My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4232
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Steve Kroenke » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:39 am

My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

I started using natural gourds for purple martins way back in the 60s in north Florida when I was just a boy! I eventually switched to all plastic gourds in my current martin colony in northwest Louisiana in 2010 though I still like the naturals a lot. My martin colony has flourished using plastic gourds and in 2019 I erected 310 of them and at least 300 had martins nesting!

In my colony I use Troyer Horizontals with tunnels/porches and with cling plates, Troyer Verticals, Excluders and Super Gourds. All these brands are well made, opaque (non-translucent), durable and well-liked by martins. I have Super Gourds that are at least 20 years old I believe and still look almost brand new, particularly when I give them a good washing with water and a little bleach. The plastic on all these gourds is dense, UV protected and resistant to sun damage. I believe these gourds will still be around when I no longer am!

Even though martins are colonial nesters, they still like some space between pairs and protect their territory. Gourds can provide that territorial privacy when suspended on racks with space between each gourd. Gourds can minimize nest domination behavior by aggressive martins which often take over multiple cavities. Most of my gourd racks, including a 36 gourd system, are 100% occupied each season by martins.

If you are trying to attract martins for the first time, I would recommend you consider a gourd rack. There are some excellent starter gourd racks offered by the PMCA. Sometimes the addition of gourds to an unoccupied colony can be just the stimulus to attract breeding pairs of martins!

Now there are great martin houses, too and I have successfully used Trios, Lone Stars, Sunset Inns, Coates, and my favorites Trendsetters. But I must confess that gourds are my favorite.

Here are some photos of gourd racks in my current martin colony taken at different times. As you can see, my purple martins obviously like gourds!

Image

Image

Image
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Hanover Bill
Posts: 583
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Hanover Bill » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:51 am

Steve;

My colony kind of evolved a little differently. I started off with a plastic house, then a house and some gourds. I only got nesters when I added a T-14 to the mix. It seemed to be the deal maker in attracting my first nesting pairs. However, after those first nesters the gourds won out in a big way. Now my Martins clearly prefer the gourds over the T-14. My gourd racks are full and the T-14 always has some vacancies in it.

It would be interesting to know exactly what goes into their decision making when selecting a nesting compartment. Type of housing, directional orientation, etc. etc. I guess that's something for us to ponder.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Dave Reynolds
Posts: 1759
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:35 pm
Location: Little Hocking, Oh.
Martin Colony History: 2018 Success at Satilite Site “Oxbow Golf Course”.
2019 Success at my home Site

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Dave Reynolds » Wed Aug 28, 2019 7:51 am

Steve;

My colony kind of evolved a little differently. I started off with a plastic house, then a house and some gourds. I only got nesters when I added a T-14 to the mix. It seemed to be the deal maker in attracting my first nesting pairs. However, after those first nesters the gourds won out in a big way. Now my Martins clearly prefer the gourds over the T-14. My gourd racks are full and the T-14 always has some vacancies in it.

It would be interesting to know exactly what goes into their decision making when selecting a nesting compartment. Type of housing, directional orientation, etc. etc. I guess that's something for us to ponder.

Hanover Bill.
..
.
.... Bill... That's an interesting story... This was my first year of hosting a pair of Martins and my story goes like this.. The Martins slept in separate rooms in the T-14, the first week they were here. Then they started building in another room in the T-14 and spent their night in that room. After ten days of building, they abandoned the T-14 and flew about 60 feet away and started a new nest in a gourd on my gourd rack. I don't know why they decided to change from the T-14 to the Gourd rack. The nest in the T-14 was complete and had green leaves in it.. They left the T-14 room that was facing due West and re-nested in a gourd facing Northeast.. Laid 5 eggs, and fledged 5 young..

Dave
Home Site
2019 — First pair, 5 eggs, 5 hatched, 5 fledged :wink:
2010 / 2018 -- Lots of Visitors

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

PMCA Member

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4232
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Steve Kroenke » Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:00 pm

I've noticed in all my martin colonies, those in north Florida where I previously lived and now in northwest Louisiana, gourds have generally been better occupied than my various multi-compartment houses. It is difficult to say if this is a "true preference" or if the gourds provide that territorial privacy that martins may like and minimize nest domination problems. I have generally seen more nest domination behavior in houses than gourds.

