Hello Everyone

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
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Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:24 pm
Location: TX/Kingwood

Hello everyone.
I just joined this group and I did so hoping I could obtain advice, tips and suggestions from people who really know the answers. I’ve done a lot of reading in the past few months and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I figured you are the folks that really know.

Several months ago, my wife decided that I needed a new project and suggested that I build a birdhouse. Little did she know what she had started. I found some plans online that I liked and, with lots of modifications, built me a birdhouse. It has 20 apartments, all of which are at least 6 x 12. I built it with round holes but modified it for SREH after reading some terrible stories about Starlings. Bought a self-braking winch to raise and lower the house and finally, with lots of changes along the way, I have me a house.

Now the question becomes what to do next. How do I make this place ready (and safe) for the birds and how do I attract them. We live In Kingwood, Texas which is a suburb on the northeast side of Houston. We really don’t have much of a snake problem except for the occasional Copperhead. We do have Raccoons, Possums and Squirrels (lots of Squirrels), Owls and Hawks. For protection, I don’t know whether to go with a cone, a pipe or netting. It would have to be easy on the eye or the HOA will get angry and how do you put up something like that and still be able to raise and lower the house. I saw a DIY article on building a device using a bucket upside down around the pole. Also, has anyone tried the Bird-X Songbird Magnet? It looks like it might be the easiest method of attracting the birds.

I welcome your comments, suggestions and criticisms. I joined the forum for the purpose of learning and improving in my attempt to get started with this wonderful hobby. I must admit I knew nothing about Purple Martins until I found the plans for the house but I have become fascinated. I am hoping that you folks can point me in the right direction.[/img]
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These are pictures taken of my new Purple Martin house.  August 2014
These are pictures taken of my new Purple Martin house. August 2014
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Just completed my first house.
Posts: 478
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: North Carolina/Clayton
Martin Colony History: 5th year hostess. Currently 58 confirmed breeding pair. 218 Fledged, 35 older nestlings, 2 new nests with 8 nestlings. 100% occupancy

Hi Spuds,
Welcome to the Forum! You will receive lots of diverse advice for sure. Just take your geographical location into contex because what works for some, doesn't work for others! You built yourself a beautiful house. Get ready because house sparrows, or HOSP will loveit too. Better read up on how to manage that potential problem! Have you considered an electrified predator guard. It should pass muster with the HOA and provide great protection from raccoons, squirrels and the occasional rat snake or copperhead if he is so inclined to attempt the climb. You can also search the pmca web site for more information. Many of us use them to protect our colonies! You might see a few visitors from those migrating back down south. Get your place on their radar! I played the dawnsong (PMCA Store) CD to help attract martins to our site our first year! It will bring them in for a look. After that your site attractiveness and housing offering must speak for itself. Don't get discouraged and keep a positive attitude!
Best Wishes on starting your colony!
Debbie Johnson
Clayton/NC (Archer Lodge)
2012 New Site 6 pair, 21 Fledged
2013 24 pair, 102 eggs, 94 hatched, 89 Fledged. What a great year!
2014 37 pair, 211 eggs, 193 Hatched, 178 Fledged, 1 nest of 5 young left! Late start but picked up speed quickly!
Matt F.
Posts: 3895
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Welcome Spuds!
That is a fantastic looking house!
Looks like possibly John Balga's awesome double Taverner plans, were your starting point.
You are definitely off to a wonderful start!
Ed Pace
Posts: 668
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:31 pm
Location: NY/Jamestown

Hi Spuds , I like your house. How do you think it would look with a few gourds hanging from the bottom? The gourds really do help attrack martins. They also feel safer if there are no large trees to close to their house, some do get martins with trees near if they have a high martin count in the area. Welcome to the forum and good luck this coming spring.
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:24 pm
Location: TX/Kingwood

Debbie, I am going to spend the day researching electric predator guards. I really hadn't thought much about that because I would have to get power out to the pole. However, I will have to do that anyway to play dawnsong. Did you mount some sort of speaker on the pole? I saw a picture of a house with a loudspeaker mounted on the roof. I thought it was funny at the time. Your comment about House Sparrows was timely. I think I had three or four checking out my house yesterday. It was hard to tell for sure because they were on the shady side.

Matt, you are correct. The plans I started with were Balga's Double Taverner. I altered the plans somewhat and reduced it to three stories so as not to push the HOA too far. I managed to get their approval even though it is still over their size and height limit.

Just completed my first house.
Posts: 591
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Holly Springs, NC
Martin Colony History: 2009-2015-Helped to manage Raleigh site, 36 cavities
2016- 33 pairs at Raleigh site, 1 pair at home site.
2017- 34 pairs at Raleigh site, 3 pairs + extra SYs at home site
2018- 33 pairs at Raleigh site, 5 pairs + extra SYs at home site
2019 - 32 pairs at Raleigh site, 7 pairs at home site, 2 pairs at new Holly Springs park site

Hi Spuds,

What a beautiful house and welcome to the forum! You did a nice job building it. It's too late to get nesting martins this year, but you can leave it up for a little while so the migrating martins will see it. Here's my 2 cents:

Looking at your pictures, I wonder how far away the trees are in the photo, and especially when you mentioned the 'shady side of the house'. Martins need wide open space, and putting the house in the wrong location is the main reason people fail to get martins. At least 40 ft away from trees is recommended but the further, the better, especially for big trees. Also, you may not have much luck with putting a martin house in 'holes.' Those are spaces in a property that are open right in the middle but ultimately surrounded by trees on all sides within 40-100 ft. Not impossible... but harder.

