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Saturday, June 8, 2013

The first "backyard bird" is native to north Texas

Purple Martin

        Purple Martins were probably the first “backyard bird”. That is, the first wild bird to become primarily dependent on humans for both its food and housing.  American Indians were the first to recognize their insect-eating ability. They set up hollowed-out gourds near living areas to entice Martins (members of the swallow family) to nest there, eat insects, and reproduce. The humans' habits scared up a lot of insects from the prairie floor - Purple Martins' primary food.

Use caution when buying a birdhouse, and make sure you get the pole that comes with it too. (Most lumber stores don't sell a decent pole, and you might be in for a lot of extra work yourself). You'll need to raise & lower it frequently for maintenance. A new Martin house might be unused for a year or so, until Martins (returning from their migration) have a need for housing.
Nowadays, many homeowners put up things that look like apartment buildings, and are used quite well by Martins. If you're considering a Purple Martin house, remember that they need a CLEAR 100-foot (dia.). The circle should be centered on the birdhouse itself, and contain no buildings or big trees. By far the best color for a Martin house in Texas is white, since it reflects the heat.



A low-cost, safe organic herbicide    Like many of you, we try to garden organically. It saves money in several ways, and it doesn’t kill every living thing (including birds) in your yard. Nor does it make the chemical companies richer.


I’m certainly no botanist, but here’s what I use to kill unwanted vegetation with success; one gallon of 10% vinegar (undiluted, from grain alcohol), mixed with 1 ounce of citrus oil and 1 tablespoon of liquid horticultural molasses. I just spot-spray the mixture straight, using an old spray bottle, without adding water. It works best when the unwanted vegetation is growing actively;  in north Texas it is ineffective after about the first week of July.


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