In addition to plastic gourds I also used four aluminum Trendsetters in 2019 and these houses were well occupied by martins. I have had these type of houses nearly 100% occupied before. I usually achieve at least 75% occupancy levels in these houses and my 12 room houses often have around 10 rooms occupied. My Trendsetters are designed to maximize occupancy levels by having only one hole per floor, staggered hole placement and porch dividers. All these features help to provide territorial privacy and reduce nest domination by aggressive martins.

For 2020 I am replacing two of my 12 room Trendsetters with two 24 gourd racks. I will probably eventually replace the remaining two Trendsetters after 2020 with gourd racks. I have always preferred gourds over houses. But the Trendsetter is my favorite aluminum martin house. Just like those gourds better!

In some places like the Deep South martins may show a definite preference for gourds. These areas often have a long history of martins nesting in gourds and perhaps martins just look for gourds as nesting sites. I've talked with some southern landlords who had no luck attracting martins until they erected gourds.
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 576
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.

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Rodger Drye » Wed Oct 23, 2019 2:15 pm

I agree with everyone on the fact that my Martins like Gourds better than houses. My Dad had hundreds of Gourds and never had any houses, and he had hundreds of Martins every year. I too started out with Gourds and houses but it was plain to see the birds liked the Gourds better. I agree with Steve on the placement of the Gourds on your rack means a lot.

Martin’s like a certain degree of privacy in which I believe a Gourd provides this. I’ve had 2 houses, a Sunset Inn and a Coats and never did attract any Martins to these houses. I gave the Coats 8 Room house away. I still have the New Sunset Inn 6 room house sitting in the shop collecting dust. Anyone in the market for this house let me know. I’ll let it go Cheap...!

Kindly,
Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Dave Duit
Posts: 1494
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: state:Iowa / town:Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2018, 54 pair with 202 fledged youngsters. 73 total compartments available, 48 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.

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Dave Duit » Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:15 am

Hi Steve,
Good to see you added vent elbows to the back of your THGs. I did the same with my gourds. I have a combination of metal as well as gourds in my set up. Nice pics.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.

randyM
Posts: 88
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: Had 2 wooden and 1 plastic house up since 2004. Added plastic gourds to housing in June of 2015, had SY male stay for 3 weeks. Had lots of late visitors during late fall migration while playing martin chatter CD. Added more decoys and multiple styles of plastic gourds to my spread in 2016...it worked - 1 pair (ASYM + SYF) fledged both young that hatched!! S & S control done studiously every year.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched and all 16 young banded and fledged. Also had 5 extra SY males and 1 SY female stay during the nesting season.

2018 - 10 nesting pairs (7 ASYM, 3 SYM & 3 ASYF, 7 SYF), 52 eggs, 46 hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded. Two banded males from 2017 hatch returned home. One successfully nested, the other stayed a few weeks and left.

2019 - 32 nests, 160 eggs - 25 ASYM & 7 SYM. The two males banded in 2017 again returned home now in ASY plumage, and two SY females and one SY male banded in 2018 returned in 2019. 87 HY banded in 2019.

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby randyM » Sat Oct 26, 2019 12:16 am

The martins at my colony overwhelmingly have chosen wooden houses over plastic gourds over the past 4 years (although I did not have a nesting pair of martins until I added gourds to my setup). Many of the larger colonies within 50 miles of my site offer mostly plastic gourds. I designed and built my own wooden houses, with the compartments used most for nesting being 6" x 12" with an entrance hole on the side rather than the front of the compartment. I offer 80 gourds (40 Super gourds and 40 Big Bo gourds) and 200 wood compartments in 10 houses (4 of each type of both gourds hang or are mounted beneath each of my 10 wooden houses). I've only had one martin pair use a gourd (Big Bo) and the other ~50 nests in wooden houses. All compartments and gourds are pre-nested with pine needles. Maybe martins this far north (south dakota) prefer wood houses due to better insulation properties?

