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Discussion in 'General Conversation' started by scout, Mar 4, 2006.
Any Purple Martin landlords? Here are a few pics from my place. I really enjoy watching them.
Thats a nice martin condo youve got there. Did you make it?
There are nice to watch and are great on the mosquitos.
Randall, great pics. Sure wish we'd get our Martins back earlier. I'm always happy to hear the scouts outside the bedroom window some morning. I've probably got about 3 weeks to wait yet. Don't know why, but they left about two weeks early last year. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll come in a little earlier. Reckon it all depends on the weather, but we've had some unreasonably warm weather this year, maybe they'll head North sooner.
Cleaned out mine yesterday. Putting everything back up today. I like the looks of those plastic gourds. I have always used the home grown ones. but did not get any to grow last year. So will be buying some for the first time this year.
I have one house that will hold 16 and then one that holds 12 and one like yours that will will hold 16.
Looking forward to there return.
I see all the post are fairly old, hope someone still comes on this post. I would like to get a Martin house set up but I don't know a lot about them. My house sits near a large pond, has an open meadow on one side and a small woods on the other side and in the back. Most of my yard has large oak trees but the one side is open. I don't know if Texas ia a good place for a Martin house or not. Maybe someone can give me some information on putting a Martin house up.
Many people want to attract Purple Martins to nest in their yards. However, attracting these popular, insect eating birds can be a challenge. One key to attracting and keeping Martins is to provide appropriate housing. Purple martins nest in colonies of several pairs of birds, therefore they require something quite different from the average birdhouse. Housing for martins should be provided in the form of multiple apartment martin houses or groups of gourds. Gourds for martin housing can be made of actual dried "birdhouse" gourds or manmade "gourds." Apartment type Purple Martin bird houses can be quite large and heavy. For this reason, as house that comes with a pole and mounting system is a plush. Poles should telescope or use a pulley system to raise and lower the Martin house for inspection and maintenance.
Purple Martins (Progne subis) are the largest member of the swallow family found in North America. Martins are about 7 1/2 inches in size. Purple Martins look black, with a purple sheen. Many people try to attract these active birds to nest in their yards. Martins nest in colonies and their aerobatics as they catch insects on the fly, makes them popular backyard birds.
Song: Purple martins have a characteristic "dawn song" that they perform on early spring mornings. The adult male martins sing this dawn song as they fly high over their nest colony sites in the morning. The morning song is a loud, continuous series of chirps in a syncopated series of seven to nine notes repeated over and over. Each male bird flies in a wide circle, singing his own version of the song. Some people play recordings of the purple martin dawnsong to attract martins to new nest sites.
Diet: Purple Martins eat insects on the fly. Martins will eat a variety of flying insects, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, and wasps.
Purple Martin House Placement
Purple Martins are very particular about their housing needs. Martin houses must be placed in a location that provided adequate room for the birds to fly around and catch insects, but they should not be placed too far away from human houses. The Purple Martin Conservation Association offers the following guidelines for placing a martin house on your property:
Purple Martin houses should be placed in the most open spot available, about 30 to 120 feet from human housing.
There should be no trees taller than the martin house within 40 feet, preferably 60 feet.
Purple Martin houses should be mounted at a height of 10 to 20 feet.
You should raise and open your purple martin housing when the first martins (scouts) start to arrive in the spring. If you don't get nesting pairs in early spring, don't give up. Martins sometimes arrive and begin nesting as late as the end of June. In July and August, this year's young will be scouting new nesting sites for next year.
View the Purple Martin Conservation Association's
Scout Arrival Map
Scouts are the first Purple Martins to arrive in an area in the Spring. The excellent scout report map tracks Purple migration into the United States and shows where Martin arrivals have been recorded so far this year. Check to see when you should have your Purple Martin bird house ready for new arrivals.
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. Your chances of attracting martins will greatly increase if you avoid making these common mistakes.
1. Housing placed too close to tall trees or in yards that are too enclosed. The main reason people fail to attract martins is that they place their martin housing incorrectly within their yards, or their yards are inappropriate martin habitat to begin with. Besides preferring their housing to be placed within a certain distance of human housing (see #3 below), martins also have very specific aerial space requirements. The air space immediately around the housing, at the height of the housing, should be unobstructed (i.e., free of trees) in at least a couple of directions, so that they can fly to and from the housing in nearly level flight. 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. If your yard violates this 40-foot rule, try mounting the housing higher relative to the trees, moving the martin housing to a more open area, or, as a last resort, pruning or removing some of the trees.
