Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post #470 -- Purple Martins

When I logged in to Blogger this morning, it showed me that I have done 469 posts so far. Wow, I can't believe this is post #470 since my first appearance with the Nature Knitter blog on March 6, 2007. I have learned plenty of new things about Blogger and made some definite progress with my posts since then.

Yesterday, we had a little preview of summer here in southeastern Minnesota. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we reached a record high (for the day and the month!) of 92 degrees. It was a perfect day to get some more spring chores done outside and so I decided to get my purple martin gourds "furnished" and hung up on the gourd rack. The purple martins have arrived back in Minnesota and once again, I begin another season (Year 4!) of what is turning out to be the eternal quest to establish a purple martin colony in my backyard.

I have 12 gourds -- half are giant natural gourds and half are these plastic "Super Gourds." The plastic gourds are pretty much maintenance-free and will last for years, but I've found that the purple martins who do visit me and move into gourds definitely prefer the natural ones. Inside the bottom of the gourds, I put in a few handfuls of white pine needles that I've raked up from under my trees. This will give the martins a good base layer on which to build their nest and in addition to the drainage holes in the bottom of the gourds, will also help to keep their nests drier in the event of heavy rains.

Here are all the gourds in place. I've plugged the holes in the natural gourds and may have to do that with the plastic ones also if I notice that tree swallows, house sparrows or starlings are trying to take over the gourds before the martins arrive.
I hoisted the gourds to the top and we're all set for purple martins! These are in a nice, open, and very visible part of the yard. Hopefully any martins flying over in the next few weeks will notice these lovely gourds and stop by to take a look.

I really like using gourds for purple martin housing. They are so easy to care for and lightweight. If I was rich and had an established purple martin colony though, I would definitely get one of these Lonestar purple martin houses. They have huge nesting compartments with built-in predator guards inside each "apartment." I've visited a couple purple martin landlords who have these houses and they swear that it's the best martin house out there.

Most of you probably already know that purple martins in the eastern U.S. and Canada now depend entirely on humans to provide their housing. If you think you'd like to establish a purple martin colony in your backyard, or just learn more about purple martins, please visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association website here. There's lots of information at the website and also links to finding martin events and mentors in your area (scroll down the website home page to see all the links on the right side). I would also be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Being a purple martin landlord is fun and rewarding (and frustrating and challenging), but once you get "hooked" by these beautiful birds, you will do just about anything to keep them coming back from year to year. I know.......because I do it every year! And I won't stop with my "martin quest" until I get a colony established in my own backyard.


Mama Pea said...

Once you get your Purple Martin community established in your yard, I'd like to hire you to come get us set up here. Boyoboyo, could we ever use those 'skeeter-eaters' up here!

Lynne said...

I just saw a post on the MOU listserv about an active Purple Martin colony at Eagle Lake Park/golf course. That's only about a mile from my house. I need to get over there for some Martin watching!

Anonymous said...

When we first built our house here we had a martin house, but I didn't know a lot about martins. Then all the trees we planted grew up and there was no where for the martins to soar. To make a long story short, no more martins. They were always twittering and flying around getting bugs. They were a joy to have for neighbors.


deedee said...

Would you like a lot of pigeons and blackbirds? We have plenty here - I could shoo them in your direction :)

Dana and Daisy said...

I did a college research paper oh so long ago and purple martins are big time mosqito eaters. I think I recall they eat their weight in mosquitoes every day!

Another good reason to host them!

KGMom said...

I hope we get lots of pics if the martins move in.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The house sparrows have taken over our martin houses. The Mourning Doves have moved into the shrub where the house sparrows used to nest. I will have to evict the house sparrow if I have any chance at a PM moving in.

Kelly said...

very cool. I hope some martins move in. They are so fun to watch. I'd like to try for martins one of these days. (Congrats on your posts! That's a lot of bird love!)

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is a perfect post for explaining how to deal with Purple Martins. Cool.

Mel said...

Hola Ruthie,
I've never seen a Purple Martin and had no idea about the houses and all that, it's quite interesting.
It's sad that they depend on humans :(

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mama Pea,
If you lived on a lake your chances to attract them would probably be better than your lovely homestead in the middle of the woods--martins are kinda like bluebirds and they like more wide open spaces for soaring and catching insects on the fly.

Hi Lynne,
If you get a chance to see that martin colony, definitely check it out. A really good time to go would be after the babies have hatched and the parents are in a feeding frenzy flying back and forth with insects to feed those hungry babies. Maybe if you can find out who the martin landlord is, you could set up a visit--I know for a fact that martin landlords love to talk about "their" martins.

Hi Mom,
I remember going to Preston with Dad and purchasing that martin house that used to be in your backyard. I hope I can attract some more this year because they sure are fun to watch and listen to.

Hi DeeDee,
You're too kind! ;-)
I have plenty of blackbirds but no pigeons, so shoo some of them my way!

Hi Dana,
Not just mosquitoes, but flying insects of every type! It's so neat to see them soaring through the air and capturing their flying food!

Hi Donna,
I will share pictures for sure and I'll do whatever I can to encourage a pair or two to move into my gourds.

Good luck evicting those sparrows Lisa! With all the sparrows in my yard, the gourds work out best here because sparrows don't like living in those "swinging" homes!

Thanks Kelly. I got really hooked on the martins when I was working at Wild Birds Unlimited and was appointed the in-store "martin expert." We had a couple of customers who were martin landlords and one gentleman agreed to become my mentor. He was very helpful and encouraging and gave me a sweet deal on those plastic super gourds when he switched over to a T-14 house for his colony.

Hi Abe Lincoln,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always nice to meet another purple martin enthusiast.

Hi Mel,
It is kind of sad they depend on humans. In the western U.S. there are many martins that have found natural cavities to nest in, but I think the Eastern U.S. is so populated that it's difficult for them to find natural cavities that are large enough to live in. I read somewhere that the Native Americans used to grow and provide the large gourds for martins to live in too.

Red said...

That was fascinating Ruthie! I hope your colony gets started this year. Certainly won't be for a lack of trying :)

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Red.I hope so too.

Aleta said...

Wow, Ruthie - I love your purple martin colony! Thanks for all the info on them. We have a purple martin house but it always gets used by the tree swallows, which are really beautiful and bug eaters also, so we don't complain too much. I've never noticed a purple martin here so I'm not even sure if they come through here. Guess I should research when they are expected in our area. By now the tree swallows are nesting and it is too late to plug holes.

Gaelyn said...

The gourd martin complex is very cool looking. Although I've never seen a plastic gourd.

When I was a kid in IL a neighbor had a huge Martin house high on a pole that I was facinated with.

Hope you get the Martins coming your way to settle in.