Ryan
Posts: 240
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:19 pm
Location: Eganville, Ontario
Martin Colony History: Visitors are rare. Two SY males seen in 9 years.

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Ryan » Sat Oct 26, 2019 9:14 pm

Its certainly an insulation factor with the wood houses once you hit a certain line up north. I'm sure the birds can sense the heat holding properties of the wood versus plastic or aluminum.

If you want some good winter reading search this forum for Bernie Nikolai's posts from years back. He, along with Bob Buskas really grew the Alberta population of Martin's with large compartment wooden housing. Bernie even experimented with styrofoam houses which would be even better but they're so much more difficult to build and make durable. He has posts on the styrofoam housing as well.

I basically took his idea and used it for my individual chalet wood houses. He did good work.

It's a controversial subject, but I cant believe people use aluminum houses in Ontario or the northern states. Even in the south I'd bet wood houses would preform better than plastic or especially aluminum as the cooling factor would be helped by the insulation properties of wood.
Home site: 12 cedar chalets - Plus two satellite sites which are also empty.
2010- 1 SY male on and off for a couple weeks
2011- 0 visits
2012- 0 visits
2013- 0 visits
2014- 1 SY male stopped in here and there for two weeks.
2015- 0 visits
2016- 0 visits
2017- 0 visits
2018- 0 visits
2019- Break-through year. Had a SY Male stop in on June 7th and stay all day, every day until end of June. Hoping he returns in 2020 because I'm getting sick of updating this list.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4232
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sun Oct 27, 2019 7:38 am

Rodger,

I have always had more martins nesting in my gourds than in houses in both north Florida and now in northwest Louisiana. I have used aluminum and wooden houses and natural and plastic gourds. But I have had success with houses in both locations so houses have worked! I believe the gourds provide that territorial privacy that martins seem to like though martins are colonial nesters. Still like a little space! However, there are many successful house colonies all over North America so every situation is different.

In some areas martins may be attracted to the type of cavities that have been offered for many years. If that is gourds, then the martins may "look" and be attracted to gourds. If houses, then the same may apply. I know that some longtime landlords have observed in parts of the South that gourds, either natural or plastic, are often colonized in greater number by martins and perhaps "history" of using gourds in those areas may be a factor. Of course, factors such as location of the colony in an open area is critical to attracting martins in the first place.

I will keep my remaining two Trendsetters at least through 2020 and then I plan to replace them with gourd racks. But that is just a plan and can change!

Thanks for sharing your observations about using gourds and houses!

Steve

Dave,

Venting plastic gourds is important, particularly in the Deep South where I live with the heat and high humidity. Heat and humidity may build up in plastic gourds, particularly the horizontal Troyer Gourds, if not vented and possibly create a "sauna" like situation in the nest cavity. I have seen that happen in my plastic gourds in the past that were not vented. Venting can help provide an "outlet" for heat and humidity to be expelled from the gourd. In the past I remember seeing some of my plastic gourds that were like saunas inside and the martin nests almost wet from the hot humid air in June and July! These gourds didn't have any vents.

Since I have vented all my plastic gourds either with PVC elbows or drilling holes under the small canopies on the Troyer Vertical tops and Horizontal upper backs, I have not seen any "wet" nests from high humidity. Venting helps to expel the heat too though under extreme heat of triple digit temperatures venting may not be enough to keep the cavities from overheating.

I believe that all houses and gourds, particularly those in areas with high temperatures and humidity, should have some kind of venting to help with expelling hot humid air from nest cavities.

Thanks for sharing your observations.

Steve

Randy,

Thank you for sharing your experiences with wooden houses and plastic gourds. Your experiences have shown that wooden houses have been much more attractive in your situation than plastic gourds in attracting martins.

Since you live up north in South Dakota with the COLD temperatures (This old southern boy is shaking think about it!), wood may definitely be more attractive due to its superior insulation. I do believe that wood, particularly thick wood (3/4 inch or more), is better at keeping a nest cavity a little better protected from cold temperatures and from hot ones than metal or plastic material.

