The Purple Martin Mentor Program

Martin attraction just got a whole lot easier

Reprinted from: Purple Martin Update 9(2): 7

Darren Milligan
Purple Martin Conservation Association

Those of us who have been gifted with having Purple Martins as neighbors know that the friendship we so cherish with these birds did not come without a great deal of effort. Attracting martins is not an easy task, and being successful with martins can often involve years of failure and discouragement. Now there is a way for beginners to be personally taught by an experienced landlord and bypass all those years of inevitable trial-and-error learning. It's called the Purple Martin Mentor Program.

With its Mentor Program, the Purple Martin Conservation Association has found a way to help both the struggling newcomer and the veteran landlord. In volume 9(1) of the Update, two articles were published discussing the benefits of becoming, or being in the shadow of, a Purple Martin mentor. The mentee benefits from years of knowledge that only an experienced martin landlord can provide, while the mentor is able to relive and share the excitement of attracting those very first birds. Plus, as colony sites are improved, martin populations can grow, a win-win situation for everyone. A mentoring relationship can be as simple as a few key pointers sent in a brief note, or as involved as frequent on-site visits, which could blossom into a lifelong friendship. A mentor assists the budding martin landlord in areas such as housing choice and modification, proper placement, and the control of nest-site competitors. They can also explain the advantages of playing the dawnsong, doing nest checks and nest replacements, or participating in Project Martinwatch. Mentors can do as much as they desire to help mentees succeed as martin landlords. The thanks-yous will travel in both directions and the smiles will abound.

Finding a mentor or a mentee can be as simple as stopping by a colony site in your area and striking up a conversation with the active or would-be landlord. You'd be amazed at how much people love to talk about their birds, or lack thereof. The PMCA has taken this process to the next level. We have launched the Purple Martin Mentor Program on the PMCA's web site: The program is divided into geographic locations (states and provinces) within the breeding range of the Purple Martin. At the web site, potential mentors and mentees "sign up," offering information describing their landlord status (i.e., successful or not successful). Next to your name on the mentor/mentee lists, you can add a personal statement, a description and/or photo of your colony site, and your personal contact information (address, phone number, or email).

For our friends who are internet-savvy, you can sign up for the Mentor Program by emailing us directly, by visiting our Mentor Program page: Over 50 mentors have already signed up and the numbers are growing daily. As soon as your information is posted, potential mentors or mentees in your area can contact you, and the conversation can begin.

But don't worry if you are not yet part of the world wide web, the PMCA's Mentor Program can work for you as well. Send us a note with your name, phone number or address, and your own martin status (you can even send pictures). We will post this information on the web for you, and those interested in participating will contact you using either your phone number or mailing address (whatever you feel more comfortable with). Soon, you should begin to receive contacts that could lead to a worthwhile mentoring relationship.

Being successful with martins can require all the resources we have, from the physical demands of raising and maintaining housing, the emotional highs of celebrating our first colony, to the depression of losing our birds. We should not go through these experiences alone.

We hope that everyone who reads this article will consider becoming either a Purple Martin mentor or a Purple Martin mentee. Remember that a few wise words from a mentor's years of experience can save a mentee years of trial and error.


Darren Milligan is a recent graduate of Allegheny College with degrees in Biology and Spanish Language and Cultures. He is currently employed by the Purple Martin Conservation Association as their Webmaster, and is also involved in customer support.

Copyright 1999 by Purple Martin Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.

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