Success with Purple Martins in Canada

One of the most exciting times in late spring is the arrival of the Purple Martins back from their long migration from Brazil. Martins are often very desired because of their huge appetite for insects such as flies and mosquitoes. They are also known for their beautiful morning and daylong songs and graceful soaring flights. If you have not yet seen Martins, or are not fortunate enough to have an established martin colony, do not despair – the Martins that generally come to new homes and establishments often trail behind the “Early Scouts” that migrate earlier in their return to their annual home.

There are many factors that can determine whether your yard can be a successful host for a Martin colony. The main consideration is having enough space. In general there should not be any trees or buildings within about 40 feet of the Martin pole. This is particularly important in the “glide paths” to the sides of the house containing housing openings.

A Martin house should be positioned in the centre of the largest opening you have in your yard. The taller the surrounding trees, the farther the Martin house should be placed from them. When placing your Martin house, it is good to place it where Martins will come into contact with humans. Martins like humans, so keep the house within 100 yards of your back door. Both you and the Martins will appreciate the closeness.

No matter how perfect your location, you will not attract Martins without first supplying them with proper nesting facilities in the form of a pole-mounted Martin house. It is best to look around your neighbourhood and see what type of housing Martins are successfully using. It is often a good idea to use similar housing as the Martins are used to because when a colony expands or a new one is created, the Martins will often look for familiar housing.

In houses, we strongly recommend aluminium over wood. Aluminium houses are generally cooler, seem to have fewer problems with parasites, are easier to clean and are less attractive to Starlings. Our #1 recommendation is the Heath Purple Martin Wild Bird Habitat.

When placing your Martin house, it is critical that you mount it on a telescoping pole. Without one you cannot easily raise and lower the pole for Sparrow control and Martin management. We offer several different adjustable poles at The Urban Nature Store.

To help attract Martins, in addition to having the right housing, many people find the placement of small Martin decoys helpful. Since Purple Martins are a very communal bird, they are often drawn to homes that appear to be already occupied by other Martins. This same principle works when you use the Bird Magnet Electronic Birdcall. It mimics the sounds of a Martin colony and sends out the message that there is proper housing and a safe environment for fellow Purple Martins. The Bird Magnet is available at The Urban Nature Store and it can also be programmed and used to attract songbirds.

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