Purple Martin Food and Housing

Purple martins provide North America delightful songs and a beautiful presence. The males boast a shiny dark blue color while brown feathers note their female counterparts. They are the largest of the swallow breed, and they typically return to the same place each year after migrating to Brazil.

If the birds that were present at your house a year ago do not return as expected, it can be a very upsetting event. This is because there is a fear that the colony may have experienced some kind of peril on their journey back.  The reality is more likely that something occurred during their previous year nesting phase. This has more to do with their choice not to return rather than some unfortunate event along the migratory route.

There are things you can do to ensure the birds return right where you want them.  When they are due back from their winter migration, you can make sure you have the perfect housing arranged and ensure that it’s properly located.

If you do not currently have a martin house our friends at wild bird store online has houses for sale now.  The best time to buy is during the slow season and it’s also the best time of year to put up the house or a series of gourds.  John James Audubon himself only slept at lodgings that featured a martin box. It was a sign that the Inn was a success. This is because the more martins there were, the greater was the pleasure of the guests who stayed there.

The best martin houses and gourds should be painted white. They also have to be placed in an appropriate space near a source of water if possible and with plenty of open space.  Do not erect the housing under trees or anywhere that predators such as owls, hawks, or raccoons – can get to them.  Pre-made boxes will come with holes that are of the correct shape to keep other enemies like starlings from entering the shelter and stealing their eggs.

If you are a bird enthusiast, you may know that it is up to North American bird lovers to take care of this species.  They have become dependent upon our nesting sites. Great care must be taken to offer them proper access to the food and shelter that they need. Be careful with where you place the birdhouse.
As for food, they are happy to help themselves to flies, moths, wasps, bees and dragonflies. The martins even enjoy eating termites. You do not have to work hard to feed them in order for them to remain healthy.

However, you can offer them occasional supplemental foods like crickets. This is one way to enjoy interacting with them. Toss the crickets and watch them snap them up with delight. You can also let them munch on bits of crushed eggshells. This helps them digest the insect exoskeletons they eat each day.

You will not make them completely dependent upon you by offering them occasional treats, but you do need to let them feed themselves naturally. They usually eat during the day in pairs, with a male guarding a female.

Enjoy the return of your purple martins. Get their houses and food in order properly and they will be happy to see you again, too.

Planning Your Purple Martin Bird House

The purple martin is a subtly majestic bird, a member of the swallow family native to North America and marked by glossy steel blue and black feathers that can seem to become a colorful shade of purple in the right light, hence their name. While still small, they are larger than most swallows. They are particularly renowned for their speed and agility in flight. They are also known for diving towards their housing from above at great speeds with their wings tucked. This habit of theirs makes the design style of the martin house a bit more complicated.

Their habitat reaches throughout the temperate regions of North America, with their breeding grounds being on the eastern edge of the United States, though they have also been found in other parts of North America. The distribution of the purple martin is considered spotty as they are close to being considered an endangered species.  Totally dependent on human-provided housing.  And constantly battling with European starlings and sparrows for the same nests.  Without proper nesting places put up around the country, the martins would suffer a severe population decline.  They would all but disappear where once they had lived in great numbers.

In an effort to help keep martins from becoming endangered, we humans need to provide adequate housing and breeding spaces while keeping in mind thier needs.  This can at times be a difficult effort. A purple martin bird house is generally made of wood or aluminum or they also love plastic gourds.  This housing is generally supplied by concerned organizations trying to keep the species healthy and happy.  Legend holds that this practice goes back some centuries, reaching back into the days before European colonization, when Native Americans would place hollowed out gourds in an effort to get them to nest in nearby spaces.  As such, today most martin populations live near human population centers where human conservationists have established houses for them.

Your job as a landlord is to keep a constant watch on the nest as the  more aggressive birds like the European starling and house sparrow will attack purple martins, particularly hatchlings, trying to occupy the existing nests. It is nearly a constant effort, but without it, some fear the martin would disappear from the eastern United States. Out in the western edge of the continent, martins will often make use of natural cavities, such as holes in trees made by woodpeckers or inside of the hollow parts of the saguaro cactus.  After the nesting season they begin the long journay back to the Amazon basin during the winter, where its winter range extends into Ecuador and the Andean foothills.

In terms of diet, martins feed largely on flying insects, and are fairly good at preying on even the quickest insects, though contrary to wide held presumptions, they do not prey on mosquitos as they fly too low for that to be an option. On the brighter side, they do feed on invasive fire ants, further increasing their worth in the conservation of North America’s natural world.

If you’ve never experienced being around a martin colony you’ll enjoy this video.  This colony is all nesting in gourds.

