Purple Martins are a beautiful species of swallow, commonly known for their insect-based diets. Gardeners will commonly try to attract Purple Martins to control insect populations. They’re most commonly seen throughout the eastern regions of the United States and are easily identified through their deep blue-purple feathers.
Purple Martins themselves are an almost exclusively human-dependent species, they rely on us for housing, and are actually quite fond of settling in places near us, unlike some other species which prefer to keep their distance.
Reasons to Attract Purple Martins
There are a variety of reasons to try to attract Purple Martins to nest near your home. One of the most common reasons is their aforementioned insect-control. Purple Martins don’t rely on humans for food, which means they don’t need bird feeders. Instead, their diet is based on flying insects. They’re commonly said to control mosquito populations, and while they will eat mosquitoes, they prefer even higher-flying insects, things like flies, wasps, flying ants and the like. This is because Purple Martins will feed and drink mid-flight.
Their pest-controlling properties have been well-known throughout history, even going back as far as the Native Americans, which would hang hollowed gourds to attract the Martins.
Getting Purple Martins To Settle Near You
So now you’ve decided that you want to try and attract a family of Purple Martins, what do you need to do to encourage them to settle near your home?
The first thing you should note is that Purple Martins are migrating birds, they come up to the United States during the warmer seasons and then migrate back to South America when it starts to cool down and the insect populations dwindle.
This is important because you have to make sure you set up your bird homes during the right time of year.
Purple Martins migrate to certain areas at different times of the year, depending on the climate, in some states they’ll come as early as Spring, and some states they won’t show up until Summer, so it’s best to consult knowledgeable locals to find out the right time to prepare.
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Selecting The Right Housing For Purple Martins
The homes you put up for the Martins should be multi-unit homes. Purple Martins like to nest in groups, so your nesting area should have multiple spots for them to choose from, almost like you’re setting up an apartment complex for birds.
You also need to make sure the housing is in a prime location. First, your houses should be near a large, natural body of water like a lake, river, stream, or pond. This is because Purple Martins like to bathe and drink during flight, so they need ample space to do so. A birdbath just won’t do for them.
You also need to make sure that their house is set up in an area clear from tall trees or buildings, as Purple Martins like to settle in open areas, though you should try to keep the houses within 100 feet of your home as they like to be near humans.
Also, make sure the houses sit up at least 10-20 feet from the ground, this is because a low-sitting nest runs a higher risk of being raided by predators, so Martins won’t settle in them.
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The great thing about setting up a home for Purple Martins is that they remember their previous homes, so as long as you set it back up every year they’re likely to keep coming back when the weather gets nice.
And there you have it, once you secure a nice little area for your Purple Martins to stay you should have fewer problems with those pesky bugs, and you’ll have provided a family of beautiful birds with a home in the process!