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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Get ready for Purple Martins' arrival in north Texas

Normally Purple Martins start arriving here in late February.

Purple Martin
If there's no suitable nesting site in your neighborhood when they arrive, they won't come back to your neighborhood 'til next February.  Their criteria for nesting sites are usually near some wetlands or water (or some other source of insects), and plenty of clean housing. The birds also need on open area (meadow?) around the nest with a 40 ft. radius circle - no big trees.

Purple Martins depend almost entirely on humans for housing. They are one of the few birds that prefer communal living. Since Martins are closely related to other swallows, their locational criteria are mostly the same, except...

They prefer man-made houses. In north Texas, white is by far the best color for a Purple Martin house.  They’re typically aluminum, and look like little apartments with round doors.  The dimensions of the holes, and the “apartments” themselves, are crucial in deterring predators. A caution; never buy a Martin house thinking you'll get a pole for it later. Poles are rarely sold separately and it's extremely difficult to securely fasten a Martin house to an 'ad lib" pole, particularly one that will raise and lower the house easily.

If you’re thinking about becoming a Martin landlord, remember that there’s some maintenance involved. Houses need to be cleared of old nests at least yearly, and you’ll need to monitor it so other birds don’t take over.

Last year over a million families put up Martin houses. Plan to put one up now, so as not to miss the early arrivals that scout possible nest locations. If you don't have enough open space around the location, try attracting another kind of bird. Several neighborhoods and communities in north Texas have become Purple Martin landlords as a group. These acrobatic, insect-eating birds depend on us!



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