How to Put Access Doors on Gourds

Reprinted from: Purple Martin Update 4(3): 29

The only drawback to using gourds as homes for martins is that compartment access is somewhat limited. Easy access is desirable for observation of nests, cleaning out nests between seasons, banding nestlings, and changing nests for chemically-free parasite management. Andrew Troyer has come up with his own easy way around this limitation in gourds; screw-on jar lids. What follows is a step by step guide to adding plastic jar lids to natural gourds.

Photo #1: Materials needed. The most difficult item to acquire is affordable jugs with lids large enough for a human hand to fit through. Rubbermaid's® Servin'Saver™ 3-quart, plastic jar (No. 3101) is ideal. (To assist landlords, the PMCA has become a distributor of these jugs. They are available only in 6-packs, for $15.95, plus $5.00 shipping and handling). Using scissors, cut the lid off the jug about an inch below the neck flange. Remove the cap and place the neck on the upper right side of the gourd (for right-handers), or left side (for lefties), until you find a spot where the neck mates nicely with the curvature of the gourd - you want to keep gaps to a minimum. Once you find a good spot (it should be at a place above the level of the entrance hole), mark the center for drilling. Using a 4" hole saw, drill the hole. Now, holding the jug's neck evenly above the hole, drill four 1/8" diameter screw holes, at 90-degree intervals, 1/4" in from the neck's edge, through the plastic neck and into the gourd. Using 3/8" long, #8 screws, secure the neck tightly. Waterproof the access door (both inside and out) using a thick bead of silicone caulking. Smooth it with your finger.

Photo #2: Paint the inside of the neck and cap. After attaching the access door, it is extremely important to paint the inside of the rim and cap with several coats of black paint to obscure their light-leaking translucency, otherwise, the access doors will be nothing more than "sky lights," causing the martins to reject the gourd. Look through the entrance hole - if you see any light leaks, add more black paint.


Photo #3: Paint the gourds white. It is important to paint the outside of the gourds when finished, especially the plastic parts, to prevent the deleterious affects caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays. Andy attaches his gourds to his wooden houses using long, metal rods that are threaded on one end and have broad, flattened, heads on the other. To keep the gourds from sliding down the rods, he fattens the rod's diameter with several wrappings of electrical tape, near the gourd.


Photo #4: A modified gourd in use. Young Adam Troyer is counting the number of eggs in this martin gourd, modified with an access door. Through these removable lids, Andy is able to count leaf-buried martin eggs, accurately count nestlings, remove nestlings for banding, pull out blowfly-infested nesting material (and replace it with clean, cedar shavings), and effortlessly clean out his gourds at season's end.


Copyright 1993 by Purple Martin Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.

Our members benefit from 4 issues annually, packed full of helpful and fascinating information like the article above. You can become a member and support the work of the PMCA by making a tax-deductable donation.