Does size matter? A Quest.

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Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 798
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.

Many successful martin landlords here on the forum inspired me when I was struggling to attract my first pair of martins. I, like many here, began with a Trio 12 compartment house inappropriatly placed and waited vainly for a purple martin to appear. A second Trio, this time the advanced Grandpa which could be lowered on a rope to make removing spaarrow nests easier, was added. Results were the same. Now I had two empty houses. I added a multipurpose bracket with a 2 inch pole(to make it easier to raise and lower both houses simultaneously). Results the same.

To make a long story short, I made expanded cavities in the Trios, added pine straw, hung four Super Gourds with round entries (bring on the starlings) bought Dawn Song and Chatter tapes and fought sparrows, tree swallows and blue birds with the Drew Protocol and waited, waited, waited. One day, out of sympathy a pair of SY martins arrived, saw my efforts and decided to stay.

By this time in history, my cost per martin was significant. I had 14 cavities, untold (to my wife) money invested, hours of labor and countless jokes from family and friends about my Don Quixote like quest. In spite of these attacks on my sanity, I persevered. Eventually, more martins appreciated my efforts and joined the crowd. Now the work began. I had occupied cavities in Trio houses, plastic gourds and I was planning on adding even more housing. My hands were cut by sharp metal. I had insects and feces smeared on my body and I was still not happy!

Why this narrative? I want to pose a question that has always bothered me. How much is too much? Does size matter-to the martins? By this time in my martin quest, I have invested well in excess of $1000.Well-in-excess. My wife suspects as much but we do not discuss it.

I read stories from hopeful martin landlords and I relate to their pain, our symbiotic quest. They are trying, adding just one more martin house, one more gourd rack, one more speaker system, more decoys, more and more.

For those successful martin landlords out there, I have a question. What is the bare minimum required for attracting martins? I am talking the number of housing units. It is a given that location is prime, safety is expected, easily managed housing a requirement and vigilance is understood. Does adding more and more cavities increase attractiveness to a site if no martins are currently in residence or should expectant martin hosts focus on primo housing, keep costs down and expand after successfully attracting a viable population that can hopefully assure a returning colony each year? With the cost of store bought equipment, I feel for those hopeful martin landlords who have a small fortune invested and are still unsure of the hoped for ROI.

Ed

my quest.
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

I think that the bare minimum is to have 6 to 8 cavities to be successful year after year. Of course, 9 to 16 would be better assurance that some will return. I have seen successful colonies year after year with one small house if it properly managed.

I like to work on martin equipment, so I built most of our housing and poles from scratch, with free material collected over many years, and I grow my own gourds. I estimate that I have between $1000 and 2000 dollars for a total investment counting concrete, paint, saws, sandpaper, and some other tools. Some of the poles are the older steel poles but it was 2-3/8in drill pipe when discarded. My labor is thousands of dollars.

First off, I have too many gourds, but hate to take some down as long as I am able to hang them, clean, them etc. I always wanted more and now realize that I have too many. When you have too many, the urge to do things right disappears, and the number should be reduced. The housing should be put up for our enjoyment, should be excellent, and the predators must be controlled.

Lastly, all hobbies are expensive. I have invested 10 to 20 times as much money for other hobbies such as hunting, fishing, boating, golf, extended vacations, etc. Having martins is the cheapest hobby that I ever had, but still get the most enjoyment out of it.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Hey Ed, I believe 1 house to start with is fine, of course, but if it's a 6 roomer, than I always feel 2 houses & gourds underneath each is more than enough to start with. Those and a feeder tray & nest material box on poles give the flying overhead PMs seeing at least 4 squares to attract them. I'm still " up in the air " ( pun intended ! :wink: ) about having a huge colony ( mine are 7 houses & gourds in front side yard , & 5 in back yard, but I 'm reducing the 7 to 5 next yr.). I've been Very Lucky not to go thru the Swarm attack on a Female, or SYs killing the others young. Every time I hear about that , I just want to tell everyone to spread, or break up their colony. It seems counter- productive (?) I still feel that mine being spread way apart on my property is the main reason my PMs have behave so well, but please , everyone, don't get me wrong, mine are not all saints, I've Always had the normal fighting over rooms ect.. Just not the numerous killing of each other! Well that's my story, and I'm... So Good luck everyone !
PMCA Member, 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals + Tunnels, & 2 S&K Bo 11"s WITH Troyer Porches ! 4 MPPs, For 2019 Season !! :grin: Started in 1992 from Older '50-'60s Colonies.
Caroline94535-ND
Posts: 323
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:12 am
Location: North Dakota/Larimore
Martin Colony History: Will add later

I offer 15 gourds on one pole. I may, depending on how fast my neighbor's new trees encroach, go to a system that will hold 24-32 gourds. I cannot add a second pole to yard. I have birds every year.

