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Innovating Your Purple Martin Colony

With the approach of spring, it's time to start welcoming back our purple martins. In addition to routine seasonal maintenance, you may be considering some changes to your colony. While improvements to a colony are a good thing, be careful not to make those improvements too drastic. Purple martins are sensitive and may abandon a colony if changes are too abrupt. Let's review the best ways to make common changes or improvements like moving your colony, replacing your housing, or expanding your colony.

Moving your colony, whatever the reason, can be a tricky endeavor if you've already got an established colony. If you've never had nesting martins, simply move your colony to a new location. Ideally, you would move an existing colony gradually, over more than one season. Install new housing in the new colony location at least one year prior to removing your existing housing. Martins will remember the new housing the following year and may even start using it right away. The following season, simply do not install the old housing or install the old housing near the new colony. Your martins should re-establish the colony in the new housing. If time is not on your side, just move your existing housing and hope that your martins will adjust.

Nearly every good martin landlord will want to replace or upgrade their housing at some point. Always replace your housing in the off-season after your martins have left for the year or before they return in the spring. Replacing an old house with the same model is a bit more simplified than upgrading to a different housing system. Try to install your new version of an existing house so that it occupies exactly the same space as the old house. In other words, take care that the new house is mounted at the same height, at the same location, and faces the same compass direction as the old house. If your new or upgraded housing system is a different model, follow the same guidelines you would if you were moving a colony; but try to keep the new system close by.

When your colony starts growing, you may want to consider expanding your existing housing to accommodate more birds. Adding new housing to an existing colony is a must for the avid martin steward. New housing should be installed close to the existing houses, at least within 15 feet or so. You may add new housing as close to the existing housing as reasonable flight access will permit. Many colony landlords choose to hang gourds from the bottom of existing houses to quickly expand their colony. You may also have success in increasing your usable martin housing by installing porch dividers between apartments. This cuts down on territoriality and has been known to increase occupancy by as much as 75-100%.

BestNest offers products for both the amateur and experienced purple martin landlord. With products ranging from all-inclusive kits to individual accessories, BestNest carries everything you need to move, replace, expand, or start a purple martin colony.