purple martin gourd houses

purple martin gourd bird houses

Purple Martin Gourds – Attracting Purple Martins

Attracting Purple Martins – Tricks of the Trade

purple martin house plans

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Purple Martins, aerobatic masters of the sky, have held a special place in the hearts and minds of many people for a very long time. The bond between these beautiful birds and humankind, established centuries ago, has grown ever stronger during that time. In fact, Purple Martins that nest east of the Rocky Mountains are almost completely dependent upon people to provide housing.

Purple Martin birdhouses of various shapes, colors, and designs stand proudly in backyards, parks, and golf courses all over the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Unfortunately, for many new to landlording, attracting Purple Martins is exceedingly difficult. There are a few important tips and techniques that can make the task a bit easier, but ultimately, patience and consistency are the key ingredients to a successful martin colony. With that in mind, let’s explore a few of those tips, including birdhouse location, controlling predators and competitors, and some additional tools that can improve your results.

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Purple Martin Real Estate

They say the three rules of real estate are "location, location, location." The same holds true when putting up a birdhouse. Different birds have different preferences for nesting locations, so to attract Purple Martins, give them what they want. The birdhouse should be placed at least thirty feet from human housing. Do not put it more than 120 feet away, though – Purple Martins have come to associate people with protection, so they do not want to be too far away.

These birds are amazing flyers capable of spectacular aerial feats; however, they require a direct flight path into their birdhouse, so make sure you place your Purple Martin birdhouse at least forty feet away from any trees that are taller than the birdhouse. How high above ground should the birdhouse be? The answer to that question is from ten to twenty feet. Most mounting poles specifically designed for Purple Martin houses will top out at twelve to fifteen feet, which is considered by most experts to be the optimum height.

There are two other considerations concerning the location of your birdhouse. First, there should be a source of water nearby. What’s that? You haven’t moved into your fancy lake house yet? As long as the martins can find water within a few miles, it is okay, whether it is a lake, river, pond, or even a surface well like those provided for cattle.


The other important thing to mention is that we are talking about Purple Martins that nest east of the Rocky Mountains. There is a sub-species of martin that lives in parts of the desert Southwest, and another along the Pacific coast, but they nest in their ancestral ways, in abandoned woodpecker holes and other natural cavities. The Pacific coast sub-species is beginning to use Purple Martin gourds and single-unit birdhouses.

Controlling Predators and Competitors

Other cavity nesting birds may compete with Purple Martins for your birdhouse. If you find Tree Swallows or Bluebirds trying to nest within, you should put up a birdhouse specifically for them, and move their nest. It is a violation of federal law to harm our native birds, so no aggressive action is to be taken.

The same cannot be said for non-native birds, like English House Sparrows and European Starlings. You may use deadly force to control these birds, so long as you do not violate other local laws. For instance, it may not be a good idea to unload on them with a hunting rifle; your neighbors will not appreciate it, and your expensive Purple Martin birdhouse will be full of holes (unless you shoot as badly as I do).

Unfortunately, sometimes predator species like hawks and owls may attack your Purple Martin colony. It is a part of the circle of life, as they say. Many birdhouses can be purchased with attachable owl guards, and the nesting compartments are usually sufficiently deep to provide a measure of protection.

A Little Extra Help

Over the years, Purple Martin experts developed some tools that may be great aids in attracting the oft-beloved birds. The dawn song of the Purple Martin, sung in spring as the birds circle overhead or perch nearby, is an effective attractant. You may try to learn how to sing like a martin, but your success is doubtful, and your family may worry for your sanity. Instead, buy a specially recorded CD, and play it in the early morning hours in spring.

Another helpful and clever resource is the Purple Martin decoy. These wooden or plastic look-alikes are placed on the birdhouse or on perches attached to the birdhouse. Since Purple Martins are gregarious birds, they may well stop by to say hello.

In conclusion, I must again emphasize the importance of the location of your new Purple Martin birdhouse. It must be near – but not too near – your own house, and away from trees. When dealing with other bird species, be a competitor with the predators (owls, hawks, etc.), and be a predator of non-native competitors (English House Sparrows and European Starlings). Avail yourself of whatever help you can find, including products such as audio recordings of Purple Martin vocalizations and decoys. Finally, I will offer two words that many Purple Martin landlords find are crucial to their success: Be patient!

By Michael Rasco
Published: 2/18/2008

purple martin bird house plans

Purple Martin Gourds

Yes, I know, the Purple Martins are not truly mine but the care I lavish on them is appreciated by them. The trust they show me as I hoist the gourd racks up or down and they sit and wait patiently with bugs in their mouths.

My Purple Martin BLOG Beware of Wet Nests!

The daily comings and goings of a Purple Martin colony in south florida and information on attracting, housing and caring for purple martins. … First off, on the lettered gourds of several of them. Even the nests that I changed just 2 days ago needed a another nest change.

Purple Martins

It was a perfect day to get some more spring chores done outside and so I decided to get my purple martin gourds "furnished" and hung up on the gourd rack. The purple martins have arrived back in Minnesota.

Gourds? A Great Home for Purple Martins

Heath Manufacturing makes some great gourds for attracting Purple Martins and preventing Sparrows and other types of wild birds from trying to make them home.

Purple Martin Gourds

The Excluder gourd and the natural gourd both hang under my aluminum purple martin house which is protected by a S&K plastic predator guard. A S&K platform feeder rests above the guard. Both nests are about the same age…about 6 days old.

Purple Martin Gourds Colony

Purple martins are a species that nearly vanished for this area. One reason: a finicky taste in nesting sites. They like cavities overlooking water. So a dedicated group of bird nerds has been bringing them back by building nest boxes and gourds in suitably scenic locations. This pair is at the beach by the Ballard Elks Club. Both birds, but especially the female were gathering bits of nesting material, and stuffing it into the hole.

Purple Martin Gourds

I’ve been meaning for years to put up martin gourds before they arrive here in late January, but I never seem to get around to it in time. This year is different.

What I’ve Been Doing…….

A purple martin on a wire. My hubby is trying desperately to attract some to our gourds! Purple martin gourds with purple martins working their nests.

Attracting Purple Martins to your Martin Birdhouse

MOTHER’s February/March issue had a lovely article on building a purple martin house. Much time, labor, and money were involved for a very professional-looking finished product. Ten Things To Consider Before Buying A Bird House.

Build a Purple Martin House

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.

Attracting Purple Martins – Tricks of the Trade

They’ve also been documented to use man-made cavities such as bluebird houses, wood duck nest boxes and purple martin gourds. While the spring arrivals make their way back, a number of winter residents continue in our area.

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