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purple hue
northwest louisiana
eastern seaboard
different shapes
shapes and sizes
fall and winter
How To Attract Purple Martins
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How to Attract Purple Martins

Would you like a Purple Martin colony on your property.

One thing I look forward to in the spring is the migration of Purple Martins back to the states. Purple Martins are a migratory bird and spend the fall and winter months in South America mainly in Brazil. Purple martins are the largest member of the swallow family in the United States. They weigh about 1.9 ounces and are about 7 1/2 inches long and have a deep purple hue. The plumage on the females are not as vivid in color as the males and have a speckled white breast and underside. It is a lot of fun to watch and listen to the martins as they go about their daily life and there are things you can do to try and get them to locate their nest on your property.

The adult male purple martins are the first to migrate in from South America to the states. They are referred to as scouts and began to find nesting areas for the female martins which will began to arrive 2-4 weeks later. When they arrive will depend on the area of the country you live in. You can start seeing them along the gulf coast around the first part of February. I'm in northwest Louisiana and they generally arrive here around mid February. Many will continue to migrate on up through the central United States and eastern seaboard states. Some will migrate up the pacific coast.

If you are trying to have a colony of Purple Martins on your property then you will need to erect a dwelling for them, commonly called a martin box. These can be as simple as hollowed out gourds to elaborate metal fabricated houses with nesting areas for many birds.

Gourds that can be grown and come in many different shapes and sizes. Ever made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween? Chances are it was a gourd and not a true pumpkin. Birdhouse gourds are the ones commonly use for martin houses and you can even grow them on your property if you have enough space. The vines of gourds are very prolific so plenty of space is required. You can also purchase plastic houses that are molded to simulate birdhouse gourds and work very well.

The only drawback to these are they are only single housing units so you need to put up several of these type houses for your purple martin colony. The advantage though is that they really seem to like this type of housing and will often build their nest in these over multiple housing unites.

Some make their martin boxes out of wood but you can also purchase aluminum per-fabricated units capable if housing a small colony of 4-6 nest or nesting area for 20-30 birds in one unit. That is a metal house illustrated in the picture above. A big advantage of these is that as your colony grows you can add more levels to the house. Look at them as different floors in an apartment complex. Many put up both types of housing, gourds and per-fabricated metal housing units to give the birds their choice.

Once you decide on the type of house to put up then decide on the location. You should try to erect the house at least 40 feet from other trees and no closer than 30 feet from your house. The unit must also allow you to easily lower it so you can clean out the nesting area after they have gone for the season. Also other birds will try to build their nest in the martin box so you must be persistent about discouraging them from building there by tearing out any of their nesting material until they find elsewhere to build their nest.

Purple martins are fun to have around and are very vocal with their song and chirps. It's never too late to put up a martin box even after they have arrived. Many that haven't nested will use the house as a roost and resting place during the day. As purple martins tend to come back to the same area each year the birds using your martin box may well remember it and nest in it the following year. By the end of August they have generally started to migrate back to South America so then it's time to lower and clean out the martin box. You may not get a colony started the first year but be persistent and eventually they will likely find your martin box and stay.


Street Talk

Nice article, Kevin. I would love to give a home to these birds.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thanks you Georgis

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Aha! Tearing out nesting materials. Did not think of that, Kevin. Our family tried for years with a great big wooden one my brother made. It did not go up and down... o well! Glad to learn why they never stopped by. Right now we're feeding the ... squirrels... mostly!! THough lots of great birds, too, when squirrels wander off. blessings, Cynthia

Reply
  about 6 years ago

It will make it more convenient to have a way to get to the house for cleaning...thanks for the visit..

Reply
  about 6 years ago

It sure would have! Non-invited other inhabitants:-)

  
  about 6 years ago
AJ  

You provide some wonderful information on purple martins in this article. Well done, Kevin and thank you!

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Your welcome AJ and thanks for the visit..

Reply
  about 6 years ago

great article

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thanks for the visit John..

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Great article, Kevin. This would be a wonderful project. Anything that helps animals is worth the effort.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

It's fun watching for the first birds to migrate up...thanks for the visit

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hey Kevin like the article, am a big birder anything that benefits them puts a smile on my face.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thanks for the visit Rob..

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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