My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4283
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby Steve Kroenke » Fri Jun 07, 2019 3:56 pm

My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

I quit using natural gourds in my current purple martin colony in northwest Louisiana back in 2010 and the martins readily accepted the transition to plastic gourds. Why did I quit? I just got tired of the maintenance associated with natural gourds including preparation for use and painting. The plastic gourds I use are good quality, never need painting and are easily cleaned as necessary. Plus the plastics will last much longer than the naturals and this is a huge advantage. I currently use Troyer Horizontals with cling plates and with tunnels/porches, Troyer Verticals, Super Gourds and Excluder Gourds.

However, I still greatly like natural gourds and I had used them since the 60s in my various martin colonies in north Florida and also in northwest Louisiana. Let me confess that I really like naturals better than plastic gourds! The natural gourd with its rustic, secluded interior provides a safe and well liked cavity for martins and martins have nested in naturals for hundreds of years. The natural gourd somewhat replicates the inside environment of a woodpecker cavity which martins have nested in for maybe thousands of years. I remember many years ago seeing HUGE natural gourd colonies in Georgia and the Carolinas when traveling through these states.

There are three natural gourd styles that I like the best and I have used them in the past for many years. Martins thrived in these gourds and many babies fledged from them.

Vertically Deep Woodpecker Gourd

One of my favorite natural gourds and also of the martins in my colonies was a gourd with the entrance cut high up near the neck to create vertical depth to the bottom. The gourd was also suspended at about a 45 degree angle on the crossbar. The gourd style reminded me of a vertically deep woodpecker cavity so I called it a woodpecker gourd. The entrance was cut anywhere from six to about ten inches above the gourd bottom so that the martins were deep inside their nest and not visible from the outside. Martins never built their nests all the way to top of the gourd so that the martins would be visible in front of the entrance; female martins may prefer to be as less conspicuous as possible while incubating eggs or brooding small nestlings. In fact I built pre-nests of pine straw that were around three inches thick and all the martins tended to add were oak leaves. Martins can easily climb up the coarse gourd wall to reach the entrance hole just like they would inside a woodpecker cavity. Initially I didn’t have any kind of perch near the entrance but later on started adding wooden perches so the parent martins could more easily feed large babies that would cluster around the entrance. Martins nesting in my woodpecker gourds were deep inside and largely out of view and reach of owls and hawks just like martins would be in a natural woodpecker cavity.

Funnel Gourd

Some natural gourds with long thick necks make excellent nesting cavities for martins. I call these funnel rather than tunnel gourds because the entrance area gradually widens like a funnel before reaching the nesting chamber. In these gourds, I cut off the neck area to create about a two inch or little more diameter entrance to a funnel that may extend three to six inches or more in length. In some of the gourds, the funnel area pointed a little downward. These gourds could be over 12 inches in horizontal length and remind me somewhat of the Troyer Horizontal. To make it easier for martins to enter the entrance, I later attached No. 10 plastic coated wire perches just under the entrance. This perch worked perfectly to allow martins to enter and later on feed their large babies when they peered out. Martins nesting in these gourds were largely out of view and reach of owls and hawks. The narrow funnel entrance hole is restrictive and helps create a secluded and protective nesting chamber.

Horizontal Gourd With Entrance Cut On Neck Side

Elongated natural gourds make good horizontal gourds with the entrance cut in the neck to create an offset approach. In these gourds, the martins would enter and then hang a 90 degree turn to crawl down to their deep nesting chamber. Horizontal depth varied depending on the size of the gourd but tended to average around 12 inches. Martins were largely out of view and reach of owls and hawks. Just like with my woodpecker and funnel naturals, I started adding a perch just under the entrance to facilitate entering and feeding young.

I also used many naturals that were similar in style to Super Gourds and related commercial gourds. Martins thrived in them, too.

Naturals can be modified with rain canopies, access ports, porches/perches, and tunnels and I have done all that with my natural gourds. You can use tunnels with srehs if you like with such gourds. I only use round holes in my personal martin colony as I have a minor starling problem that is easily controlled via trapping/shooting.

Maybe in the future I will go “nostalgic” and add some natural gourds to my martin colony. Perhaps have one gourd rack with all naturals and see how the martins respond.

I have included photos of woodpecker, funnel, and horizontal natural gourds.