My "mentee" has three gourds hung on a pole beneath a 6-room house. The martins fill his gourds and ignore the house. IF I get the new system, he will inherit my old pole and rack but he plans to hang no more than six gourds. He doesn't think he could take care of more than that.

His neighbor also offers six gourds.

My first year was a disaster because I had not yet discovered the PMCA and other forums. I hung the World's Worst House and was clueless about HoSP. I still managed to fill the house with martins. My second year of martineering I trashed the house, killed over 500 sparrows, offered 11 gourds and filled all of them. Three gourds were hung on arms on the old houses' telescoping pole; the other 8 were on a winch and pulley system.

I am not an expert, but I don't think you need dozens or scores of cavities to fill and keep your colony. As long as their are martins, and as long as they have chicks, there will always be more martins needing homes.
~ Not all those who wander are lost.
taxidermy lady
Posts: 2989
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:21 am
Location: IL/Ellis Grove
Martin Colony History: Started trying to attract purple martins in 2012! It's finally happened in 2017! 5 years!!! ASY male and SY female came May 1st, fledged 5 babies!

I have read 3-4 setups? They want to start a colony so they need enough cavities to succeed! As far as cost! There's cheaper housing and there's better! I say get what you can afford and use your common sense! I don't have a fancy car or a fancy house. But my martins do!!!! :lol:
Sharon from southern Illinois
ron20m
Posts: 446
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2004 3:01 pm
Location: Oklahoma/Norman

I had a single trio for years and expanded it from 12- 6X6 by drilling a hole and making them 6- 6X12. I think a bigger compartment makes them happy and prob increases survival but not sure it "attracts" them.
When I added a 24 gourd Gemini Rack I really started getting some numbers of martins. Now I have 3-24 gourd racks
I have a TON of hawks and when you only have 1-3 pairs it is nearly impossible to keep the hawks off. But when you have 40-50+ birds they can do a lot better job spotting/alerting/defending.
The best thing I ever did to attract was to set up a portable CD and play the Songs. I did the day one and not the Dawnsong. But I had martins several years and then some construction ran them off and they didn't come back one year. The next spring I set up CD and as I was walking back to house and my wife pointed over my shoulder and one was siting on trio. And the rest is history
Ryan
Posts: 281
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:19 pm
Location: Eganville, Ontario
Martin Colony History: Visitors are rare. Three SY males seen in 10 years.

I'm going with only one good unit per location, but I've now got three locations to try and increase my odds. I'll never be that guy with 50 holes and no birds in one site.

Up here I like wood because I'm in the same climate as the western canadian land lords who have done so well in the last 10-15 years with large compartment wood. Plastic or aluminum houses don't cut it, so I'm reduced to wood. I really like the chalet system because I like the gourd system that's used everywhere in the US, but is too cold up here. The wood chalets are basically a Canadian Gourd in my opinion.

There's not much distribution of good wood housing so I'm left to build mine. I don't mind too much since I have a four man 2500 sq. ft kitchen manufacture shop so all the tools are there and I can probably build as quick as anyone. However, there is a lot of time to build a chalet system and rack, or even a Northstar.

All of mine offer 12 units (cavities) per site. I figure I have a hard 40 hours into each location, and thats including the cement and pole mount. A dozen chalets is a lot of work. It takes as long to paint them, with two tone trim as it does for me to build the actual chalets.

I don't like thinking about costs, but I figure the 12 chalet rack that I just installed a couple weeks ago cost at least $600 with aluminum post and winch set-up. That doesn't include the 40 man hours to build and set up.

Considering I have three units like that and no martins, I think I'm giving you a run for your money on "per martin cost", Ed. Ha.
Home site: 12 cedar chalets - Plus two satellite sites which are also empty.
2010- 1 SY male on and off for a couple weeks
2011- 0 visits
2012- 0 visits
2013- 0 visits
2014- 1 SY male stopped in here and there for two weeks.
2015- 0 visits
2016- 0 visits
2017- 0 visits
2018- 0 visits
2019- Break-through year. Had a SY Male stop in on June 7th and stay all day, every day until end of June and built a nest. Hoping he returns in 2020 because I'm getting tired of updating this list.
birdbrat
Posts: 259
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:20 pm
Location: Ohio/SouthSalem

I started with just one cheap 12 unit house. I waited until I had martins in it before I upgraded. Even then I did it gradually. I probably have less money in my entire site than a lot of folks have in just one housing unit.
KathyF
Posts: 3518
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

Ed, I think the short answer is - 'whatever you can feel comfortable managing". I've stopped at 84 nest cavities. That's all I can manage nest checks for and all I can comfortably handle on any given weekend.

