We’ve all seen the fancy Purple Martin houses all over the internet. Some install on the peak of your roof, some are huge wooden plantation replicas that hearken back to lazy days on the veranda. Unfortunately for Purple Martins they don’t care one bit for sipping lemonade on the porch and care less for how outwardly glamorous that martin house appears to our eyes.
Many purple martin houses available commercially just won’t work well when it comes to martins. Not that you can’t attract lots of sparrows in these houses but there are a lot better housing options out there.
What makes for a purple martin friendly martin house?
1. If it refers to being easy to open for “yearly” clean outs, BEWARE! Most Purple Martin landlords and the PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association) agree that martin nests need to be checked weekly. Being able to access the nest once a year is just not good enough. Besides being difficult to access, if trapping of non native and invasive birds is needed, you might as well seal the house up. English House Sparrows and European Starlings will easily over run and even kill your martins.
2. If it has round holes only and no option for Starling Resistant Entrance Holes (SREH) then you may just be setting your martins up for a starling take over of the violent and deadly kind. Martins have no defense for the non native and invasive starling that has over run most cities. Once a starling has decided to use that nest, it doesn’t matter who is in the nest. They easily take over.
3. If it makes NO mention of how to lower the housing (via a telescopic pole, pulley or winch) then you must assume that it is meant to stay put. Remember that martins preferred height of 10 to 15 feet up will make it quite difficult to access that house without using a ladder. So save yourself and your local trauma hospital the trouble and buy a house that can be lowered vertically by one of those methods.
After becoming almost completely dependent on humans for housing, martins have thrived under our care. That care is easy to provide by following a few simple rules when selecting a martin house.
1. Make sure the house refers to being able to access for “”nest checks”, not just “clean outs”.
2. Plan for the worst and make sure it has SREH (starling resistant entrance holes) as an option. Housing manufacturers that give that option usually know a few things about martins and it shows they are thinking about the birds, not a profit margin.
3. It is essential that the housing is easily lowered so look at the pole system used to mount the house. The popular plantation houses and cupola houses are designed to mount either directly on a 4×4 wooden post or on your roof and are more for show than for housing purple martins.
There are a wide variety of martin houses that you can find that DO follow these important points. Made with a wide variety of materials to fit any budget and many (like Sunset Inn houses and Trendsetter houses) made by active Amish purple martin landlords that have perfected the purple martin house into an attractive yet easy to maintain way to bring conservation into your backyard.