Adding More Perching Space To Gourd Racks And Houses

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4341
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Adding More Perching Space To Gourd Racks And Houses

Purple martins are social birds and enjoy perching around their nests and socializing with other martins. One of the best ways to facilitate this socialization is by adding perches to gourd racks and houses. Not only will the residents of the gourd rack or house appreciate the additional perching space but so will new martins which may be looking for territory.

New ASY and SY male purple martins are often a little nervous when they arrive at a colony site filled with established ASY pairs and those aggressive ASY males. Perching rods on gourd racks and houses give a new male without territory a place to sit away from the immediate territory of a dominant ASY male martin. He can check things out from a distance at first before he attempts to find a nest cavity.

Permanent resident martins can use the additional perching space to guard their territory, advertise for mates, preen, and just socialize.

Additional perching space can also provide martins with important “lookout” spots to watch for incoming raptors like Accipiter hawks and merlins. When one of these fast predators is approaching, it is critical that martins quickly enter their cavities or more often bolt downward, build up speed and climb high in the sky. By seeing the raptor a head of time, the martins have a better chance of escaping.

There are many materials one can use to create more perching space on gourd racks and houses. I have used wooden dowels, various metal rods, wire stretched between gourd rack crossbars, plastic garden stakes, cane poles, and fiberglass rods. I used fiberglass rods in 2014 but discovered the rods were “shedding splinters” which stuck in my hands when removing the rods at the end of the season. So I decided to eliminate the fiberglass rods and substituted plastic garden stakes that I painted white. The plastic garden stakes still began deteriorating. For a number of years I used natural cane pole perches and these are excellent for perching. They do eventually breakdown and need to be replaced every few years but they are free if you can find the cane growing in a ditch or near water. Finally for 2019 I substituted all my garden stakes with solid aluminum 3/8 inch diameter rods and these should last!

Perching rods can be attached to gourd racks or houses using electrical tape, twisted wire, bolts/screws, clamps, plastic zip ties and other similar items. I have used black electrical tape but it can eventually come loose and can leave a sticky residue when removed; I no longer use it. I am now using heavy duty black UV protected zip ties and these have worked well. These zip ties will hold the perching rods tightly to porch railings on houses and round hanging bars of gourd racks and last at least one season or maybe even two. However, I usually replace my zip ties each season and they are not that expensive.

Of course, some gourd racks by their design offer plenty of perching space. For example, crossbar gourd racks and racks with rings provide ample perching space on the racks. I have not added more perching rods to my large Super Systems with multiple crossbars or my Gemini ring racks. However, you can still attach some kind of perching rods to these racks to increase perching space.

Houses, too, can be accessorized with more perching rods and I have done that to my Trios, Lone Stars and Trendsetters. Now I use only Trendsetters and it is simple to attach perching rods using plastic zip ties to the porch railings. For any house with porch railings it is usually easy to attach additional perching rods using zip ties.

Though I have used different lengths of perching rods in the past depending on the gourd rack design or house type, I am now using 6 foot long solid aluminum rods on my gourd racks and I have primarily used this length in the past. This length seems to work well on my K24 gourd racks and the rods protrude out from the gourds and martins can easily land on them. On 12 and 16 room Trendsetters I am using 4 foot long aluminum rods, and these work well, too. I like my perching rods to stick out at least 10 inches or more beyond the fronts of the gourds or houses. This distance gives more space to new martins that are checking out possible nest cavities and these martins are not as close to the territories of dominant ASY males. Plus the greater distance away from the gourds or house may allow martins to better see possible danger from Accipiters and merlins.

The diameter of my additional perching rods has varied from about 3/8 inch to ½ inch in most cases and martins seem to grip these with ease. It is easy to obtain uniform diameters with manmade items like metal rods or garden stakes. Of course, the natural cane perching rods come in all different diameters but this was not an issue and the martins could easily hold on to the rustic surface.

Adding more perching space to gourd racks and houses may make a system more attractive to purple martins since martins like to sit around their nests and socialize, protect territory and preen. If you haven’t accessorized any of your gourd racks or houses with more perching space, you may want to consider doing this. I believe the martins would appreciate it!

Here are some photos of gourd racks and houses with additional perches.

