So you got yourself a purple martin house, you want to be a good landlord, but when is the best time to actually set it up? There are a couple of times of the year that I would recommend it.
The ideal times to setup a purple martin house is either late summer or early spring. These are the best times to potentially gain traction in starting a new purple martin colony.
So, why exactly are these the ideal times? Well, let’s look a bit closer at this.
Why is the Late Summer a Good Time to Setup a Purple Martin House?
I actually prefer the late summer as my favorite time to set a purple martin house up. It may seem a bit counter productive as the purple martins have already hatched eggs at this point and may be preparing to fledge and return to South America for the winter.
However, what many people believe may be the case for some of the younger purple martins, is that they may be scouting out purple martin housing on their way back to South America.
Since purple martins are so hard to attract anyhow, I actually prefer to set it up during this time. There is no valid evidence that this is the case, but the weather is typically nice outside, you’re not outside during the cold weather setting one up, and if you can do anything to help you attract to purple martin tenants, then I wouldn’t hesitate to take the advantage!
The Disadvantage of Setting Up in the Late Summer
The major disadvantage of setting up during this time is that if the purple martins have already fledged and have headed back to South America, then there is really no benefit to setting it up at all.
The downside of setting up a purple martin house with no real chance of purple martin tenants is that you could potentially have other harmful tenants such as starlings or sparrows trying to get into the martin house. You definitely want to keep an eye out. By the time you hit September, all the purple martins are gone anyhow. This is your time to go ahead and place in some door plugs or take the purple martin house back down for the winter. I wrote an article on the best ways to winterize your purple martin house for when that time comes. Within month or two of setting your purple martin house up, it is likely time to go ahead and winterize your purple martin house.
Why is the Early Spring a Good Time to Setup a Purple Martin House?
The purple martins begin arriving right around this time. I would recommend setting up your purple martin house when it’s still relatively cold outside. The martins begin arriving in south Texas as early as January. This means that if you live anywhere close to there, move this up to the winter timeframe.
You want to have your purple martin house up and ready to go with at least a few compartments open as the older adult males begin to arrive. They are seeking out housing early and soon the females and younger males will arrive.
Does it mean that if you miss the time that the scouts arrive that you won’t have any martins visit your purple martin house? It doesn’t. The reason for this is because the older males are territorial early on as they are establishing pairs with the females. They may attempt to (sometimes successfully) in kicking the younger males out. Those younger males are not the ideal bachelors, but they may look for other housing. This means this younger male could be the start of your colony! Even though they are young, they are still able to produce babies and attract young females who are able to produce eggs.
Did I Setup my Purple Martin House at the Wrong Time? I have no martins.
Honestly, it doesn’t. There are a lot of landlords that it may take years before you actually have any tenants. The most important part is that you make your housing look as appealing as possible. Make sure that you are following all of the tips I have laid out in my purple martins for beginners guide. This will hopefully help you be successful in attracting them.
That being said, there are plenty of landlords that have done everything right and still don’t have visitors. It may take years before your first martin arrives. However, if you’re doing a good job of keeping your martin house clean and rid of harmful birds taking up space, then you’ll likely eventually see martins arrive. A lot of it depends on how many are in your area. If you have any colonies nearby, there is a great chance you will see some your first year. If you’re in a more desolate area with no other colonies, it may be a bit before you see your first visitor. Please don’t get discouraged! We need more purple martin housing, not less!
Is There a Problem With Setting it Up Other Times of the Year?
Absolutely not! The only catch here is that you keep your purple martin house cleaned out and make sure other types of birds aren’t trying to nest in your martin house. If you have other types of nests there, they likely won’t stay and will look for more ideal housing.
There are plenty of purple martin houses in my area that have simply been abandoned. With good intentions, the original landlord set it up. Maybe even at one point it was well-managed. Perhaps that person moved houses, but what generally happens is that the harmful non-native birds such as starlings will take it over. Then we end up with a bigger problem! The only request I have is that if you leave your purple martin house setup, try to check it from time to time and rid any harmful parasites of it! Sometimes, even with good intentions, landlords may be harming nearby colonies when they aren’t watching after their martin houses.