Written by Patrick Lacombe
One of the things I look forward to in the springtime is the arrival of the songbirds migrating from their winter homes to their nesting sites.
My favorites are the “Purple Martins” that start arriving in late January and early February.
Having a colony of Purple Martins in your yard can be both aesthetic and beneficial.
Martins love to put on a show, often dive bombing and swooping in to nab a wayward insect for a quick snack. They are fun to watch and can actually help with pest control in your yard. They eat annoying mosquitos, flies, and many other flying pests.
It has become a hobby to many to attract and keep colonies of Purple Martins to enjoy.
First, you must provide housing for them to raise their young. Once you establish a colony, they will return every year to their birthplace to mate.
There are several things to consider when you put up a Martin house.
First and foremost, do not become discouraged if you don’t attract any tenants your first year.
In fact it may take several years for the scouts to find your birdhouse and you must do your part to get the conditions right. Purple Martins are attracted to white birdhouses.
The trim can be any color you like, but studies show that the body of the house should be white.
The house should have an unobstructed fly zone.
It should be mounted at least 40 feet from trees or tall structures.
However, the house should be placed no farther than 100 feet from your home or an outbuilding. The reason being, Martins like to live near humans because we scare away their natural predators.
Snakes, Raccoons, or Owls love the easy pickings of a nest full of young chicks.
Another important managerial tool in attracting Martins is keeping the Starlings away.
There are several thoughts on this subject. Some say to keep cleaning the house out until the Starlings give up and leave.
Others get a BB gun and shoot them. I do not agree with that method. I suggest something called a “SREH.” It stands for Starling Resistant Entry Hole. It is a crescent shaped entry hole cut to a specific size. A starling cannot bend at the knees, so this type of hole is supposed to prevent the unwanted birds from claiming a nest in the house. I have built and sold over 500 Martin houses with these holes and have received all positive feedback on them.
I also recommend using all wood for your house. Mass produced metal or plastic houses are too hot in this Texas heat. Wood is a natural insulator and keeps the birds cooler in the summer. Also, Purple Martins appreciate a little drinking water nearby, so keep a birdbath full of water in your yard.
Backyard Birding can be a fun and inexpensive hobby that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you need any info on anything I have mentioned in this column, please leave me a note at the office and I will help you as much as possible. God bless y’all and have a great weekend!