Building a martin house | Living the Country Life

Building a martin house

Learn how to attract friendly feathered friends to your home

Radio interview source: Louise Chambers, program educator, Purple Martin Conservation Association








Listen to the radio story here

Attract new neighbors

Purple martins are happy little birds that are friendly toward humans. For hundreds of years, people have gone out of their way to attract the birds because of their playful antics and gurgling song. Native Americans used a variety of dried gourds clustered together as purple martin houses, but you're probably more familiar with the "high-rise apartment" structures.

Purple martins do have specific nesting requirements, and if you can provide that, they'll flock to you. Louise Chambers is a purple martin educator and says first, make sure you have the right kind of yard. They like plenty of open flyway.

"Martins like the sky because that's where they collect their food, and they need to watch for danger like hawks, so you need a wide-open location," Chambers says. "There should not be trees any closer than 60 feet in any direction. They like to be near people, so we suggest putting up the martin house no more than 100 feet from your own. Closer is fine because you're going to want to watch them and see what's going on, and they won't mind."

Martin houses can be made out of wood, metal, plastic and dried gourds. The birds live together in a colony so a house with separate "apartments" will be to their liking. Build the martin house with one layer, then add others as the colony grows. Erect the house on a 12- to 18-foot telescoping pole, so you can check on the birds or clean it.

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