Millions of people put up a purple martin house each spring, many of them for the first time. There are many purple martin houses and martin gourd systems available, and it can be difficult selecting the right housing. The main considerations in selecting the right martin housing are:
- Accessibility for cleaning and nest checks
- Protection from nesting competitors (ie starlings)
- Average occupancy rates
- Predator protection
For people who are trying to attract purple martins for the first time, it is more economical to start small. A 12-room house or an 8 gourd rack system is the perfect starting point. People are successful in using one or the other, or even combining the two different housing types. There are even products on the market that combine the advantages of a purple martin house and a gourd system, such as the Heritage Farms Quad Pod Purple Martin System
. The difficult part is trying to choose one style of housing from the many different types available. Here are some details on each type:
Aluminum Houses: Aluminum houses are the most widely used purple martin housing. Some advantages of aluminum houses are that they are fairly inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to maintain. Many of the lower-priced houses have smaller compartments that are arranged close together and maximum occupancy is generally around 50% full. This is mainly due to male martins “dominating” multiple apartments. When rooms are spread out or porch dividers are used, occupancy rates generally increase. Systems such as the Lonestar Purple Martin Systems and the Heritage Farms Quad Pod System can often achieve 90%+ occupancy rates. Some systems offer built-in winged predator protection (from owls/hawks) and some systems allow such protection to be added. Oftentimes purple martin landlords have problems with starlings, and it is helpful if starling resistant entrance holes are available.
Wooden Houses: Many people prefer the look of wooden houses. They are often more decorative, and people have more options when it comes to painting the houses. While white paint or stain is still recommended, people can paint the trim or roof to match their own tastes. Unfortunately, wooden houses are often significantly heavier than aluminum houses, are more difficult to access and clean, and do not last as long out in the elements as other housing.
Gourds: Many people find that they have an easier time attracting a purple martin colony using gourd housing. Native Americans first used natural gourds thousands of years ago to attract purple martins, and many people still swear by using gourds. Gourds typically have large nesting cavities that offer more predator protection than most traditional martin houses. Synthetic gourds are often used because of their high durability and ease of cleaning. Natural gourds must have properly drilled entrance holes, be treated with fungicide, be sanded, and should be painted white. Preparation of natural gourds is often prohibitive. Gourds can be hung from gourd racks or suspended from homemade systems. Often times gourds achieve nearly 100% occupancy.
Other considerations: Keep in mind that one of the most important pieces to any purple martin system is the pole. Access to a martin house for cleaning and checking the nests is critical. A telescoping pole is highly recommended because of the ease and convenience of raising and lowering the house or gourd system without the need a ladder. Some manufacturers have developed cable and winch or rope lanyard systems that allow the houses to easily be raised and lower along the pole. These systems can be much easier to use and are advised for younger or older martin landlords. Remember that not all poles will work with every house. It is best to check the pole compatibility before buying a system.
If you have any more questions about purple martin housing, please contact us at 877-369-5446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.