I’ve inherited Martins! How to do the right thing?

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ToyinPA
Posts: 2091
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

susanw77 wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 1:16 pm
I am thinking the a Trio Castle system with winch will be my best deal. I wish it was all white to keep the heat down and look less glaring, but it can be adjusted to 12 large cabins. Can’t tell if it comes with plugs for the other 12 holes or not. I have an email in to my nephew to see if he thinks he can get the old ground stake out. It looks to be a 2” pipe about 4” tall, and set in concrete so it might be very hard to do.

Assuming we can do this, have I made a good choice? It will cost $600 approximately. Thank you all again for guiding me.
Susan:

I think it's a good choice.

The price for the Trio Castle for a Non-Member is $639.95 plus shipping. To be a Member you have to join the PMCA program to get the discounted price. Membership info is here: https://www.purplemartin.org/shop/product/membership/ You'd save a little in the long run.

The color of the house is fine. If at all possible can you afford to add crescent doors? a 6-pack is $24.95, 12-pack is $42.95, plus shipping. They are listed in Houses/Trio/Parts & Accessories. They also have blank doors in case you want to close off any.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
susanw77
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Claytor Lake VA

Thanks, Coolwhips. Love the name. I took your good advice and poked around on the manufacturer’s site. I can get crescent doors, louvered door blanks for ventilation, plus an extra perch to go below the house.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4339
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Susan,

I had a Trio Castle in 1965 at my boyhood martin colony in Florida and that house is still there I believe! Trio products are well made and will last many years. My neighbor Bob has a bunch of them in his super martin colony located about a 100 yards from my site.Some of his Castles are probably 40 years old or more!

The newer models of Trio Castles have pop out holes between rooms I believe which will allow you to create double nesting chambers. This means 12 rooms for nesting rather than 24. The martins will enter a foyer which is a compartment and then enter a hole that leads to the actual nesting chamber. This configuration helps provide protection to the martins from predators such as owls and hawks as the martins are hidden from view and located in a more secluded/isolated cavity.

If you can, I would recommend you install porch dividers to help minimize nesting domination behavior by aggressive male martins since the holes share a common porch. Also the porch dividers will prevent large nestlings that come out on the porch from moving into other compartments with other families, particular ones with smaller babies or eggs. The larger nestlings may consume most of the food and the smaller ones may become malnourished or even starve.

Here is a photo of a Trio Castle I once used in my current martin colony. The Castle has been modified from 24 to 12 compartments and I installed porch dividers and closed off the nesting compartment with a door stop. I made my dividers out of aluminum trim coil and fastened them with rivets to the sides of the Castle. I use round holes in my martin colony because I don't have a big starling problem and I can control starlings via trapping/shooting. This Castle was 100% occupied by martins each season. Since I am now using mainly gourds, we moved that Castle to a satellite martin colony and it is always full of martins. If you are concerned about starlings and can't monitor your colony daily to control any starlings, then you can use the sreh doors. We use the sreh doors on this Trio Castle at our satellite colony because there are more starlings at this site and we can't monitor the colony daily.

Good luck in 2020!

Image
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
susanw77
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Claytor Lake VA

Thanks, Toy. We were posting together. I will reduce the 24 to a 12. This will give room for the nine pairs who made nests last year, plus 3 more units. I put a pack of louvered blanks in my cart, plus a pack of crescent doors. I was thinking I would swap only half the doors for crescent the first year, and see if the martins will adapt, and not get entrapped. Is that okay?

Still waiting to hear from nephew whether he can get the pole out of the concrete. Next I have to get up my nerve to inspect the houses and fight the swallows. I find birds flying near me a little creepy. (Childhood trauma involving a Alfred Hitchcock ;-) There was one nest I scraped out yesterday that was a swallow, I feel sure. It was not a Martin nest. It was spilling out the door, very nasty. I do not think I can bring myself to shoot sparrows or starlings but I will try. One skill I do have — I am stone cold accurate with most any firearm — or used to be. I guess you’re supposed to use birdshot, or get a pellet gun?

