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Purple Martin Birdhouse

Summary: Although purple martins may not be the voracious insect eaters you have read about, they are great birds to have on your property. Building a good purple martin house will create the perfect invitation.

You have probably read that purple martins are the answer to all your backyard pest problems. It is true that purple martins eat insects, but before you start erecting birdhouses all over your property you need to understand a bit more about their diet.

Purple Martins are insectivores, for sure, however, they only eat flying insects and they only eat them while the insects are flying. They do not eat insects off the ground. Martins eat a wide range of insects including flies, midges, beetles, dragonflies, bees, mayflies, wasps, cicadas, flying ants, moths, mosquitoes, butterflies and grasshoppers. Moreover, Martins do not eat huge quantities of mosquitoes. Martin birdhouse manufacturers would, of course, like you to believe otherwise. Regardless, having martins on your property cannot hurt, so let's forge ahead with our project.

First of all, keep in mind that purple martins love open space. When choosing a place to set the birdhouse, try to keep it away from swing sets or sandboxes. You should also try to avoid setting the birdhouse near trees. This will help reduce the chance that other birds may swoop in and cozy up to the purple martins' home.

Secondly, make sure to monitor the purple martin birdhouses for other birds. The best way to do this is to enable the birdhouse to move up and down on a pole. This will help deter other birds from the birdhouse. Try not to put your birdhouse too high in the air because the wind may damage it. The best height for a purple martin birdhouse is between 12 and 20 feet in the air.

Here are some more tips for building a purple martin birdhouse:

  • Because purple martins are typically about eight inches in length, the compartments within the birdhouse need to be at least eight inches long. An ideal size is at least 7 x 12. The bigger the compartments, the more space the bird will have and the more comfortable it will be. Larger compartments also allow the purple martins to cool off on hot summer days and help the birds avoid predators.
  • Do not paint the interior of the birdhouse.
  • Entrance holes should be made round and about two inches in diameter, but no less than 1¾ in diameter.
  • Painting the exterior of your birdhouse white will help keep it cool in the summer months, as white reflects light.
  • Thick plastic, aluminum, wood, and natural gourds are all materials that can be used to build the birdhouse.
  • Try to make sure that little or no light can leak in to the birdhouse. This will help keep the interior cool.
  • Pole guards and owl guards are great tools to use to keep the purple martins safe.
  • Drilling holes in the floor of the birdhouse allows rain to drain out quicker. Dry birdhouses are especially important to young purple martins that are just beginning to grow feathers.
  • If your birdhouse or pole holding it up is made of metal, it is important to check for rusting regularly. If you use rope in your birdhouse system and it begins to fray, replace it immediately to ensure the safety of the birds nesting there.
  • You may consider purchasing purple martin birdhouse accessories, especially those that are proven to deter starlings and sparrows. A starling-resistant entrance may be one of the best accessories to purchase.

Purple Martin Gourd Birdhouse

What You Need

  • hollow gourd at least nine inches in diameter
  • cleanout access cylinder and cleanout entrance
  • crescent entrance
  • 4 ½ hole saw
  • 3 hole saw
  • copper sulfate
  • drill with  ¼ bit
  • paintbrush
  • pencil
  • latex primer and paint
  • Lexel adhesive caulk

six-gallon bucket

How to Make the Birdhouse

  • Draw a crescent shape on the middle of the gourd that measures 1 3/16 in diameter. This will be the starling resistant entrance hole.
  • Draw a small circle above the crescent shape. It should be 3 in diameter.
  • Draw a small circle on the opposite side of the entrance. This will be the cleanout access hole, so it should be higher than the entrance so as not to disturb the purple martins when you are inspecting the birdhouse. The circle should be 4 ½ in diameter.
  • Use the hole saw to drill out the cleanout access holes and the drill with a ¼ bit to drill out the crescent entrance.
  • Using the ¼ bit drill, make four small holes in the bottom of the gourd to allow water to drain out.
  • Mix one pound of copper sulfate with five gallons of water in the bucket. Allow the gourd to soak in the mixture for twenty minutes, then remove it and set it out to dry.
  • Apply the cleanout entrance to the three-inch hole. Set a small amount of caulk around the edges to make it stick. Turn the gourd around and use the same procedure with the cylinder.
  • Allow the caulk to set for at least 24 hours.

Apply the primer to the gourd, and then a couple coats of white paint. Allow to dry and your birdhouse is ready.

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