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PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
PMDavid
Posts: 408
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 moving into 2020 almost double pairs from 2019. Still have most of the month of March to go for new arrivals and April.Here late in season seemed to have as many as 18 Pr of nesting birds. Huge upscale in birds from 2019. Will also have a 20 gourd satellite rack prepared for the 2021 season.

Good job steve! I too have noticed the increase in social time and a lot of additional birds coming over to visit due to additional perching space. They few colonies around me merely have houses and no additional perches. I have a large perch above my gourd rack,probably 7’ across . I added four new experimental large gourds this year in the place of a house that got no attention and added another 7’ x 7’ perch above it. I had 7 Pr last year but always seemed to have 30+ birds at morning social time. Always piled up on the perch and going in and out of un nested gourds. You can see the perch I added about 10-11 posts down under “New gourd additions” . I hope it’s a big hit. Good luck to ya this season and keep in touch
David.
Dave Reynolds
Posts: 1863
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:35 pm
Location: Little Hocking, Oh.
Martin Colony History: 2018 Success at my Satellite Site “Oxbow Golf Course”.
2019 Success at my home Site "Little Hocking, Ohio".

..... Thanks Steve........The more the perches the better for the Martins.... Most people just starting out with single houses or gourds racks, don’t realize how important the extra perches can be... Thanks again for reminding us all..

Dave
Home Site “Little Hocking, Ohio”
2010 / 2018 -- Lots of Visitors
2019 — 1 Pair, 5 Eggs, 5 Babies, 5 fledged. :wink:
2020 — 1 Pair, 4 Eggs, 4 Babies, ... :wink:

Satellite Site “Oxbow Golf Course”
2018 -- 15 Pair, 58 Eggs, 38 Hatched and 36 Fledged :wink:
2019 — 26 Pair, 128 Eggs, 99 Babies and 97 Fledged. :wink:
2020 — 30 Pair, 156 Eggs, 137 Babies. ... :wink:

PMCA Member
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4341
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

David,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with adding more perching space to your martin colony. The more perching space the better for martins!

My neighbor Bob has two "perch poles" in his martin colony. He attached some of the old Trio perching rods to pipes and erected them in his colony. The martins often gather and socialize on these perches.

I started using natural gourds way back in the 60s and continued until around 2010. I finally converted all my naturals to plastic gourds. I guess I am getting lazy in my old age and grew tired of all the maintenance associated with the naturals. But I must confess I love natural gourds and was considering erecting a "nostalgia gourd rack" this year. I have posted photos on the Forum of some natural gourd styles and you may have seen them. I looked at your photos of your naturals and they are are similar to the ones I used. My naturals were always 100% full each season.

I wish you the best in 2020 and please keep us posted on how your martin colony is doing!

Steve

Dave,

Thanks for your nice comment and reinforcing the importance of perches is for martin houses/gourd racks.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
PMDavid
Posts: 408
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 moving into 2020 almost double pairs from 2019. Still have most of the month of March to go for new arrivals and April.Here late in season seemed to have as many as 18 Pr of nesting birds. Huge upscale in birds from 2019. Will also have a 20 gourd satellite rack prepared for the 2021 season.

Hello again Steve, glad you like that perching setup. Those gourds you checked out are in fact quite possibly examples of yours! I had seen those on the forum last season and re looked em up and mimicked what I saw . Here’s also a pic of my chuck abare gourd rack made of total cypress,all naturals,and a matching perch. This is where the big morning social bug times took place last season,this year they will have two perches and I think I’m gonna go up and add some small canes to those houses in the next few days. Thanks for checking it all out. And yes sir,I will drop you some updates on status this season. I’m hoping to see at least a small gain over last season! A good season to ya........David
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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4341
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

David,
Thanks for sharing the picture of your martin colony setup! Looks real good!

All your natural gourds makes me want to add a natural gourd rack to my colony again! I guess I really like the naturals better than all those plastic gourds. They look particular good on your Chuck Abare rack.

One suggestion I have is to add a predator guard to your poles; maybe you haven't install them yet. Rat snakes are abundant in Louisiana and they are formidable predators of purple martins. We use net traps made from bird netting on all our poles and this includes our martin housing poles in our satellite colonies. You can also use cylinder guards made from metal but these sometimes fail in deterring large rat snakes. If you use a cylinder guard, you can place a net trap ABOVE the guard as a backup in case any rat snake defeats the guard. We have caught HUGE black and Texas rat snakes trying to climb the poles to reach the martin nests. I posted some photos of a HUGE black rat snake caught in a net trap in a posting earlier. Rat snakes will be crawling and looking for prey when the weather warms up!

