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Martin houses

Realizing that you want purple martins to nest in your backyard is the first step in what can become a wonderful way to be an active part of conservation, get closer to nature and carry on an age old tradition of providing a place for purple martins to nest.
If you live East of the Rocky mountains in North America, chances are you may very well be able to lure these beautiful songbirds to your yard. How will you entice these birds to the martin houses that you will provide for them? Just read on.
The first part to getting Purple Martins to select your site is LOCATION.

Remember to be realistic about the locations you have in mind to place a Martin house Keep in mind that if you have a Homeowners Association, it may be more difficult for you. You may have to check with your HOA to see if having a bird house is allowed.

Ask yourself, Where is the most open area on your property? Sometimes a backyard may NOT be the most Purple Martin friendly habitat. Would you consider placing the purple martin bird house on your front lawn?

These are some basic parameters that you can use as a guide.
(Though there are many exceptions in real life.)

1. Martin houses (or martin gourds) should be at LEAST 40 feet from trees...preferably more, though in the 'South' it is said that Martins are not as preoccupied with this.

2. Housing should be no further than 120 feet from your home. And as close as 30 feet. My philosophy is keep it on the closer side. You will enjoy your birds more and they actually benefit from the added protection we provide.

3. The purple martin bird house itself should be AT LEAST 10 feet up in the air. Preferably 15 feet. Though once established, within a colony, they will tolerate lower heights.

4.Keep shrubbery away from the bottom of the martin house or gourd rack.

Types of Purple Martin Housing

1. Aluminum
2. Foam
3. Gourds
4. Plastic
5. Wood

ALUMINUM Purple Martin bird houses

Aluminum purple martin house

Look nice!
MANY different styles to choose from.
Traditional Martin house look to newer stylish models now on market.
Last forever
Fairly light weight

Fairly expensive.
Least expensive is around $80 for 8 small compartments (6x6) Some houses range -$200-$500 and even more.
Harder to modify as you may have to cut metal to enlarge rooms.(depending on manufacturer)
Poor insulation capabilities, even though more expensive models usually have insulated roofs..

The compartments can be enlarged, by cutting metal to enlarge the compartments to 6x12, but that cuts down the amount of rooms on the house by half.
It is strongly encouraged to enlarge the compartments to both protect the Martins from predators and to increase clutch size.

FOAM Purple Martin bird houses

Foam purple martin house

Excellent it's made out guessed it, INSULATION material.
Very light weight.
Fairly easy to modify as insulation material can be cut with box cutter or hand saw.
Makes a great do it your self project.

No pre-manufactured foam housing available.
Quite fragile unless covered with some other material-which will increase the weight.
Not considered the most attractive house.

Purple Martin GOURDS

Plastic purple martin Gourd

Birds seem to love them.
Can be quite roomy inside.
Less domination of multiple compartments by 1 male.
Countless variations and combinations.
Natural gourds are budget friendly.
Natural gourds are very light weight.
Environmentally friendly.

Natural gourds need seasonal repainting to increase life of gourd.
Natural gourds can crack and break.
Natural gourds are labor intensive to prepare for use.
Not as "compact" as a traditional house.

There are natural gourds and plastic artificial gourds. It is recommended that all gourds have access ports for easy cleaning and nest checks. I use both plastic and natural gourds. Statistics show that number of eggs laid, number of eggs hatched and number of surviving young is greater in gourds vs “houses”.

PLASTIC Purple Martin bird houses

Plastic purple martin house

The least expensive way to start trying to attract Purple Martins.
The lightest -which may or may not be a consideration.
Easy to modify rooms-no power tools needed.

May look the least expensive-which you may or may not care about.
Sunlight (UV rays) can degrade the plastic over a period of time. This can make the plastic brittle and translucent. If light is able to enter the house it will increase the temperature and can lead to premature fledging and loss of birds.
Most plastic housing compartments are 6x6 which is technically sufficient for a Martin but not ideal.
Again, the compartments are easily enlarged to 6x12, but that cuts the amount of rooms on the house by half.
You'll find peoples opinions on plastic housing is quite heated.