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. This is because birds set up territories around their nest sites and defend them against other birds. Should a House Sparrow, European Starling, Tree Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, Great Crested Flycatcher, or House Finch, etc., lay first claim to a martin house that didnt house breeding martins the previous year, these nest-site competitors will repel any martins that are searching for nesting sites. Martins are easily repelled from entire houses at unestablished sites by the aggressive actions of nest-site competitors. Why? Because if a martin has never nested at a particular site before, it hasnt developed site tenacity there. Without site tenacity, a martin is easily repelled. In contrast, once a martin has nested successfully at a particular site, it rarely will be intimidated from reoccupying that site the following year. To attract martins to unestablished sites then, prospective landlords must not allow any other species to claim the martin housing first. This might require repeated lowerings of the house for nest tear-outs, and in the case of the non-native House Sparrow and starling, trapping and/or shooting. Should native bird species try to take over your empty martin housing, temporarily plug all the entrance holes with paper cups, then put up single-unit housing elsewhere on your property. Once the native species have accepted the new housing, re-open the martin housing.
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, through natural selection, that the closer they nest to man, the safer they are from predators. Martin predators (i.e., snakes, raccoons, hawks, crows, and owls), tend to shy away from the areas immediately adjacent to human housing. Any martin that nests within this zone of human safety should have a higher probability of successfully raising its young. And, the closer a martin nests to the watchful eyes of its human host, the greater its chance the human will witness, and thus repel, attempted predator attacks. For these reasons, placement of martin housing way out in open fields, or next to isolated ponds, rarely results in successful martin attraction. Martin housing should be placed in the center of the most open spot available, about 30'-100' from human housing. If your martin housing hasnt attracted nesting martins and isnt placed within 100 feet of your house, try moving it closer.
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. First of all, housing painted white reflects the heat of the sun best, so martins choosing white housing lose fewer nestlings to heat stress. Secondly, white highlights the darkness of the entrance holes best, making the cavities more conspicuous to searching martins. And finally, white is believed to best enhance the male martins courtship display. Because of all these advantages, natural selection (and/or behavioral imprinting) seems to have favored the choice of white housing by martins. There are many examples of people who failed to attract martins until they painted their housing white. Even redwood and cedar martin houses should be painted white. Trim can be any color.
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!!! Contrary to popular folklore, scouts are not looking for new breeding sites to lead their flocks back to. Scouts are nothing more than the very first martins to arrive or pass through a given area on their way back to their previous nesting sites. The arrival of migrating martins at all locations is a continual process spanning 10-12 weeks in the northern half of their breeding range and 14-16 weeks in the southern half, with new arrivals coming daily the oldest martins arriving first and the youngest ones last. Older martins rarely, if ever, can be attracted to breed at new locations. This is because martins have tremendous fidelity to the exact site where they bred the previous year. It is usually only subadult martins (i.e., last years fledglings) that can be attracted to breed at unestablished sites, because theyve never bred anywhere before and have developed no site fidelity. Subadult martins begin returning to any given area about 4-5 weeks after the scouts. Opening a martin house too early (or leaving it open all winter) just results in instant occupancy by nest-site competitors, a situation that often prevents martin colonization at unestablished sites. Prospective martin landlords should not open their housing until about four weeks after the first martins are scheduled to return to their area! The only exception to this rule is if a landlord has neighbors within about a mile that have established colonies. In this case, open the housing just as soon as your neighbors first birds have returned. There is a slight chance you might lure some of their adult birds away if your site (or housing) is far superior to theirs.
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. Closed-up martin housing at sites that were unoccupied the previous breeding season will never attract martins. The only way that martins recognize potential breeding sites is by seeing open entrance holes, or by seeing and hearing other martins there. At unestablished sites, martins will not recognize, as potential breeding sites, any martin housing with closed holes. A few compartments should be left open on each side of the house. In contrast, landlords that had breeding martins the previous year can leave their housing completely closed up, if they choose, until the martins return and land on the housing. They can do this because Purple Martins exhibit a very high level of site fidelity once they have bred successfully at a specific location, the same individuals return to breed there year after year.
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. Martins tend to avoid such housing as it is much more accessible to predators, such as cats, raccoons, snakes, and squirrels. The solution is simple, remove the offending vines, bushes, or shrubs.
8. Housing not really built to specifications. Many of the published plans for martin housing, and a few of the commercially-manufactured houses, are made to improper dimensions. Even some plans published in major encyclopedias, popular bird books, or by state and federal wildlife agencies are incorrect. If you consult ten different sources, youll often find ten different recommendations. Part of the problem is that no one has ever scientifically tested the martins exact nesting requirements and preferences, until now. The Purple Martin Conservation Association is currently conducting such research. Although not all the answers are in as yet, we do know this: 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." If your martin house does not have at least a 6" x 6" floor and at least a 1-3/4" entrance hole, modify it.
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. They instinctively know that squirrels can crawl along these and gain access to the house. Never attach wires to a martin house, especially if they lead to trees, buildings, or to the ground.
