There are 5 basic rules that you can employ which will improve your chances of attracting Purple Martins to nest in your yard.
Proper Location for Martin housing. Purple Martin housing should be close to human housing or activity. The Purple Martins prefer to nest away from trees in order to feel safe from hawks. Trees provide a hunting spot that hawks can ambush Martins from. So keep them away from trees as much as you can. 60 feet away is ideal. Keep in mind that a colony that is flourishing will accept a tree as it grows-year after year. BUT that tree will increase chances of predation by hawks which can, in turn, cause you to ultimately lose your martins. Read our article on Purple Martin Housing Placement for more information.
Only Allow Purple Martins to occupy your Martin Housing. Two scenarios exist in this situation. The first is that many nest site competitors, if allowed to nest in a martin house, will defend the entire house to prevent other birds from nesting in it. For example; Tree Swallows, which are sometimes mistaken for Purple Martins will not allow other Tree Swallows or any other bird to nest within close proximity. The other more serious (and deadly) situation, is non-native nest site competitors such as European Starlings and English House Sparrows which can and will pierce and destroy eggs, kill nestlings and even kill adult Purple Martins. Starlings and Sparrows will be discussed in the article devoted to Nest Site Competitors.
Proper Housing. Using proper purple martin housing can make some of the details involved in Martin Land-lording an easy task. Not only will this make your job as Landlord easier but will actually increase survival rate of young martins at your colony.
Advertise. A new Purple Martin house with no activity may come across as an abandoned site. Martins seek out their own. They find protection and safety in numbers. If your site comes across like a ghost town passing birds may just keep going. It's all about safety; using proven tools such as Purple Martin decoys and playing Purple Martin dawnsong will cause passing birds to check out your site. It's as if there is a party going on and they will want to check it out. Place nesting material in the nest compartments and even smear some mud on the floor to give the appearance of previous activity.
UN-familiar housing. Check out others in your area (up to a 50 mile radius) that have SUCCESSFUL martin housing. By successful I mean that they have Martins that return year after year and fledge baby purple martins. Housing that just brings the curious but does not attract nesting Martins doesn't count. And housing that produces Starlings and Sparrows doesn't count either. See what type of housing other Purple Martin landlords have and try to stick with that to start. For example: Are they using gourds or houses? This will increase your initial chances. You can always gradually switch the housing after a few successful seasons to something else.
Article © purplemartinart.com 2008
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