Thanks again for sharing a photo of your colony and we look forward to seeing updates as the martin season progresses!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
PMDavid
Posts: 408
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 moving into 2020 almost double pairs from 2019. Still have most of the month of March to go for new arrivals and April.Here late in season seemed to have as many as 18 Pr of nesting birds. Huge upscale in birds from 2019. Will also have a 20 gourd satellite rack prepared for the 2021 season.

Hey Steve glad you like it all. I have a few packs of the bird netting on standby. When a bird or two shows up it’ll be going up. I have displaced two or three rat snakes around here , one that was 5’-3” I mean a whopper! Coons......if they know what’s good for em they’ll stay away,as I have two cur dogs in the yard that love killin coons. Thanks for the compliment and I look forward to sending updates.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4341
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey David,

Glad you have the netting ready for the upcoming martin season! Rat snakes will be crawling when the weather warms up.

We have active coyotes in our area and they will kill and eat raccoons caught out in the open. Most raccoons stay in the deep woods where they are not as vulnerable to coyote predation.

The only terrestrial predator I worry about is the rat snake.I have managed martin colonies for over 50 years and I have never had any raccoon issues, but plenty of rat snakes.

Looking forward to reading future updates about your martin colony!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Rodger Drye
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:07 am
Location: NC/Mt. Pleasant
Martin Colony History: Have been hosting and providing a sanactuary for Purple Martins for 30 years.

Steve,
I converted all my short perches to 6’ and 8’ perches when I changed out the old Galvanized cables for all Stainless Steel cables. I buy all my Aluminum products from Stock Car Steel and Aluminum near Mooresville, NC. They are priced right and they’ll cut it to what ever length you want.
Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4341
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Rodger,

Some of my old galvanized cables completely rusted during first year! I was told that was "bad batch" of cables and it sure was! I converted all those rusted cables to stainless steel cables and they work fine. But I still have some old galvanized cables that are rust free and doing fine.

We probably have some local metal shop businesses in Shreveport where I could buy solid aluminum rods. Just haven't tried to find them.

The solid aluminum rods are strong and will last a LONG time.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Rodger Drye
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:07 am
Location: NC/Mt. Pleasant
Martin Colony History: Have been hosting and providing a sanactuary for Purple Martins for 30 years.

Hey Steve,

I kept a couple of the Galvanized Cables because they weren’t to bad rusted. I might could use them in some other capacity here on the farm. I do have two new (2) 50ft. Galvanized Cables with hooks on one end that are still in the Plastic bag that I’m not going to use. If you want them I’ll give them to you. Just pay postage. I think I have all my Racks now with Solid perching Rods except one that’s hollow. My 2 Steel poles have 1/2” pipe, 1040 cold rolled steel welded to the pole.

Those Galvanized Cables are Fulton 7/32” X 50ft. With Hook 5600 lb. FWC7500100 $30.95 Ea.

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.
Rpthomp5
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:36 pm
Location: Augusta, KS

Hello,
I have a question about adding owl guards to my Gemini gourd rack but can't figure out how to start a new topic on this subject on the forum. Sorry to ask different topic but hope someone can help. I've been searching online and have found owl guards on PMCA website but they don't look like I can use them on my rack. Different mounting position. I like the fence cage covers I've seen but I think it would be cumbersome trying to do nest checks with it on. Has anyone used the PMCA owl guards on the Gemini and, if so, how to make them work? I have a horned owl that's been around for years and has been seen on top of my Gemini perch at evening last year. Only a matter of time... Thanks!
tboydshirt
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:42 pm
Location: sugarcreek,ohio
Martin Colony History: new in 2017, but ready for lots of birds. 44 gourds and 40 t14 style holes

rpthomp5, I also struggled to find where to post a new topic in this awkwardly (sorry) designed forum, but write this down so you can find it next time you want to post. From the PMCA home page, click on FORUM then the only thing you can click on that works from there is: find inside the purple rectangle, the words, PUPRLE MARTIN FORUM. Don't click on the same words in the purple region just above nor on QUICK LINKS or any of the sub links. there you will see the elusive "New Topic" in red on the left.

