New to the the PMCA forum.

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts

Hello everyone. I am a third generation Purple Martin fan. My grandfather had and my father has had active Purple Martin colonies for years. My father's colonies are not too far from Pittsfield, Illinois "purple martin capital of the world."

Fortunately for him his colonies are located in the perfect setting, wide open country, with an 8 acre pond just yards away.

I just put up my purple martin housing, a 12-room plastic/pvc house on a standard telescoping pole, on March 22, 2012. I have kept it sparrow and starling free since it was up, I have 2 decoys out since last week, and I think I have a fairly decent location. The house itself is at least 30 feet away from the nearest tree or house and there are open flyways of 100 feet plus on 3 sides. There is also a 250 acre lake about 1 mile east of me.

All that sounds great, but I still have not observed a single martin near my house yet? Is there something I am doing wrong, or am I just a little early for the sub-adults. I am so anxious to get a colony started!

Something else I noticed about my neighborhood... there is an abundance of house finches and yellow finches, but hardly any HOSP or Starlings! I can't figure out why.

I will be attaching a photo of the house I put up. Please give me some input.... Does it look like it is in a good location?

Last edited by Guest on Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Here is picture of my purple martin house.
My purple martin house
My purple martin house
My Purple Martin House 1.jpg (85.37 KiB) Viewed 1695 times

Another view of my purple martin house.
Another view of my purple martin house.
Another view of my purple martin house.
My Purple Martin House 2.jpg (76.34 KiB) Viewed 1644 times
Posts: 2932
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

This part of the country is loaded with HOSP and starlings so if you don't have problems yet you likely will. Startling resistent entry holes (SREH) will keep most of the starling out. Shooting and or trapping is required for the HOSP.
It is still a little early for subbies but they won't be far off. 30 foot is pretty close depending on how large the tree is and how far away trees are in the other directions. Depending on local populations and other factors it can take years to start a martin colony so don't get discouraged quite yet. Probably the best thing you can do to get your site "noticed" by martins is to get a copy of the dawn song CD. They are sold on this site. If there are martins in your area it will draw them in. If they stay or not depends on how attractive your site is to them. Post some pictures of your housing and your yard so we can see how it looks. There are lots of people on here with a ton of knowledge who will be able to give you advice on your set up.
Good luck and welcome to the PMCA.

You got your pictures up before I got my response typed. Those trees aren't too large and I have definitely seen martin colonies with trees closer. As long as it is in the most open site in your yard that is the best you can do.
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.

Thanks for the advice flyin. I posted a couple of pictures up. The nearest tree is about a 20 foot tall river Birch. It is about 30 feet away. Other than that there is nothing close by. I have 2 decoys up and I would like to get the DawnSong CD....I just have to figure out an easy and weather proof way to play it....
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:22 pm
Location: Stuarts Draft, VA

I bought a cheap CD player at walmart, and was only playing it when I knew it was nice out. But then some here suggested I just put a trash bag over it. And it works just fine! It doesn't effect the sound at all suprisingly. So now I just have a ugly trash bag covered CD player on my porch haha and I play it rain or shine. But if it is sucessful in getting martins then it will be worth the ugliness!

Looking at your yard, it seems like you have it in the best place you can get it. It doesnt look Ideal, with the closer trees, but it might appeal to some sub adults for sure! I'm sure your close neighbors might think you are nuts when you start playing the dawnsong!

Good Luck! Sounds like you have plenty of info from your family, if they have been landlords in the past!
2nd Year trying to attract martins! Wish me luck!
Posts: 2216
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: TX/Alvin
Martin Colony History: Erected 1st house in 1997. Birds were checking it out before Mike got down from the ladder. Six cavities had a little colony 1st year. Grown to 88 cavities all gourds with near 100% occupancy. Most important factor for success is rain = bugs.

Hello hat1978. Welcome to the Forum.

I think your site looks promising. Around here the HOSP and Starlings don't pay any attention to our housing until the Purple Martins show up. Maybe that's what they're waiting for...

Good luck and best wishes for attracting some Purple Martins.
Posts: 2172
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:58 pm
Location: Rural SE Kansas
Martin Colony History: .

some have said that house finches help keep the house sparrows away.
2017 - Home & Public Colonies - 300 Cavities
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue May 18, 2010 3:15 pm
Location: Fuquay-Varina, NC
Martin Colony History: As a child I managed a purple martin colony consisting of 3 houses on a tidal tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. I started my own colony at my house in Holly Springs, NC as an adult that grew to 27 pairs one year. In 2016 I moved and started a new colony in the spring of 2017 at my new home, which is about 7 miles south of my old colony. I successfully attracted my first ASY male in April of 2017. He quickly attracted a mate, followed by 7 more pairs. Grateful to have been able to start a new colony so quickly!

I think your site definitely looks like it would be fine for martins. Here are a few of my suggestions for what its worth...

1. Keep the house, but modify it to a 6 room, 6x12in compartment house and add SREH (starling resistant entrance holes).

2. Get a copy of the dawn song and play it!

3. Hang several gourds beneath the house. In many places of the country, I think gourds are a golden ticket to being able to attract that first pair.

