the movement of a hanging gourd birdhouse.

The Gourd is the Original Southwest Bird House

The natural gourd bird house is by far the first choice for Purple Martins. Many other wild bird species also choose natural gourd birdhouses to other man-made abodes. Woodpeckers will likely always prefer their own excavated homes.

Purple Martin Gourd Bird House

Purple Martin bird houses were first used to attract breeding pairs of Purple Martins by Native Americans. They would hang hollowed out gourds from trees to encourage nesting. No one really knows when this practice began.

Purple Martin Gourd Bird House

Then I turned my attention to the purple martin gourd bird house. I had no idea the Amish were professional gourd bird house makers. Their website contains detailed instructions for creating your own gourd purple martin bird house.

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