Information On Purple Martin House Location

Have a house for purple martins, but not sure where to place it?  Many people get stuck in this situation and are unaware of what’s most effective and what is not. Those who get this right will find it easier to attract a martin colony while those who don’t give it importance are going to fail and/or reduce their chances. Let’s take a look at a few tips to consider when it comes to situating the house for maximum results.

martin checking me out

Open Space Is A Must

The best place to begin would be to find open spaces in the area where the house is going to be situated.  Open spaces of at least 40-60 feet in radius are critical and even more is better.  These open spaces are going to help attract the birds to nest. What is the reason for these open spaces being needed?

Well, first of all, the safety of the nest.  Anything near a tree or overhanging branch could allow predators access to the nest.  Additionally, martins love to perform aerial acrobatics as they move from one place to another, so any restrictions in their flight path are unwanted in their eyes and a negative.  As such, always look to find the most spacious area to situate the house.

Housing Should Be Situated At The Tallest Point

House locations are highly dependent upon how easily attracted the birds are. If the house is not put at the tallest point in the area, they are not going to come. They prefer to stay at the highest points in order to see everything around them, especially food!.  It is a natural instinct and one which has to be respected by individuals who are looking to locate the house.

Put it at the tallest point within a 40-60 feet radius. This alone should be more than enough to help bring the purple martins in over time.

40 Feet Away From Trees

The ’40 feet’ figure is an estimate and does not have to be followed to a tee as that is near impossible. However, the purpose of this tip is to state that trees should not be around where the birds are going to nest.  If there are trees around, they are not going to be attracted to the house.  It is as simple as that.  They will look elsewhere and that is going to make one wonder what they have done incorrectly.

Deciding where to locate the house is always going to vary and this is hard to deal with for people.  However, there are specific spots that are going to yield better results and these are the locations to hone in on. Using the tips pointed out above, it will become easier for you to make the most of the situation at hand and determine what exactly is needed to get the job done. Purple Martins are a unique bird and will have their own reactions to the environment around them, but a well-situated house will do the job as needed. Focus on these minute details and watch as things become easier on your end.

We saw some really cool photos on Pinterest.

Attracting Purple Martins – What It Takes

The interaction between human beings and Martins goes way back to the Native Americans. To this day, the gurgling song and bubbly personality of the purple Martin is cherished by those who host them. Every spring gives an excitement that only a martin landlord can experience as they anticipate the return of their martin colony.

Attracting a martin colony can either be easy or exasperating depending on your approach. However, by following the tips on what it takes to acquire, maintain, and protect your birds, it should not be long before you acquire a colony of your own.  The folks over at wild bird store online are there everyday to help you create your own martin colony.  Find them here on Facebook.

apartment style housing

1. The Right Place and Time

Choosing the right location to put up a martin house is paramount to attracting martins. The house should generally be placed in the most open place near your own home. The farther the house is from trees, the better. You should try to locate it at least 30 feet from your own house and the same distance from trees or over-hanging limbs.

The first martins to arrive in spring have been labeled as the scouts who are searching for the best breeding sites before the rest of the birds arrive. Martins will always come back to the same place they were in the previous year unless they are attacked by predators or overrun by other bird species. So, the early seen birds are either on their way to their usual spot, or they are simply just the first to arrive. The first scouts normally arrive around the first of February in the southern part of United Sates and some even arriving earlier in the middle of January. The majority of the Martins arrive four to six weeks later into the upper portion of the United States with the latest arrivals two to three weeks after that. All told the spring migration run from early january in the south through late march in the northern US and Canada.

Regardless of your location on the continent, you should keep your house open through to the end of August as this is the time when hatchlings from the previous year look for a breeding place.

2. The Best Housing

The best bird houses for martins are painted white as the birds tend to be attracted to lighter color. The openings of the birdhouse should be resistant to starlings, being no larger than 2 to 1/4 inches in diameter and no smaller than 1 to 3/4 inches. The opening should also be located one inch from the floor of the house.

The optimum size for the nesting boxes is 7 by 12 inches though they can be as small as 6 by 6 inches. If you are buying or making one by yourself, make sure you check these measurements if you want to succeed in attracting a colony.

The nest habits of the martins will, however, differ somehow in the West of the Rockies than in other locations on the continent. The birds tend to nest in single units and in gourds but not in apartment style bird houses as is customary East of the Rockies.

The best housing for martins will ideally provide protection from predators and the elements. That being said, the houses should have guards to keep off creatures such as owls, hawks and snakes. During the winter season, the bird houses should be covered or with the entrance holes sealed as other animals might inhabit the nest before the purple martins arrive next spring.