With holidays behind us and the fanfare gone- What’s the next event looking forward? Noticing there was still daylight at 6:00 PM, it’s a natural signal that migrations will be underway soon and the swallows will be first. The early birds are purple martins and their cousins too- Barn Swallows!
Scouts begin arriving over the Gulf of Mexico and most southern states about mid-January. Migrations will follow via the same fly-way and before you know it, they’ll be here! Martins’ breeding season is fairly short (unlike resident bluebirds who can have up to 3 clutches per season) so preparation is the key to attracting these most desirable birds. Actually, this holds true for for attracting hummingbirds, barn swallows, orioles and any migratory birds. Have your birdhouses and feeders (nest cups too) ready to go before scouts’ arrival!
New for 2024, these exquisite Purple Martin Houses are US made of durable vinyl (that looks like wood) with stackable floors available for easy expansion. Crescent entries help deter starlings while porches offer plenty of perch space. Timeless architecture in crisp black & white will remain classic in all landscapes. Although rack & gourd systems are extremely popular among Martins and their landlords, our new vinyl Martin homes offer something a bit more classic with all of the great features that benefit Martin families… and you can bet martins will be happy to call them home. When set in a desirable habitat, scouts will let the families know of these excellent accommodations!
In the eastern US, purple martins depend solely on man-made housing. Be it gourds, aluminum, wood or vinyl, martins will take to most housing if habitat is ideal. Way back in colonial days, Native Americans first started using gourds to attract purple martins (the largest of the swallow family). A main advantage was and still is natural insect control along with the sweetest of songs. This is also why barn swallows are extremely advantageous to have around your property.
Both species are very family-oriented and will return to the same nesting spots (with kids in tow) year after year. But hosting martins takes more than just putting up a Martin house. A vigilant approach is required for successful fledges and returning families. Non-native birds such as European Starlings and House Sparrows are enemy #1 to both martins and barn swallows. In fact, they’re brutal to all of our native cavity-nesting birds- including bluebirds. Simple territorial issues will wreak havoc on our nesting birds. Both starlings and house sparrows will overtake Martin houses, kill nestlings and even kill adult martins. They’ve been well known for decimating our birdhouse occupants and wiping out populations in some areas.
Monitoring your Martin house is extremely important. Starlings and sparrows (if in the area) will predate martins to claim territory so they must be deterred for martins’ breeding season. Whether you agree or not, these non-native birds are about the only ones where it’s not only legal- but encouraged to dispose of both invasive species.
Other helpful hints for attracting martins include ditching any chemicals in your yard because insects are their main diet. Installing a baffle or predator guard on your matin pole also deters any curious climber from reaching eggs. Habitat is key with very open spaces, preferably near water. Martin houses should be installed at least 30 ft. from your home and taller than any nearby trees which require a 40 ft. clearing at minimum.
Check out these Purple Martin Groups on social media, whether Martin novice or seasoned landlord, the popularity of hosting martins has exploded over the years. Anything purple-martin related can be found, mistakes others may have experienced great advice, interesting images and facts… in just a few clicks!
• PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association)
• Purple Martin Landlords and Wannabes
• Purple Martin Fanatics
• Purple Martin Files
• Purple Martin Group
Your state may also have their own Purple Martin Society. Most important- have your Martin House up & ready to go prior to scouts’ arrival.
Oh yeah… Martins adore white feathers for nest construction! If you see the birds, toss a few feathers in the air and they’ll dive-bomb to retrieve. Scatter a few on the ground near your new Martin house too. Offering white feathers with some nesting material will be appealing to mom and dad. A standard suet cage work’s well. Simply hang it so that martins will see your welcoming offer.
Happy birding and here’s to longer daylight hours!!