Jeez. I never shot anything alive before . . . But I really want to keep these martins.
sugarcreek
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:43 am
Location: Sugarcreek, Ohio
Martin Colony History: 2016 First Yr.

Good to see you on here, You will love the companionship that you create with your martins they love humans around the colony for there safety. They get very used to lowering there nest boxes and will sit above on the purchase's until you put the house back up. Martins are a very friendly chatty bird that become addictive and why you see all these folks on this web sight longing and waiting for them to return from there Brazilian migration.

Nice to see you on the forum
2016 - 1st Yr. 14 Compartments 4 Active Nests 9 fledged, 2.25 Fledged per Active Nest
2017 - 2nd Yr. 36 Compartments 18 Active Nests 65 Fledged, 3.61 Fledged per Active Nest
2018 - 3rd Yr. 54 Compartments 43 Active Nests 169 Fledged, 3.93 Fledged per Active Nest
2019 - 4th Yr. 108 Compartments 67 Active Nests 209 Fledged, 3.12 Fledged per Active Nest
2020 - 5th Yr. 108 Compartments ?
C.C.Martins
Posts: 802
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- didnt know anything about martins, put up an all wrong house in 2016 and had two come by and inspect all the cavities. Left soon after not to return. Learned what i could on PMCA, made adjustments and next year was sucessful.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged.
2018-18 pair. 85 fledged.
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020:?
Home colony: 17 natural gourds, one 6 compartment house. All SREH.
Satelite colony Oso bay preserve: 12 gourds: excluder, troyer horizontal, super gourds with tunnels. 6 room trio mino castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: ?
PMCA member

Susan,
Trio castle is attractive and quality. But its huge! And heavy. Id look right here on the website...look under shop and martin house systems. I have the trio mini castle, more manageable. While that house on etsy is attractive, id shy from it.
Just a thought.
Tom

2016- two visitors
2017- 5 pair 15 Fledged
2018-18 pairs 85 Fledged
2019-17 pair 81 fledged
2020:

Satellite location: oso bay preserve 12 gourds, modified trio
2019: Visitors
2020: hopeful!!!
ToyinPA
Posts: 2091
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

susanw77 wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 2:50 pm
Thanks, Toy. We were posting together. I will reduce the 24 to a 12. This will give room for the nine pairs who made nests last year, plus 3 more units. I put a pack of louvered blanks in my cart, plus a pack of crescent doors. I was thinking I would swap only half the doors for crescent the first year, and see if the martins will adapt, and not get entrapped. Is that okay?

Still waiting to hear from nephew whether he can get the pole out of the concrete. Next I have to get up my nerve to inspect the houses and fight the swallows. I find birds flying near me a little creepy. (Childhood trauma involving a Alfred Hitchcock ;-) There was one nest I scraped out yesterday that was a swallow, I feel sure. It was not a Martin nest. It was spilling out the door, very nasty. I do not think I can bring myself to shoot sparrows or starlings but I will try. One skill I do have — I am stone cold accurate with most any firearm — or used to be. I guess you’re supposed to use birdshot, or get a pellet gun?

Jeez. I never shot anything alive before . . . But I really want to keep these martins.
Susan:

I think as long as you have a cable/winch you should be able to crank it up/down pretty easy. Adding a few crescent doors to see how it goes is fine. If it weren't for those nasty sparrows & starlings we wouldn't have to worry about this. However they are bad birds & we must protect the beautiful martins. Most use a BB gun or pellet gun. I live in town, so we're not supposed to shot even a BB gun, but we are super cautious & watch that no one is looking when we do. Think of the HS & Starlings as rats in your house. You'd kill a rat, so killing them is no different.They are not native & are very harmful to all songbirds, especially ,martins.

I would guess that large nasty nest was from a HS (house sparrow).

Getting a pole out of concrete is next to impossible. I'd suggest pulling the whole thing out or moving the new pole over a bit & cementing it in a new hole.

Once your house is up you should watch the Scout Report Map & when any are getting close to your area or around the same date as they arrived last year, then open a few rooms that you can see from your house. As more arrive open more rooms. That helps to keep HS from moving in. If you want to report your colony you have to register on the Scout Report Map page with a different password, as it's separate from the forum.

