Purple Martins

….Compliments of Wild Birds Forever

Purple martins aren’t purple at all. They’re glossy deep blue, almost black with a forked tail. Early native Americans prized the purple martin and offered houses for them in the form of hollowed out gourds.

Martins are beautiful, graceful, clean, interesting and beneficial birds. Their bubbling chirps and trills make them a much sought after bird. Did we tell you a single purple martin can eat thousands of mosquitoes in one day? Need more reasons to attract them to your yard? O.K., O.K. you’re a tough crowd! Here’s another reason, purple martins seem to enjoy being around people and most are dependent upon humans for their shelter.

Range and Habitat

Purple Martins can be found in just about every state in the U.S. except for the Great Basin area in the west. Most purple martins migrate to South America during the winter, but frequently return to the same breeding spot year after year. Purple martins prefer grassy open streamsides, river bottomlands, marshes, meadows and large forest openings close to lakes and pools.

Feeding Preferences

Purple martins enjoy vast quantities of insects on the wing, and are much sought after for controlling annoying insects like mosquitoes. They love to eat mosquitoes, beetles, flies, dragonflies, and moths.

Attracting Purple Martins to your backyard:

  1. Purple martins are best known for their communal nesting in human built apartment houses. The best way to attract purple martins is to put up a purple martin house in your yard. Mount your martin houses 15 to 20 feet above ground, near a permanent water source for best results.
  2. In the west, martins typically shun man made homes in favor of old woodpecker holes in dead trees. Leaving dead trees on your property, is another way to encourage natural nesting by these beneficial birds.
  3. Purple martins favor broad, open areas that offer good foraging opportunities such as marshes, bays, large rivers, swamps, meadows, pastures and farmland. Residential areas can attract martins if their housing is placed in an open area, especially near water.
  4. Ideally, you should place your martin house in the middle of a 40 to 50 foot square open area.
  5. You will increase your chances of attracting martins if their housing is placed within 100 feet of your house or other human habitation.
  6. Martins construct their nests of leaves, grass, and feathers. Consider offering a concentrated stash of these favorite nesting materials in an old suet basket. We have ready to hang nesting material if you’d rather spend more time watching them than gathering nesting materials!
  7. Martins also like mud as a nesting material. Consider providing a muddy area in your yard.
  8. Purple Martins will appreciate the extra calcium found in dried, crumbled eggshells spread out on the ground for them during the nesting season.
  9. A permanent source of fresh water is very important for purple martins as well as all birds.

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