You did mention that there are large colonies within 50 miles of your site that mainly offer plastic gourds. Have you visited any of these colonies and talked with the landlords about how their martins are “doing” nesting in the plastic gourds? Would be interesting to seeing what their experiences have been with plastic gourds!

I like houses with offset entrances where martins enter and then make a 90 degree turn to enter the compartment. Such cavities provide more seclusion and possible protection for martins from aerial predators like Accipiter hawks and large owls. The martins are out of sight from the eyes of predators and talons as long as the martins don’t panic and try to escape out the entrance. All my current Trendsetter houses have that cavity design.

I wonder if you offered a few horizontally deep Troyer gourds would this “cavity stimulus” be attractive to martins. In my colony, the first arriving martins always select the Troyer Horizontals over my vertical Super Gourds and Excluders. Though nearly all my verticals are eventually occupied, I have definitely noticed that my martins prefer the Troyer Horizontals either ones with cling plates or with tunnels/porches. The deep horizontal cavity design seems most attractive to the martins.

Do any of your Super Gourds or Big Bo gourds have tunnels/porches? If not, possibly adding tunnels to them may increase their attractiveness and give that “horizontal deep look” to the gourds. Perhaps try a few and see if that change would attract nesting martins to them.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences with wooden houses and plastic gourds in your martin colony.

Steve

Ryan,

Thank you for providing information about the use of wooden houses up north to attract martins.

I do believe that wood is a better insulating material than metal or plastic particularly when used in far northern regions. However, I have read about successful martin colonies using aluminum houses and plastic gourds in the northern states. I believe the PMCA has a successful colony in Pennsylvania using plastic Excluder Gourds. Andy Troyer has a large successful martin colony using both wooden T-14s and his Troyer Horizontal/Vertical Gourds in Pennsylvania. I know of other martin colonies up north where aluminum and plastic gourds are successful.

However, there may be like you said, “a certain line up north”, where wood is the best material for providing insulation, particularly during cold spells.

I have had thriving martin colonies consisting of aluminum houses and plastic gourds in both north Florida and now in northwest Louisiana with the high heat and humidity. So properly vented aluminum houses and plastic gourds are well occupied in the south and martins thrive in them.

In the past, I have used wooden houses, both multi-room and single unit ones suspended like gourds, and martins did well in them. So wood as a building material for martin houses in the south works fine. However, I didn’t notice that my martins were more successful in nesting in wood vs. aluminum houses or plastic gourds.

I quit using wooden houses back in the early 80s I believe. I was having excellent results attracting and raising martins in aluminum houses and in natural and plastic gourds. The wooden houses were much heavier than aluminum or gourds and required more maintenance than aluminum or plastic gourds. I quit using natural gourds back in 2010. I believe my plastic gourds were just as effective and required much less maintenance.

Thanks again for providing information about using wooden houses, particularly in the far north where wood may have better insulation properties.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

~Ray~Gingerich
Posts: 2113
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 10:24 pm
Location: Delaware/Dover

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby ~Ray~Gingerich » Mon Oct 28, 2019 12:17 pm

My colony started in 2008 with 2 pair, one nest in a Trio and one in a T-14. The colony grew quickly and it seems their main preference is gourds, however the racks with a combination of Trio houses and gourds seems to be the overall favorite.
Ray Gingerich
~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

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4232
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: My Purple Martins Obviously Like Gourds!

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sun Nov 03, 2019 5:27 am

Hey Ray,

Your martin colony sure has grown over the years!

I have used house and gourd combinations, too and they have been successful in attracting martins. The martins have a choice on the same pole.

I've always liked the multi-purpose pole system where you can have two or more houses on a hub and then gourds below. We have a bunch of these of systems at our various satellite martin colonies around northwest Louisiana.

Here is a photo of a multi-purpose pole system I used for a number of years in my current martin colony. 100% occupied by martins each year.

Image
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season


Return to “Purple Martin Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot], MSN [Bot], toneal and 10 guests