About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Do I Attract Purple Martins?

Ten Reasons Why People Fail to Attract Purple Martins

by James R. Hill, III, Purple Martin Conservation Association

Over one million North Americans maintain housing for Purple Martins. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of these folks successfully attract breeding martins. Below is a list of the top ten reasons why so many people fail.

  1. House placed too close to tall trees or in yards that are too enclosed. The Martin house must have the correct habitat and be placed in the proper place. There should be no trees taller than the martin housing within 40 Feet of it, preferably 60 feet. The farther the martin housing is placed from trees the better.
  2. Landlord allows other bird species to claim the housing first. If any other species is allowed to settle into a martin house before martins at unestablished sites, those houses will rarely attract nesting martins. To attract martins to unestablished sites monitor the house and remove the nest of any bird other than the Purple Martin.
  3. Housing placed too far from human housing. Research has shown that martin housing placed more than 120 feet from human housing has a lower chance of being occupied. This is because martins have “learned,” that the closer they nest to man, the safer they are from predators.
  4. Housing not painted white. Although martins have been known to nest in houses and gourds painted other colors, white housing seems to attract them best.
  5. Housing opened up too early. Most ‘would-be’ martin landlords rush to get their martin housing opened up so as not to miss the arrival of martin “scouts” in their particular area. This is 4-5 weeks too early for unestablished breeding sites!!! Opening a martin house too early (or leaving it open all winter) just results in instant occupancy by other birds. Prospective martin landlords should not open their housing until about four weeks after the first martins are scheduled to return to their area!
  6. Failure to open the martin housing. In an effort to keep undesirable birds out of their martin housing, many ‘would-be’ martin enthusiasts leave all their entrance holes plugged ‘until the martins come around.’ This is a disastrous mistake at unestablished sites.
  7. Vines and shrubs are allowed to grow up under the housing. Unoccupied martin housing that has tall bushes and shrubs around the base of the pole, or has vines growing up the pole, will rarely, if ever, attract breeding martins because it is much more accessible to predators, such as cats, raccoons, snakes, and squirrels.
  8. Housing not really ‘built to specifications. A martin house must have compartments whose floor dimensions measure at least 6" x 6," but compartments measuring 7" x 12" are far superior. The entrance hole should be placed about 1" above the floor and have a diameter in the range of 2" to 2-1/4," although martins are known to use holes as small as 1-3/4."
  9. Housing attached to wires, or placed too close to wires. Martins love to perch on wires, but they tend to avoid houses that are attached to wires or are placed within leaping distance of them.
  10. Landlords buy or build housing that can’t be easily managed. Most people rush into the hobby not realizing that to properly manage for martins, they’ll need housing that allows for easy raising and lowering, and nest compartment access. Landlords need to vertically lower their housing often (sometimes daily) to evict nest-site competitors and to check on martin nestlings. Martin housing should be mounted on poles that telescope up and down.

Written by James R. Hill, III
Founder and Executive Director Emeritus
Purple Martin Conservation Association
For further information on Purple Martins please contact:
Purple Martin Conservation Association
301 Peninsula Dr., Suite 6
Erie, PA 16505

No comments: