Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015
So you want to attract Purple Martins to your yard or neighborhood...
now is when Purple Martins start to settle in the north Texas area. The
“scouts” come first, followed by hordes of others. If you’ve put out the
“welcome mat”, they may just settle down at your place.
They prefer nest sites cleaned of the majority of old
debris, near water, and free of other birds (especially House Sparrows). Martin
houses are almost always on tall, metal poles, and can be raised and lowered
easily for regular maintenance. Since their natural habitat has mostly disappeared, they are dependant
on humans for nesting sites, so the house typically comes in a box.In Texas, Martin houses should be made of a
material that withstands heat, and be white to reflect our sun (both are
crucial here). The houses need to be cleared of old nests at least yearly, and
you’ll need to monitor it so other birds don’t take it over. If a house doesn’t
come with a pole, shop elsewhere; and make sure the pole is easily raised and
Martins are exceptionally good fliers– all
their food is caught during flight (the ultimate “in-flight meal”). They’ve
been timed at 41 mph. It’s not unusual to see hundreds of them at once; on, in
and around the special house you provide.
year more and more people put up Martin houses; either the traditional
“apartment house” or the natural-looking gourds. Also, several neighborhoods
and communities in north Texas have become Purple Martin landlords, and enjoy a
reduction in flying insects.
Where are owls’ ears?Despite how they appear, owls do not have
external ears; 100% of their hearing
function is inside the body. What look like ears on their heads are just
tufts of feathers mostly unrelated to their exceptional sense of hearing. What is also
exceptional is their eyes, which let them see in near-total darkness.
OWEN YOST, in addition
to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived
and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime
Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of
Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His
office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.