To be quite frank, there are some birds that I would not want to attract around my home. However, the purple martin is actually quite different. It is the only bird that I am aware of that is entirely dependent on humans for its survival. That goes to show what many people feel about them considering how their population is growing.

Are purple martins good to have around?

Purple martins are good to have around because they eat large amounts of flying insects, including mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects we generally try to get rid of in summer months. In addition, they enjoy being around humans and release peaceful sounds.

Majestic Purple Martin Surveys His Territory

Let’s look a bit closer as to what makes these beautiful creatures so appealing. We know that thousands of people landlord these birds each year, but I want you to consider why this might be a good hobby for you.

Purple Martins Like People

While the purple martin can be territorial and quite combative towards other birds in the area, they generally are very peaceful towards their landlords. Growing up I recall my dad having a purple martin house. The purple martins would arrive each year, and I remember walking outside with him to look at the small eggs. I learned those days that as we approached the purple martin house, they may not be entirely comfortable with us, but they generally flew away a short ways, only to watch from a short distance as we looked at the eggs and the young. They did not swoop on us and I never felt threatened.

It seems to me that these birds have grown an understanding that humans who have provided places for them to nest are there to help them. It almost feels like they welcome the attention. For this reason, while they remain as wild animals, it is among the closest relationship I can think of with any type of wild animal. It is extremely rewarding to know that you are helping them.

I am a firm believer that purple martins are great to have around with young kids. Not many wild animals do kids have an opportunity to witness up close and personal. Very few birds will allow kids to handle their young or view their nests up close. This is a necessary part of being a good landlord, and checking on the progress every few days is a fun evening time activity with kids.

Purple Martins Eat Flying Insects

I bring up the flying insects because there is some misconception that the purple martin eats all types of insects. Generally, the purple martin flies relatively high into the air to capture the insects. In addition, this also means that mosquitoes may not be their top source. Mosquitos typically fly low to the ground. It is not to say that the purple martin will not eat mosquitoes. They certainly will, but it may not always be the primary source of food.

It is worth saying that if you live close to a pond or water source where mosquitoes thrive, then there is a good chance that this is a part of their diet regardless.

In my area, we seem to have quite a few dragonflies and this seems to be what I see them bring back most often. They have acrobatic flights as they capture their prey, and it makes it quite entertaining to watch. What is surprising is that purple martins will eat roughly 2000 insects per day! This is a lot of insects! If you have a relatively large colony of purple martins, the environment has to be able to hold up to the need.

Purple Martins Are Fun to Watch

The purple martin is extremely active during daytime hours, and particularly later into the evening just before it gets dark. If they are in your area, they may start out working at building their nests. This means that they fly back and forth from the purple martin house to gather small leaves, wood, and plastic that make up their nests. In addition, they spend a good portion of their day catching insects so this means they are spending a lot of time in the air as well.

If the weather is nice, expect your purple martins to be flying to and from the purple martin house regularly. Sometimes, if the weather is a bit wet or dreary outside, they may spend a bit more time in their purple martin house.

When they are flying, the purple martin is extremely acrobatic. You will watch them twist and turn, as if they are trying to escape something, but really they are the ones hunting down flying insects. They make quick turns midflight, and are considered to be some of the most acrobatic fliers.

The adult males (ASY males) will have a rich purple look to them. They are amazing to look at, and quite unique in comparison to other birds in the United States. The females have some purple on their heads and maybe a little bit on their backs too, but the males are bright and vivid. While they are waiting for eggs to hatch, both the males and females will often perch on the purple martin house porches grooming themselves. This is a great time to take pictures and get a better look at them. You will get to know the unique look of each of your purple martins so that when they return year after year, you may even be able to name them.

Purple Martins Make Beautiful Sounds

Call me crazy, but I am not one that is a huge fan of some of the bird noises. In fact, I know several people with chickens and to me there is nothing more annoying than the sound of a chicken crowing early in the morning. The purple martin does make sounds and they can be considered relatively noisy, but they have beautiful sounds.

Below is an example of some of the sounds that you might hear from a purple martin house.

If you close your eyes, think of beautiful birds chirping in the middle of a meadow, this is likely what a purple martin colony will sound like. Males will use their sound to attract females, so they are quite vocal. That being said, I have never felt annoyed by the purple martin noises. I have always found them to be calming and peaceful.

Purple Martin Can Make a Small Mess

The purple martin is still a bird, and for that reason the only negative I can think of is that they can leave a small mess. Generally, I would encourage anyone with a purple martin house to place it roughly 30 ft away from the home and not near a walkway. I have seen people place them directly over a wooden fence, but the birds may leave a mess on the side of the fence. For this reason, I recommend getting a purple martin house with a pole, and not leaving it near a walkway or structure that you wouldn’t want to have bird droppings on top of. Let’s be honest, they are still wildlife.

I also have had some eggs that did not hatch. The smell can get pretty rough if you aren’t watching your purple martin house carefully. One of the things I would always recommend is that you keep an eye on it. Any eggs that get broken, I would recommend cleaning them up or at the end of the season, cleaning out your purple martin house so that when they return next year you have a clean-smelling purple martin house to begin with.

The mess they generally make is relatively minimal, but it is worth considering when you are trying to find a location for your purple martin house.