I think I read once on the PMCA information..somewhere...a sustainable colony is a minimum of 24 pair. But I don't know that I could find that again today.

Good luck - you'll know when you've reached "purple martin nirvana". :grin:
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 798
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.

Those who answered one unit ( however defined) seemed to answer the question that I asked."What is the bare minimum required for attracting martins?" Personally, I now have 24 gourds on two poles, porched SREH, predator guards on the poles and owl guards. I started with 28 cavities in two Trios and four gourds. Would I have been successful years earlier with 50 cavities?The gourds seemed the best to me from a management perspective, so I converted to them exclusively and reduced the number to 24 total.

Emil must have been reading my mind with his response, "I always wanted more (gourds)and now realize that I have too many". Emil has always amazed me with his 250 gourds. His devotion to martins has been an inspiration to me. At times, effectively managing 24 gourds is a full time job with other responsibilities thrown in in the mix.

So, if I was a purple martin hopeful who has been trying for a number of years to attract my first pair of martins, would it be wise for me to increase the number of cavities available each year to increase the odds that my site would be accepted by martins? Is one rack of 12 gourds adequate, 24, 36, 48? Having not yet attracted my first pair, how do I know how many I could manage? If the number is 24 pair of martins, why did I build, buy or grow the excess units? I cannot remember seeing a recommendation to increase cavities to enhance martin attraction. If 12 cavities in any format, be it gourds, cedar chalets, or Trio house is sufficient, would that number reduce frustraton, cost and aggrevation initially and allow me to grow my now successful martin colony to what ever I find that I can manage, as Kathy rightly calls my martin nirvana?

Ed
taxidermy lady
Posts: 2989
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:21 am
Location: IL/Ellis Grove
Martin Colony History: Started trying to attract purple martins in 2012! It's finally happened in 2017! 5 years!!! ASY male and SY female came May 1st, fledged 5 babies!

22. What do you feel is the "ideal" martin colony size that can be properly managed? The answer to this question depends on how much time the landlord has to devote to the hobby. A colony should only be as big as a landlord can properly manage. During the breeding season, a nest check of 100 nesting compartments can take about 30 minutes, if you move fast (as you should). This needs to be done every four days during the egg-laying period and every 5-7 days during the nestling period. A landlord should also walk underneath his housing once or twice each day to look for evidence of problems. Trapping and shooting House Sparrows and starlings is another factor determining how many cavities should be offered. No more than what the landlord can keep 100% starling and sparrow free. And don't forget annual maintenance. Housing needs to be taken down, nests cleaned out, housing washed off, repainted (if necessary), stored for the winter, and put back up in spring. Only build your colony to the size you can manage. For some people this is one 12-unit house. For others, it's several hundred gourds or a dozen multi-room houses.
Sharon from southern Illinois
Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 798
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.

100 nest checks in 30 minutes is remarkable, I salute anyone who can accomplish it. 30 seconds for each cavity is 50 minutes if you could do it, I cannot accomplish nest checks that quickly.

It is possible that you misread my question. I apologize if I was confusing. My question is, "What is the bare minimum needed to attract martins?" What do you think?
taxidermy lady
Posts: 2989
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:21 am
Location: IL/Ellis Grove
Martin Colony History: Started trying to attract purple martins in 2012! It's finally happened in 2017! 5 years!!! ASY male and SY female came May 1st, fledged 5 babies!

Oh ok yeah I guess I did! I read alot so I can learn about these birds and what I have read is recommended is 3-4 clusters to attract! They want to start a colony. If you google how to attract purple martins you get plenty of information to get a colony started. It probably is best to put a nice cluster of houses and gourds if you do not have a good area for them, that may help get their attention.The information I got from the above is what James Hill wrote founder of PMCA! I should have put his name on the quote,sorry! Good luck with your colony Ed. :grin:

I found this Ed- HAVE YOU PROVIDED ADEQUATE AND VARIED HOUSING? I highly recommend for those folks trying to establish a colony for the first time that they offer a combination of an apartment-style martin house along with LARGE (11" diameter and larger), NATURAL gourds. While the plastic gourds are improving, I have found from personal experience that they still cannot hold a candle to natural gourds. I have also found that the more cavities you offer, the better your chances of attracting martins. I would not offer less than a minimum of 10 compartments (including Trio housing converted from 12 to 6 compartments, along with 4 gourds) when just getting started.
Sharon from southern Illinois
Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 798
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.

So there seems to be some agreement that a unit of a dozen or so large cavities is the minimum suggested to initially attract martins. The addition of gourds is advisable. Sharon, hopefully you will be successful this year. Thanks for your feedback.

Ed
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