If you are looking into getting into purple martins, you may be wondering why you can’t just setup any old birdhouse. What makes a purple martin house unique from other birdhouses out there?
Here are a five things that make purple martin houses unique from other birdhouses. While some are not specific only to purple martins, you will find that most of these things match and matter to purple martins where some of the issues have no issue for other types of birds
The color of a purple martin house matters. Most are a very light color, if not white entirely. The purple martin identifies white as their type of housing for most of the eastern side of the United States. Many landlords have found that if they ever paint their purple martin house, it may never be populated by purple martins. Instead, you will only find other types of birds attempting to nest there.
Our purple martin houses that we sell are primarily white in color. It is okay for trim or roofs to have other contrasting colors, as indicated on our own houses. However, I would never completely paint a purple martin house to a dark color.
People who don’t know much about purple martins will generally identify that it is the door sizes that make most housing structures unique.
I remember hearing of the purple martin as a kid. My dad wanted to build a purple martin house and it was my responsibility, being just a little bit tech savvy, to help him find the exact size a purple martin house door should be.
In modern times, it is probably easier to purchase a plastic covering that makes up the SREH doors. These crescent shaped doors will help prevent starlings from taking over your purple martin house. Keep in mind though, it isn’t a full solution and there can be smaller starlings that may attempt to nest in your purple martin house if you aren’t careful!
Number of Units
Since the purple martin is a bird that wants to nest within a colony, the purple martin house is different than most typical birdhouses in that there are typically several units to support multiple nests. Many birdhouses my parents had as a kid were single units, small birdhouses. The purple martin houses are typically significantly larger. In our case, we sell a 14 Family Purple Martin House as well as a 16 Family Purple Martin House. If you opt for gourds, I would certainly recommend that you go with at least eight if they are not in combination with a house.
The location of a purple martin house is fairly unique as well. Most birdhouses I have seen people put up will often be placed underneath a porch, or mounted to a tree. In the purple martins case, it needs to be relatively close to human dwelling, and at least 40 ft from large trees. This is to keep the predators away, but also the purple martin will not nest in a house or gourds that do not fit this criteria. They are picky! They have to be though in order to ensure their survival.
I guess in my mind most common birdhouses are mounted relatively low. My grandparents had several growing up, but I remember them all being about 6ft off the ground. In the purple martin’s case, the higher you get it, generally the better. I like for my purple martin house to be about 12ft high. Certainly no lower than 9ft. Our purple martin poles are a bit longer and it is highly encouraged you purchase one that can help you raise and lower the purple martin house for nest checking.
Purple martins are really unique birds. They have some requirements and seem a bit picky in their housing. However, their survival really depends on humans. We have established some of these expectations that they now have over time, I believe. If you are looking to setup a colony, I would recommend you check out my beginners guide to purple martins which goes into great detail on some of these issues. It will help you attract them earlier, and help you avoid pitfalls with your colony early on.
If you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact me. I love speaking with people about their awesome setups or giving friendly advice to new landlords whether you buy my products or not.