Vertically Deep Woodpecker Gourd With Pair Of Martins

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Funnel Gourd With ASY Male Martin Peering Out Entrance

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Horizontal Gourd With Entrance Cut On Neck Side And Pair Of Martins

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PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

PMDavid
Posts: 265
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: Second year trying to attract martins. This year I am getting rid of the wooden house and showing something they are used to seeing.
Offering 2 trio grandpaws w/2natural gourds under each and C.Abare gourd rack w/16 natural gourds. And one rehabbed 16 compartment Coates original with two natural gourds.Lots of lookers,a few overnighters and daily activity cruising and looking. All gourds have a rain canopy and wire perch.2019 7 pair

Re: My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby PMDavid » Sat Jun 08, 2019 4:54 pm

Coool Steve. I have 22naturals on a chuck abare gourd rack I made. The martins definitely like the gourds better than the trios. I have 40 holes in trios and 22 gourds. 4 out of 6 pr chose the gourds . Since th re is half as many gourds with twice as many chosen over the trios ,isn’t that something like an 8-1 preference. All mine are regular vertical with a round hole and small canopy,wire perch. EXCEPT one,I made it horizontal with the hole in the side of the neck. Wanna guess which one was chosen first.....they love it! For next year I’m gonna make up several more horizontals and try a woodpecker one like yours. You should make you some more naturals,they just have such a mystique and aura to them. I know they take effort,and I sure don’t want to do several hundred of em. But they are the coolest and I think the martins favorite.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4283
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:24 pm

David,

Yes, natural gourds are so cool! I had my first ones way back at my boyhood martin colony in the mid-60s. The naturals were always first occupied and then my aluminum Trios and homemade wooden houses. Please try more of the horizontals and perhaps some of the "woodpecker" type ones. I have always had excellent results with them.

Another advantage of naturals is the rustic bottom may help to better keep nesting material together. I have noticed on my plastic gourds that the slick plastic tends to spread out nesting material, particularly my pre-nests of pine straw. But I usually pack enough pine straw in to create a substantial foundation.

I am seriously considering erecting a gourd rack with ALL naturals in 2020. Just have a bunch of different styles and let the martins enjoy! I haven't grown any natural gourds in MANY years so I will have to buy them. It is usually not hard to find the vertical martin gourds, but sometimes is difficult to find the more elongated horizontals.

I am pleased you have had such good success with natural gourds! I hope you have a great martin season!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

PMDavid
Posts: 265
Joined: Wed May 16, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Boyce,Louisiana
Martin Colony History: Second year trying to attract martins. This year I am getting rid of the wooden house and showing something they are used to seeing.
Offering 2 trio grandpaws w/2natural gourds under each and C.Abare gourd rack w/16 natural gourds. And one rehabbed 16 compartment Coates original with two natural gourds.Lots of lookers,a few overnighters and daily activity cruising and looking. All gourds have a rain canopy and wire perch.2019 7 pair

Re: My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby PMDavid » Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:06 pm

Steve
I’m like you about the plastic gourds behind so slick inside. That and the cost per each is another reason i’ll stick with the naturals . The martins can readily climb around in those .as soon as they make a space in the nesting material down to the plastic then they just slip around on a slick floor. I understand you have hundreds of gourds and the up keep of that many naturals would just take too much. I have 22 now,no big deal. I think I will fix the hole on some of em and remake em into a few woodpeckers,probably like six of em. I’ve sittin eyeballing candidate for that and then I think I’m gonna remove a 16 hole Coates house that no one got in and make a “T” out of it and add six horizontals to that. And if I know me,it won’t stop there. But as of now I have plans to add these different styles for next season. And yes....you oughta consider a dedicated rack for a mix of your styles of naturals (all new)for ‘20 . I think you’ll be glad you did after it’s done,have a good one and keep in touch.

Birds
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2019 11:35 am
Location: Northeast OH
Martin Colony History: 2017: nothing, 2018: discovered the PMCA, new house modifications 2019:Still no Martins. House sparrow and starling hate forever.

Re: My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby Birds » Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:33 pm

Great info on the natural gourds . I have been having some trouble myself finding natural gourds at a decent price. I will have to wait till fall before I can get a hold of some naturals . I'm thinking about building some boxes out of insulation and hanging those . I would add an attachment but I'm not how how .
2017 :installed a Martin house hoping for Martins.
2018 :discovered the PMCA made modifications to a heath house .
2019 : Still no martins yet. House sparrow and starlings hate forever.
Tip :never give up

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4283
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: My Three Favorite Natural Gourd Styles

Postby Steve Kroenke » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:51 am

David,

At one time I did have about a hundred natural gourds I believe! Just too much maintenance for me! Some of my natural gourds have lasted many years with proper maintenance.

I have had success with naturals at every martin colony I have managed, from Florida where I previously lived to now in Louisiana. Martins seem to have a universal attraction to natural gourds! We also used at one time naturals in several of our satellite martin colonies in Louisiana and the martins thrived in them.

So I will be searching for those "special" natural gourds for a possible nostalgic gourd rack in my colony for 2020!

Steve

Birds,

Glad the information on natural gourds was helpful. Naturals just might be what you need to attract martins.

Since you have experienced difficulty in attracting martins, I would focus on what other folks are using in your area and initially go that route. When I moved to northwest Louisiana next door to my good friend Bob, he had a thriving super martin colony of wooden T-14s, natural gourds, Super Gourds, and some aluminum Trios. So I used naturals, some Super Gourds, and several Lone Star aluminum houses. I attracted 81 pairs that first year in 2005! Of course, the overflow of martins from his colony naturally went next door to my new site.

I wish you the best in attracting martins!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season


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