Once martins arrive go out & talk to them. Pretty soon you will learn their schedule & be sitting outside watching & talking to them. Many of us keep detailed dated records of nest building, egg laying, hatching, fledging. The martins don't mind us checking their nests. They'll move away, land & watch, then come back as soon as you raise the house back up.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
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.

Susan’s,

Have been reading this thread a couple times. Very interesting reading. So very glad, and must say Lucky that we and our beloved Purple Martin’s have a new Landlord like you that cares about Martin’s like the rest of us. Noting and seeing all the interest you seem to have in these Bird’s. I just wish I lived real close to you and I would get you a House and Pole with a Winch. I don’t believe at your age you need to be cranking a heavy house or gourd rack when you don’t need to.

Actually, I agree with Gauxt’s Post in that I think we should take up a collection for this Lady to at least show some concern for one of our fellow Birder’s. I think it’s Great that she is interested and willing to do what she can to get an abandoned Martin house back up and running. So if the rest of you decide to contribute $$ to the cause, you can count me in.

Susan, in my situation I don’t particularly like metal Purple Martin houses. I live in the middle of North Carolina and it gets HOT here in the summer. I monitor my gourd’s and cavities with a heat gun, and have found in the past that metal (Aluminum) Houses are consistently 10 -15 degrees hotter. It is so hard to look in on a Nest Inspection and see baby Martin’s suffering from intensive heat and they have no way to get away from it.

I realize there are plenty of folks out there that like Metal Housing, and it is true that a Martin will use it if nothing else is available. One way to look at it is everybody’s different. Like my Daddy always said, “One Man’s trash is another Man’s treasure”.! I have 160 Gourd’s of all types and one T-14 that I’ll install in the next week or so. The other thing I have on all my Poles and Racks is Worm Gear Winches.!! This is one of the most revolutionary concepts of motion that I have ever installed. As a Disabled Veteran I would find it hard if I had to “Hand Crank” every one of my Rack’s down and then back up.
All I do is slip a 5/8” Socket that is attached to a hand held drill and let the Drill do the work for me. It is so smooth and easy.! I could never host as many Bird’s as I do if I had to Hand Crank or Pulley Rope the Rack’s up and down.

What ever you decide is fine with me. I’m just happy that you are going to be a Great Purple Martin Landlord. I’m sure you will enjoy your Bird’s as much as the rest of us do.

Good Luck,
Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2860
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

You will also get varying opinions on the SREH. If it were me I would only offer SREH. Since your martins will have site fidelity they will go in. By using them you will eliminate a big portion of the predator problems you might have. It is hard enough keeping sparrows out. At an established colony I feel you are more likely to lose martins to starlings (when using round holes) then you are to losing martins to abandonment or wing entrapment's due to SREH.

Also in an earlier reply you mentioned some twigs and dead birds. Was there a lot of twigs that were on top of/blocking in the dead birds or where the twigs part of the nest that the birds were found in? Wrens can cause havoc on other cavity nesters. At my old house they would take over my blue bird boxes while the blue birds were raising their second clutch of the year. They would kill any babies in the nest and literally build a nest of twigs on top of the dead young.

Good luck with whatever housing system you decide to go with.
2020 47 of 52 cavities with nest (5/29)(HOSP Count 7)
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.
susanw77
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Claytor Lake VA

Thanks so much for that info. I appreciate everyone’s concern. Financially, I can swing a house if I need to. Unfortunately my nephew’s wife had some health issues that have delayed his visit and I worry martins will arrive before he does. It is quite warm here. I have the old house semi-disassembled now it is in quite good shape overall. I was able to order hole plugs, new porch rails, and new flooring from Heath — it is definitely a Heath house, or it’s precursor. Mine has a weathervane instead of a finial. And a place below it for two long perch rods which are missing. But I got two 36” oak dowel rods I hope to cut down, paint white and glue back in.

I am going to clean it and get it back up next week, just in case. As others her have pointed out, I might want to add a house and keep this one. I gathered up white pine needles and bought diatomaceous earth to prenest. And I got some mealworms in case of a cold snap. I will be ready next week. I don’t want to let the best be the enemy of the good, so to speak.

