Attracting Purple Martins to your Sanctuary
Catching the attention of purple martins and providing them with a suitable habitat in your backyard requires aspiring landlords to research and gain knowledge on how to attract these songbirds. By educating yourself and your family you will understand the lifestyle of these birds and understand what environments they thrive in.
Understanding Purple Martin Migration
If you're an avid bird watcher, you are already aware of how important it is to understand the migration patterns of your favorite birds. If you're just beginning the hobby and purple martins are your favorite, then learning about where they will be at what time of year is a critical component to setting up your backyard.
Every fall purple martins embark on their journey to South America for the winter and return to the United States at the beginning of spring. Purple martins will often be seen in southern United States as early as mid-January. As the weather turns warmer, purple martins will begin moving to the northern states and can often be seen as far north as Canada.
"Scout" birds will often be the first birds flying in for the season. When these birds arrive it is usually the first indication that the rest of the flock will be approximately 4 weeks behind. During this time it is important to begin picking a proper place for your purple martin birdhouse or martin gourd. Also be on the look out for other flying guests looking for homes. Sparrows and Starlings are known to establish residency in purple martin homes before these birds come home.
Birds that have lost their housing because it was removed or destroyed between nesting seasons will be looking for new sites. Sometimes landlords with optimal habitat may be able to "steal" martins from housing in a marginal habitat or that is neglected and overrun with Starlings and House Sparrows.
A purple martin decoy is a perfect accessory that will increase your chances of attracting martins due to their desire to colonize with other purple martins. You will want to make sure these decoys are up several weeks before early spring in effort to catch the attention of the "scout" birds. These birds are also the first to select homes and choose different homes than last year should the living conditions not be suitable. Purple martin decoys can also help prevent unwanted birds from nesting in purple martin birdhouses and gourds.
Helping Purple Martins Nest
You may wish to provide nesting material for your martins. Some of the items used by martins are; twigs, leaves, pine straw, grass, straw and bark. A mud puddle will provide your martins with a source of mud to use as mortar.
Supply your martins with dried pulverized eggshells. Eggshells have high calcium content and excellent grit properties that the birds do not get from their insect diet. These should be left on an elevated surface in the vicinity of the martin house. Be sure the platform has adequate drainage.
Other Factors to Consider
Significant amounts of Americans house purple martins in their backyard but only a few will be successful enough to have repeat visitors. Here are a few tips to consider when you're preparing to attract these songbirds whether it's your first year or your third year:
- Do not open your birdhouse too early or keep it open all year. This prevents other birds from occupying the space permanently.
- Make sure your purple martin house or gourd is white in color. Not only does the color attract these birds but also white reflects sunlight making their home cooler during the summer heat.
- Make sure to watch for nest competitors such as sparrows, starlings, great crested flycatchers, Eastern bluebirds, and house wrens.
- Make sure your purple martin gourd or birdhouse is properly ventilated. Good ventilation and drainage are a must for the health of your martins. Martin houses that do not offer adequate ventilation and drainage can contribute to the death of young birds. If there is a heavy loss of young, the martins may abandon the house completely.
- Use starling-resistant entrance holes and other accessories to block predators from their living quarters.
- Do not hang or mount purple martin houses too close to tall trees or in enclosed yards.
- Purple martins like to be in close proximity to humans. Believe it or not, these intelligent aviators are aware that their landlord offers a source of protection.
- Do not buy birdhouses or gourds that are not easily manageable. Purple martin housing requires upkeep just like a human home. The harder these houses are to reach and maintain the less likely these birds will return.
Following these tips can help attract purple martins into your backyard. Becoming educated and understanding their lifestyle and needs will mean that these songbirds will not only visit, but they will continually return. These seasonal residents will give you something to look forward to each season.