10. Landlords buy or build housing that cant be easily managed. Most people rush into the hobby not realizing that to properly manage for martins, theyll 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. Housing mounted on stationary poles, or poles that tilt down, are no longer practical, due to the introduction and proliferation of the House Sparrow and European Starling. These types of poles should be phased out by those who currently use them. Martin housing should be mounted on poles that telescope up and down, or raise and lower with pulley and winch systems. If you have such a system, dont be afraid to lower your houses often to check on your martins youll actually raise more martins if you know exactly whats going on. Such disturbance will not cause martins to abandon their nests or their colony site. Number the compartments and keep written records.
Thank you for the information. I may not be putting a martin house up. Almost all the trees in my yard are oak and they are about three feet in diameter. I have an open meadow on one side but will still be to close to the trees.I might be able to put one way down in the back yard but that would be a long way from the house. I am going to check out on the north end of the house close to the front yard, Might be enough open area there.
Glad to see we have some Purple Martin landlords. I recognize some from last year that I talked to then. I purchased my gourd rack a few years ago from a Purple Martin site. I have the cresent openings to help keep the Starlings out. Good luck to all with the upcoming season.
The scouts have arrived on Feb. 15 the last two years. We have about 6 pair today. We went down to Choke Canyon which is 175 miles futher south. Birds were all ready there Feb 1. We have had an unusally warm winter. I don't know if that factors into their schedule. Our birds left as soon as the little ones were flying last year. We are on a high ridge which they seem to like. There is not much water closeby. There were lots of martins around the lake until about August.
I have had Scouts here at my 24 room hotel for at least a week.
My brother-in-law in Sweetwater, Texas has had at least 3 pair at his place for over a week.
I have a small back yard..app. 25 by 35. I have a large oak tree less than 30 foot from my hotel in my next door neighbor's yard. I do have major telephone & electrical lines on both sides of my hotel. I have a trasformer on pole in the corner of my yard which is a big plus in attracting the Martins because of all the over head wires.
Last year was my first year with the martin hotel. I had 13 pair of martins.
I am in the process of putting up another 24 room hotel.
I already have a sparrow trap that is in full use. When the sparrows get too warry of it my neighbor behind me borrows it at puts it up close to his martin house for a couple of weeks. Last year we disposed of over 200 english sparrows and a bunch of starlings. I have already caught starlings and several sparrows. I am keeping the neighborhood cats fat in the process. They come visit every evening when I get home from work.
Randall, finally got a pair in today. Luckily I had just cleaned out my "Hotel rooms" yesterday and plugged them. Was under one of them setting my sparrow trap and heard them chirping, looked up and there was a male and female adult, first of the year. So I lowered the house and pulled the plugs, they'd flown to one of the other houses when I did. Soon as I unplugged and ran it back up, they moved right in. Sure is nice to have'm back, even if it is only two. I'm kinda worried though, the weather just turned cooler, low 40's and the bugs have kinda disappeared, it's supposed to be some nasty weather until Monday. Sure hope they don't get to distressed.
Great news Jim. We also had some very cold weather last month that had me a little worried but everything worked out ok. I think I read they can go 4 days without feeding before they die. If you see you are going to have a long spell of cold weather you can put some live crickets or mealy worms in the bird house so they can eat till the warm weather comes back. Good luck with your Martins this season.
The scouts are here also.
WE just cleaned ours and got them back up. So hope we get a few more this year.
If I can find some plywood that will hold up. I plan on building a lot more condos for next year.
Need to work them out where I can raise and lower them without tilting them .
I've tried to get martins started but all I get is english sparrows. I don't feel real bad about that. I believe that the same families of sparrows keep coming back and visit me in my back yard. They appear to greet me when I enter the back yard. I have nothing against them.
Hey Pete, glad to hear your birds are back. Have you ever tried the plastic gourds? I have much more success with them since I have made the switch. Being able to raise and lower them during the season is also great for maintaining your houses.
Doyle if you are serious about attracting Martins, you will have to get rid of the sparrows. Your chances of getting Martins will be slim. The sparrows will take over the houses and give the Martins nothing but trouble. They will even try and build their nest over Martin eggs and even Martin babies.
Good luck to you guys with the upcoming Martin season.
one o my neighbors has a martin house setup and they fly over my house a lot. there are also other types that ive seen that have nests under the eaves of the house. are these what my dad used to call mud martins, and are they like close kin to the purples?
Yes i have the real ones and the plastic ones.
Also the condos I build can be let down. I just take a bolt out and tilt them over.
But sure hate to send the hours to build and not last but 3 or 4 years.
Randall, Yep, sure was nice to see them again, but they sure picked the wrong year to show up early. Ever since they arrived, I've got two pair here now, the weather's gone to crap. Cold, today it started raining, now the weatherman says we'll probably get a foot of snow by Monday morning.
I didn't know they'd eat like that, I thought it had to be flying. I didn't see them at all today, maybe they headed South again, if not I'll try to get some crickets or meal worms for them tomorrow. Thanks
Daniel, sounds to me like you're describing "Barn Swallows". I have a few nests of them around every year too. They also eat a lot of insects, but it's sure a mess after the eggs hatch from their droppings.