So far as heat, it is a concern but I am in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a lake with a near constant breeze. It pretty rarely hits the 90’s here — occasionally in late July or more likely August — and always drops temperature at night.
Gauxt
Posts: 80
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:03 pm
Location: Louisiana/Prairieville
Martin Colony History: Started 2007
2013 1 Pair
2015 2 Pair
2016 4 Pair
2017 12 Pair
2018 15 Pair
2019 15 Pair

Susan,
I wonder if you could find someone that has a martin house up near you that maybe you could approach. Would probably be willing to lend you a hand....just a thought.

I think I've read that using diatomaceous earth can create some issues....others may chime in that know more about it.

Good luck!! And keep us posted. This just may be the PMCA thread of the year.
2010-0
2011-visitors
2012-visitors
2013-1 pair
2014-0
2015-2 pair
2016 4 pair
2017 12 pair
2018 15 pair
ToyinPA
Posts: 2091
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

susanw77 wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:07 am
Thanks so much for that info. I appreciate everyone’s concern. Financially, I can swing a house if I need to. Unfortunately my nephew’s wife had some health issues that have delayed his visit and I worry martins will arrive before he does. It is quite warm here. I have the old house semi-disassembled now it is in quite good shape overall. I was able to order hole plugs, new porch rails, and new flooring from Heath — it is definitely a Heath house, or it’s precursor. Mine has a weathervane instead of a finial. And a place below it for two long perch rods which are missing. But I got two 36” oak dowel rods I hope to cut down, paint white and glue back in.

I am going to clean it and get it back up next week, just in case. As others her have pointed out, I might want to add a house and keep this one. I gathered up white pine needles and bought diatomaceous earth to prenest. And I got some mealworms in case of a cold snap. I will be ready next week. I don’t want to let the best be the enemy of the good, so to speak.

So far as heat, it is a concern but I am in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a lake with a near constant breeze. It pretty rarely hits the 90’s here — occasionally in late July or more likely August — and always drops temperature at night.
Susan:

Good choice to fix your existing house.

I would not use the Diatomaceous Earth tho. It can get in the lungs of the martins & chicks & cause permanent lung damage. What most of us use is "Sevin" powder 5%. It can be purchased at any local Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, garden store, etc. You spread a tiny amount (about a 1/4 teaspoon) under the nesting material. It will kill or keep mites at bay. It will not kill blowfly larva. Blowfly larva can kill a chick in a few days. The more rain you have the more blowfly larava you may have. This site: http://www.links to commercial sites not permitted/nest-replacements.html has info & photos (scroll to the bottom to see the photos) of the larva. I have lost 3-4 day old chicks to blowfly. That's why it's important to do nest inspection & changes every 2-3 days. The martins may fuss, but will come back to their nest after you have changed it out. Supplies required are 2 buckets - 1 with nesting material for the chicks & the other to dump the nest. Other supplies you will need are a putty knife or some other item to scrape the nest out with, rubbing alcohol, rags, paper towels, nesting materials to replace the nest. Many of us keep records of which nest was changed & when, so a notebook or clipboard & pencil will be handy. I carefully hold each chick & check it's entire body for blowfly larva. I pick off & smash any I find. They will be very tiny at first, but in a day the larva can double or triple in size as they suck the blood out of the chicks. Once the chick becomes weak, from blood loss, they will stop eating & become dehydrated. If you see a blood spot on the legs or any part of the body it's a sure sign there is larva in the nest. When you put the chicks back in the nest make sure they are tummy down. I try to place the smallest ones facing forward so they have a better chance at getting fed first.
Susan ask any & all questions & someone here will help you. We all had to learn the ropes so to speak.

Best wishes.
Toy in PA
PMCA Member
deancamp
Posts: 406
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

I think it is a good choice to fix up your existing housing. The Martins have obviously done ok in it in the past. This will give you a good chance to get your sea legs and see how indepth you want to get. Every individual gets a different amount of enjoyment from the Martins and the amount of time they want to spend caring for them, this will give you a season to make these decisions. Good Luck and keep us posted.
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