PS...I had that very same house and did the things I listed above, and was able to attract 2 nesting pairs that first year.
Greg H.
Holly Springs, NC

2011 - 2 pairs, 7 eggs, 7 hatch, 7 fledge
2012 - 13 pairs, 63 eggs, 52 hatched, 50 fledged
2013 - 21 pairs
2014 - 25 pairs
2015 - 27 pairs
2016 - 23 pairs removed 4 gourds this year.
2017 - moved and started a new colony which attracted 8 Pairs
2018 - first arrivals have come back....anticipating!
Bill Hyde
Posts: 287
Joined: Sat May 08, 2004 8:59 am
Location: Illinois/Roscoe


For what it's worth, a recent year SY male Purple Martin scout reported in Edwardsville was May 7, 2011; and that was the first sighting for the year. Most likely several others arrived later than May 7 in your area. Good luck!
PMCA member
2011 - 1 SY pair w/ 2 HY fledged
2012 - 5 breeding pairs
2013 - 14 nesting pairs and several singles
2014 - 8 nesting pairs
2015 - 5 nesting prs w/mostly ASY parents
Posts: 2118
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 10:24 pm
Location: Delaware/Dover

Welcome to the forum Hat, your site looks good.
When the sub adults come in you might get a pair. Try adding a few gourds to improve your chances.
~Ray~ Gingerich
1999 1pair, 2006 2 pair, 2008 2 pair,
2009 23 pair, 2010 39 pair, 2011 67 pair,
2012 115 pair, 2013 160 pair,
2014 152 pair, 2015 174 pair, 2016 178 pair
2017 187 pair, 2018 200 pair, 2019 171pair
2020 233 pair
Gobbler T
Posts: 1518
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:13 am
Location: Mississippi / Columbus

Welcome Hat and good luck.

2007 --- 0 2011---0 2015---4
2008 --- 0 2012---0 16-19—0
2009 --- 0 2013---1 2020—?
2010 --- 0 2014---3

Thank You everyone for the advice and encouragement. I will try and get some gourds and definitely get a dawnsong CD. The trash bag over CD player was a great idea.

My question is how loud should I play it?

It may be hard to tell but on three sides I have 100 feet plus of clearance.

I mentioned earlier I live near a big lake, I noticed a PM landlord that lived on the lake had a couple of PM houses and gourds as well. So, I assume he has an active colony, however I have not noticed any birds there yet. I was thinking about asking him when his colony arrived.

As far as HOSP and Starlings go, there are a TON of them around my area. That is how I got good at shooting my 22 Marlin 39A lever action when I was a child :). As soon as I put up my box I was expecting the onslaught. However, like I mentioned before, I hardly ever see a starling or HOSP in my subdivision, ever! I have a two bird feeders in my yard. I feed thistle and high quality seed. I have several cardinals, chickadees, and multiple finches. I did have one male HOSP try and set up a nest but I religously tore out the nest every day, while waiting on a nest box trap, and I never saw him again. There are HOSP in other neighborhoods everywhere I look, but hardly any here. I am beginning to think a strong finch population does keep HOSP in check. I do plan on building a repeating sparrow trap in addition to my nest box trap....just in case. :wink:
John & Linda - KY
Posts: 599
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:19 pm
Location: Kentucky/Hawesville

Hi, Hat, and welcome to the Forum. I can't tell from the pics if your pole is a S&K tri-tel or quad-tel, but if it is you should read the forum topic linked below to save yourself future problems. -- John ... ght=tritel
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:22 pm
Location: Stuarts Draft, VA

I would play the dawn song as loud as possible. Martins fly HIGH up and you want them to hear it. However you have to consider your neighbors, so as loud as you can without distortion and without disturbing the neighborhood!
2nd Year trying to attract martins! Wish me luck!
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.

Hi Hat - welcome to the forum!

I would also add a snake / predator guard to that pole. :wink:
"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

I added 2 gourds in an effort to increase my chances of getting a colony started. I ordered the dawnsong CD a week ago and it should be here any day. I hope I can get a pair of SY before it is too late.

Also I can not upload photos for some reason, they are jpg under 500K. Is there some setting i need to change?
John Miller
Posts: 4769
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

The site looks pretty open, so I think you have a chance to attract martins.

I worry about these plastic houses with small units being too hot, but have not done temp tests. know it will get to 100 degrees or above here in late June and July, and the heat can really take a toll on nestlings. My suggestion is to see if you can attract some martins this year, and consider a small gourd rack next year, and discuss venting gourds with us -- most commercial ones are not vented enough.

I help manage a colony at Cahokia Mounds...18 pairs in a large rack of gourds on the parking lot. check it out sometime.

good luck, and welcome,
John Miller

John, thanks for the advice. I added 2 Gourds yesterday. Unfortunately I cant post a picture on this forum anymore for some odd reason.

I received the dawnsong CD in the mail today. Can I play it in the evening too?
John Miller
Posts: 4769
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

I've never fully figured out the photo thing... I resize down to below about 80 kb in file size, and that works. but there are instructions in the help section about how to size horizontal and vertical.

also, there is a limit on total we can upload. when you reach it, you'll get a message saying you are at your limit and you must leave the bar, or click on your "profile", while logged in, and go to the "control panel" and delete some older photos to free up space.

Re: dawnsong. You can play it any time. probably more effective through the morning hours because that seems to be when martins house hunt more. When you play it, they may come not because it's "dawn" vocalization, but martins just hear martins and come to investigate. there then is the downside. use the vocalization as a tool, but don't overuse. once martins start visiting, turn it off so martins focus on the house/gourds and not on finding the songster.

John M
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