WOOD Purple Martin bird houses

Wood purple martin house

Excellent natural insulation.
Can be a fun do it yourself project-for the handy-person.
Environmentally friendly and look nice too.

Heavy as sin.
Needs occasional repainting to protect wood.
Also need tools if modifications are needed.
Be forewarned-DIY does not mean less expensive. If you do want to make your own purple martin house, check out the purple martin bird house we have found.

If you still don’t know what type of martin housing you want to offer, look at your budget and what appeals to you-esthetically.

Purple Martin POLES:
Wood, Steel or Aluminum? Square or Round? Pulley, Winch or Telescopic?

The purple martin pole may well be one of the most over looked and under appreciated ingredients, when it comes to hosting Purple Martins. A good pole can turn a strenuous task into a pleasure.
There are 2 things you should consider when choosing a pole.

1. How heavy will your housing be?
2. What is your budget?

Why is weight an important consideration? Because if you know you want to have a large heavy wooden house and/or you can't lift heavy objects(bad back?) Then you can cross a telescopic pole right off your list. Conversely, if you choose a smaller aluminum house and are able bodied a telescopic pole may be a budget friendly option for you.

A pre manufactured heavy duty pole with all the bells and whistles can run you a couple hundred bucks. That’s a big price tag for a pole. If you don't feel like paying that much for a pole, then your dreams of a huge 24 gourd system are just that...a dream.

Less expensive telescopic aluminum poles start at about $60.00. Also, if you are the Do-It-Yourself kind of person, you could rig a pole yourself. Just make sure that lowering and raising the pole NEVER changes the directional orientation of the individual compartments. For example; if compartment "A" faces North, then it must always face North. Purple Martins are very sensitive to this and will abandon a nest if it changes its orientation.

Winch vs Pulley vs Telescopic


Winch for purple martin housing

These poles have a small handle that you crank to raise and lower the housing. Easy on the back. They usually have a safety mechanism that keeps the housing from falling down on your head if you accidentally let go of the winch handle.
Usually the most expensive option.


Pulley system for purple martin housing

A rope that attaches to a pulley at the top of the pole is used to lower and raise the housing. The ropes can sometimes come off the pulley-which means the house will be stuck-a very bad thing. Also the ropes can fray and if not noticed, can eventually break-also a very bad thing. Also be aware if the rope is accidentally let go of, the house can come falling down. Usually on top of your head. Some poles of this type come with a safety pin that you leave in place until the house is down to just above head level. Then the pin is removed and you can lower the house the rest of the way. If they don't come with this feature, it is an easy DIY task. You should never stand directly under the housing when raising or lowering.


Telescopic purple martin pole

A pole within a pole within a pole. You raise up the poles, by hand, one section at a time. Care must be taken on round telescopic poles, that the house is kept facing the exact same way and that the pole is not extended beyond the length of the pole. (Trust us this happens!)
These poles are not suitable for heavy housing not only due to the difficulty in raising and lowering but the stress load on the pole itself. The least expensive option.


All poles that utilize a rope or cable MUST be inspected regularly or SERIOUS injury can result. Ropes and cables do and will fray and snap. Replace cables as needed.

Also remember that all housing should be lowered in case of severe weather to prevent damage to housing and the pole. (No pole is 100% bend proof.) And NEVER lower a pole when lightning is in the area! features purple martin houses and purple martin gourd racks that combine a great selection of housing options pre-matched with poles to assure the proper combination of strength and value.
Feel free to contact us for any questions you may have. We are located in South Florida and have been in business since 2008.

These other Articles may help you to learn what you need to do to lure purple martins to your yard.

Everything that you need to house martins in your yard is available right here.

Article © 2008

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