Is Your Yard Able To Have Purple Martins


Purple Martin Birdhouse

There is basically two types of birdhouses for the Purple Martin. One being Conventional and the other being Gourds. One does not appear to be better than the other, it is just a preference a person makes. Some people own both and place them together and let the birds decide which one they would like to use. As long as the interior dimensions and entry hole size are acceptable for Purple Martins. Either birdhouse you choose, should attract Purple Martins. The height of conventional or gourd birdhouses should be place between 12 and 20 feet high.


Gourd birdhouses for the Purple Martin are usually made out of plastic, but can also be made from a natural material that already provides the shape of a gourd. When setting out gourds for Purple Martins, a minimum of four gourds should be placed. Purple Martins are a social bird and often nest in colonies. So by placing the minimum number of gourds will help attract the martin to your yard. You have a variety of ways to hang your gourds, which can be done by placing them underneath an existing martin house, from a gourd rack, or hang them on a line between two poles.


Gourds should be no less than 8” in diameter, but gourds between 10"-12” diameter range, will be better suited for the Purple Martin.


ROUND HOLE: The round entrance holes are usually 2-1/8” in diameter, but can range between 1-3/4” and 2-1/4”

CRESCENT HOLE: The crescent entrance hole should be 3” wide and 1-3/16” in height. The purpose of the crescent hole is to help prevent Starling birds from entering in and taking over the nest. While the Purple Marin has no problem entering a hole of this shape. A crescent should be used if you start having a Starling problem.

Before Buying, Read More On Gourds Both Natural And Plastic

Attracting Purple Martins

Attracting Purple Martins to your your yard can only be done with a birdhouse. With that said, you can place egg shells in a platform feeder, so they can get their calcium intake. The egg shells will also act like grit to help them grind there food. Usually Purple Martins will not visit bird feeders at all for a food source. So a birdhouse or a gourd will be the only desired choice to attract the birds to your yard. When purchasing a birdhouse or gourd, make sure the over all color is white. Purple Martins are attracted to the color and the white color will help keep it cool inside. If your area has a problem with European Sparrows (House Sparrows) You may want to consider using gourds instead of the apartment style houses, when trying to attract the Purple Martin.

Once you have placed your birdhouse, you may not get Purple Martins right away, it could take up to a year before you see any Purple Martins taking up residence. But once you get Purple Martins living in your birdhouses, they will return year after year. If this is your first time setting up a birdhouse for Purple Martins, offer a birdhouse that has at least a minimum of six cavities so the younger Purple Martins that are looking for a nesting area have room for the colony to grow. You never know, you may even lure in a older male purple martin to take up residence. Then the males will try and attract other Purple Martins to stay.

Placement of Purple Martin House or Gourd

Place your Purple Martin birdhouse 40 to 60 feet away from any trees or buildings. Purple Martins like human activity and have a sense of protection being close to people, so you can place their house a bit closer to your house compared to other buildings. The purple martin house should be no less than 30 feet and no more than 100 feet of your house. Purple Martin houses can also be placed near a park, or any area where people maybe present from time to time. So now your ready for the Purple Martin migration to come back to North America starting in the spring. First the older males will arrive, usually they will go back to the same birdhouse they used before, but they may scout the area looking for a new place to live if they had a bad experience the year before. If you notice you do not get any Purple Martins when they first arrive or none have arrived by the date listed in the area you live. Do not worry, cause there is a second wave of Purple Martins that will come 3 to 4 weeks later. This group are the younger martins that where born in the previous year, These young martins usually do not return to the house they was born in, so they will be searching for new birdhouses that are not occupied, so they can attract a female to raise a brood with.

This map is provided by the PMCA. Check out the location where you live to find out when the Purple Martins will first be arriving in your location. The dates are approximant, so give or take by a couple of weeks depending what the weather has to offer from year to year.

Understanding Purple Martins

Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family and can be as big as 8 inches long. Each winter they migrate south to Brazil and then at the beginning of the year, the Purple Martin starts to migrate towards North America. As the weather starts to warm up, the birds migration keeps moving northward as the insect population is plentiful. The males usually arrive first to the nesting cavities and then try to attract newly arriving females to raise a brood with. Colonies can get as big as 300 nesting pairs, as long as there are enough nesting cavities to support that many Purple Martins. Martins have a very strong "site tenacity" meaning they will often return to the same site to nest year after year.

Insects make up the majority of the Purple Martins diet. The martins can be seen in the sky during the early morning and late afternoon, dipping and diving while snatching insects out of the air. The insects they might be snatching out of the sky could be beetles, butterflies, cicadas, damselflies, dragonflies, leafhoppers, mayflies, moths, stinkbugs, wasps, winged ants as well as houseflies. Martins generally feed high in the air, around 150 to 400 feet and even as high as 1000 feet. So their diet consist of insects that also fly at these heights. Even though Martins do eat other insects such as mosquitoes, they do not eat as many mosquitoes as people think, since mosquitoes usually stay below 40' , mosquitoes only make up 2% of a Purple Martins diet.

Purple Martins drink water while in flight. They will fly over a lake, a pond, stream or river and just skim the waters surface while taking a drink. Purple Martins do not use bird baths nor with they stop and drink from a puddle like other birds may do.

Is Your Yard Able To Have Purple Martins

Purple Martins like to swoop into their house, so if you place the house to close to any tall trees or tall buildings, it is going to be difficult for them to swoop into the house and they will not be interested in the house you have set up. Purple Martins will also ovoid a house or gourd if it is to close to trees, because they will feel threatened of owls and hawks. A good rule of thumb is, whatever the height of the tree or building is, should be the same distance you place your Purple Martin house or gourds away from the trees or buildings. If you are unsure how high your tree is, you can place your purple martin house 40 to 60 feet away from the tree. Usually this is plenty of space, but it all depends on your yard. Purple Martins have an attraction to people, so your house is considered a bit different from other buildings to the Purple Martin. Your martin house or gourds can be placed as close as 30 feet away from your house, as long as your house is not taller than the Purple Martin house. If your house is taller, you will have to place the the purple martin house or gourds further away.

Water is another important consideration to know before you purchase a Purple Martin house or gourd. Purple Martins have been known to fly up to 5 miles to get a drink of water and it does not take them a long time to fly that distance, but the closer the water source, such as a pond, river, lake, or a collection of water, the better success of having Purple Martins to your yard. Purchasing a bird bath will not solve this problem, since Purple Martins do not use bird baths. Most of the time, water sources are closer than one realizes.


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