Also, check this link out for more info: http://www.purplemartin.org/main/topten.html

How far below the entrance is the porch? If it's 1/2" or more, you may have starling breaches. If that happens, you can glue a board to the top of the porch to raise the level to 1/4"-1/8" or even flush with the bottom of the crescent.

If you do get martins in it, you may find nestchecks with older young to get interesting. When the young get close to fledging age, they can spook and jump out of the nest, so if you have one compartment with older babies and one with younger ones, if one door opens all compartments, that might get tricky to check on the younger ones.

Good luck, and don't get discouraged if you don't get martins your first full season of trying. Many of us waited years to get a colony started!
NC Purple Martin Society (PMCA affiliate)
birdy girl
Posts: 1178
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2006 9:09 am
Location: Mississippi/Dumas

Great job on the house! No your wife did not know what she has started with this hobby! A martin colony is wonderful but due to predators but it can be frustrating at times.

The key to starting a colony, IMO, is open site. The trees look very close in picture. I know you can't do anything about the neighbors trees but your trees are another story. If trees from neighbors are nearby, I would eliminate any trees I could in your yard that would open up a flyway. That is a very important thing, openness. An older colony can get by more with tree growth but starting a new colony is hard with trees nearby. Martins feel threatened with close trees due to hawk and owl predation and rightly so. If possible I would go ahead and eliminate any trees your think you need to because like another poster said, you could get some lookers this year.

I would add gourds under house. Martins in the south like gourds a lot. I have read that some have to use natural gourds to get martins started at a colony site. Be sure to add ventilation (pvc elbows, we use 2 per gourd) to help keep martins cooler during the hot summer. The ventilation is just FYI due to us losing 2 young with our first pair of martins in a natural gourd.

The electric fence around the pole is great. But if you don't go that route in the beginning, I would for sure use snake netting. I hear Texas has lot of snakes. We never had a snake problem in our years of hosing martins until this year and luckily but unfortunately he had emptied 3 nests this was in a weeks time.

We used the song magnet box at first. It did ok and did bring few martins into check out our colony site from a nearby very small colony. Then I believe the next year we got a speaker and put on top of our T-14 and played a CD. If you ever get one pair of martins to stay, they will bring in other martins. We only had 1 pair of martins for 2 years out of 3 years with no martins the middle year. So we were pretty desperate to do everything we could to get more than one pair. First 2 years used Heath houses. The third year after adding natural gourds we got our first pair. Of course we cut down many trees to open up our site a whole lot. I know everyone doesn't have that option.

Yes be very prepared for sparrows and starling prevention. They love wooden houses more than gourds. But be careful to watch all traps because several other wonderful yard birds like houses also like possibly blue birds and tufted titmouse and possibly others. Watch traps closely. I know I am giving other info and your are just wanting to get a colony started but it is good to all this prior to martins choosing your house.

One more bit of info: Many put wire cages around their housing to prevent owl predatation. Not saying you should or shouldn't but it would be devastating to lose a small colony to an owl especially after you have worked so hard to get a colony started.

This forum is a great place to with with many great martin landlords with great advice for beginners. Your are starting at a great time to have lots of time to learn and be as well prepared for next year as possible when the martins return from Brazil. Do all you can to make your site what a martin would want because I will tell you and many will confirm this, it is so disappointing if martins do not choose your site each year and then it is what seems to be a long time before next spring arrives. I hope your get your first martins next year. Keep us informed.
John Balga
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:13 pm
Location: Essex, Essex County, Ontario
Martin Colony History: 2012-69 pairs
2015- 3 pair at new home colony
2016-6 pair at home colony-1 ASY FEMALE banded from Andy Troyer colony
2017-17 pair at home colony
2018-38 pair at home colony
2019-47 pair at home colony

Great job on modifying and adding your own modification to the DT Martin house. The colours are beautiful and you managed to do the scroll work under the house very well. Wishing you much success in attracting the Texas martins to your location!
John Balga :grin:
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 !

Welcome, Spuds, with the negative vibes of the HOA in your area, that ONLY means it will backfire , AND YOU WILL GET MARTINS!! Everyone above here have said great stuff !! Nut'in new I can add, You Built It, They WILL Come! :grin: Good Luck, Keep letting us know how it goes, Anthony
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.
Posts: 2118
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 10:24 pm
Location: Delaware/Dover

Welcome to the forum Spuds!
That sure is a beautiful house, I can tell you put a lot of thought and effort into that project.
~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
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

Beautiful house, and I want to welcome you to this forum, but I want to talk about your location.

I live on the opposite side of Houston, and I know that there are many tall pine trees in Kingwood (a beautiful place!). Martins need a whole lot of open space and open flyways, and I hope that you have such a place. If your home is the typical Kingwood scene, then you will have too many trees. With such tall trees, it would be best for you to have about 100ft of distance to the nearest trees, and also have some open flyways that are about 200ft or longer. You may need to remove some trees to have an acceptable location. I hope your site is an open one, and do you see any martins nearby? I hope that you have some martins nearby to help you get established. Good luck on your attempt, and I do not want to discourage you, just giving my opinion.

If your home is on the edge of a pond or lake, that would help tremendously, then you could put the martin house right on the edge of the lake, which may be an ideal location.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
John Miller
Posts: 4768
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

It's beautiful, but I'm concerned about the porches being too small to accommodate two adults, and slick -- more difficult to enter the crescents. Once you attract martins, they may use without hesitation, but I'd consider making a few larger, and adding traction. And don't mean to sound critical, but have concerns about dark surfaces and lack of ventilation for your climate.
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