And regarding perches in this post, I give full credit to Mike Yoder (known as sugarcreek in this website) for a great idea. he has made a number of T14 bird houses which have crossing perches heading straight out over the roof lines. he has decided to rotate those perches 45 degrees for two good reasons. 1... the bird can now see both porches/entrances of the 2 adjacent sides where it couldn't see any actual entrances before unless on the very end of the perch. And perhaps the best reason 2... the bird will no longer be crapping right on the roof for you to clean up at the end of the season.

I am entering my 5th year trying, and have added one more of Mike's refurbished T14 houses down by the pond and have high hopes that this will be the year for me. I will post pictures when all is up and running in 6 weeks.
Rpthomp5
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:36 pm
Location: Augusta, KS

Thanks tboydshirt!!! Found it with your great help!!! :grin: Tried to add photo attachment to another post and that didn't work for me either! Maybe they should do a forum segment at the July conference.
tboydshirt
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:42 pm
Location: sugarcreek,ohio
Martin Colony History: new in 2017, but ready for lots of birds. 44 gourds and 40 t14 style holes

you're welcome. pictures are another problem in this website. a large or high def picture is simply dropped out with no warning that it is too large and needs reduced in quality. However you can link to pictures and videos already on the web. the good thing in the web site is the scout arrival map. I'm logging in daily this time of year to watch the slow march north. Good luck this year, and if you have a picture modifying program, you can reduce the picture to something like below a half meg, it will show up on your post.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1660
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2019, 54 pair with 218 fledged youngsters. 83 total compartments available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified trio metal house units, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

Hi Steve,
Thank you for this great post. I have a circular owl cage that extends above the gourd rack. I used flexible PEX tubing and roughed up the surface for traction. The martins love the added perch space and seem to enjoy the spread out area of the perch. With all three setups I have about 80 feet of perching available for the martins.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Rpthomp5
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:36 pm
Location: Augusta, KS

Hi Dave,
I'm trying to decided between DIY owl guards with #9 ga wire for my Gemini gourd rack or make a cage. I think the cage would probably provide more protection and perches. Are you doing nest checks/bedding changes? If so, how do you access the gourds? Did you make individual gourd access by making doors in cage or did you make it wide enough to crawl up underneath? It would be nice to see your cage if you would be able to download image. Appreciate any info. Thanks!
Rafke77
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:47 pm
Location: Plymouth, IN
Martin Colony History: Year 1: 10 pair, 24 fledged, 15 eggs non-viable

I got this idea from a gentleman in Texas. I modified his idea slightly. I took electric fence post, I believe it's 3/8" diameter, fiberglass, cut it down to about 9" sections, drilled 2 holes straight through vertically, took 2 pins, slid each one through the hole, then slid it on top of the entrance. It worked well enough to have three sometimes four sitting on just the rods going across.
Last year was our first season with Martin's and making these perches. After cutting them, I sanded them to smooth out any splinters, and after removing them at the end of the season there was no splintering. I know they won't last forever, but until I can find aluminum rods, I'll use there they are cheap to make.
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2019 first time with Martin's, first arrived 4/24 10 pair, 24 fledged, 15 eggs non-viable
2020 first arrived 3/27
Brad Biddle
Posts: 522
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

1/2" CPVC pipe makes great perches too. I have it on a hexagonal rack that I built many years ago and will be adding it to the round racks that I built when I install them. You can use short pieces to make straight perches or you can bend a longer length of it around in a circle and attach each end with PVC cement and a coupling.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
Whippy
Posts: 577
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - ?

I got that same idea from Kyler. He posted a picture of his a couple of years ago so I did the same but I use wood dowels on mine. Pretty cheap and easy to replace after a few years or even each year. I was using fiberglass rods for other perches but never had a Martin land on them. The fiberglass I used splintered pretty badly in the sun so I changed them all out with the 3/8 wood dowels and they began to be used a lot more.

Here is a photo of my gourd rack. You'll see the perches extending over the Troyer gourds and you also see the perches on the S&K gourds. My next move will be to put perches on top of the pulley but will most likely do that next year...or start on it today. Who knows. I added perches to my Trio as well and can post a photo if interested in seeing it.
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