Purple Martins Are A Gardeners Best Friend – Updated re-post from 2013

Click Photo’s to Zoom-In purple-martin-house A good reference source Purple Martin Conservation Association

  • Do start saving your nickles and dimes to buy or build a Purple Martin House.
  • Do a sight survey to determine the best location to erect your new Purple Martin House(s).
  • Do make plans to lower your house once a week to evict unwanted Sparrows and Starlings.
  • Do keep good records of Martin egg counts, hatch and survival rates.
  • Do plan to have your New Purple Martin House erected at least one week before the expected arrival of early season ‘scout’ birds.
  • Do have a plan to protect your Purple Martins nest site from predators.
  • Do clean and serlize nest using sop/bleach water after your Martins migrate south for the winter.
  • Do Enjoy watching your gardens best friends.
  • Don’t erect your new Purple Martin House near tall trees or your home.
  • Don’t attach guy wires to your Purple Martin House push up pole.
  • Don’t allow other birds to build nest in your Purple Martin House.
  • Don’t use pesticides in nests or nest boxes.
  • Don’t give up if your New Martin House is slow to attract breeding pairs of Purple Martins.

Generally Purple Martins over winter in South America and breed and nest in North America. Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family in North America, measuring 7 1/2 inches (19 cm) long and weighing 1.9 ounces (55 grams). East of the Rocky Mountains Purple Martins are totally dependent on human supplied housing. West of the Rockies and in the deserts they largely nest in their ancestral ways, in abandoned woodpecker nest cavities.

A bonded pair of the Purple Martin are monogamous. The male and female cooperate equally in building the nest out of mud, grass and twigs. The female lays two to seven white eggs at a rate of one egg per day. The female incubates the clutch for approximately fifteen days, then the young hatch.

The parents both feed the young continuously for a period of 26-32 days until the young fledge. The young continue to be dependent on their parents for food and training for an additional one to two weeks after fledging.

Purple Martins, like all swallows, are aerial insectivores. They eat only flying insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. Martins are not, however, prodigious consumers of mosquitoes. (Mosquitoes are out during hours of darkness.
Purple Martins are daytime feeders.)
Hint A bat house is the best way to control mosquitoes.

The major reason people fail to attract Purple Martins is that they place their martin housing incorrectly, or their site is inappropriate Martin habitat to begin with. Martins have very specific aerial space requirements.

Housing should be placed in the center of the most open spot available, about 30-120 feet from human housing. There should be no trees taller than the Martin house within 40 feet, preferably 60 feet.

Generally, the farther the housing is placed from trees, the better.
In the southern half of their breeding range, Martins are less particular about house placement. Southern landlords can sometimes place housing within 15-20 feet of trees and still attract martins. Height of the housing can be anywhere from 10-20 feet (14 to 16 feet seems to work best for my location.).
Keep tall bushes, shrubs and vines away from the pole.

Do not attach wires to a martin house.
If your yard has too many trees near the martin housing, relocate the housing to a more open area, mount the housing higher, or prune (or remove) trees to create a more open site. If you have a wooded lot, but live near a body of water, boat docks make ideal locations for mounting a Purple Martin house or gourd rack. SREHdiagram

This diagram shows the dimensions of a starling resistant entrance hole (SREH). This entrance hole will exclude most starlings (and all Screech Owls.) The height dimension (1 & 3/16″) is extremely critical. If made a hair too big, starlings will get in, if made a hair too small, Martins won’t be able enter the nest area.

Hint The hole placement is very important, the bottom of the entrance hole should be no more than 1/2″ above the porch, and is most effective in excluding starlings when the nest hole is placed flush with the porch and compartment floor.

This hole will also work on gourds, both natural and plastic, as well as aluminum houses. When cutting this hole in wood houses or plastic/natural gourds, use a jigsaw, and cut it slightly small, then file or sand it to the proper height.

Estimated arrival date of Purple Martins in North America. purple-martin-arrival-date-map

Not from the USA. Please leave me comment about your home town and country.

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Why is common sense so uncommon?
Don’t be Shy. Leave me your Comment(s)


4 responses to “Purple Martins Are A Gardeners Best Friend – Updated re-post from 2013

  1. I love seeing birds in the yard (except for crows).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Crows are not a real problem in SW Oklahoma. We are mostly not on their south migration fly way.
      happy crow free gardening


      • I don’t like the way they rob nests of their eggs and the young birds that have just hatched. Our robin population really takes a beating from the crows. I’d rather listen to a robin sing than a crow cawing. You’re lucky you don’t have many.


  2. Our neighbors have a large purple martin house just like the one in the picture and they are so fun to watch!!


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