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Attracting Purple Martins

purple martins

Starting your initial Purple Martin colony can be interesting and challenging. Keep these thoughts in mind when locating the martin house.


1. Clear Air

Houses need at least 40 feet of clear air space to provide easy access to the nest site. Housing placed too close to trees or wires will be ignored.


2. Human Activity

Martins seem to adapt better when the martin house is placed close to human activity. You can place the martin house within 40-100 feet of your house.


3. Open for Business

Houses opened too early attract competing species and those opened too late will find that the martins have already located nesting sites for the year. Visit the HOUSING page for more information on when to open your house each season.


4. White Houses

Martins seem to be most attracted to white houses, which provide the best cooling on hot summer days. Make sure your house is white (colored trim is OK).


5. Combos

Sometimes adding a few gourds below a martin “apartment” will help attract birds the first year.


6. The Dawn Song

After mating and nesting has commenced, adult male martins will fly above the colony early in the morning and sing the “dawn song.” The song proclaims the presence of a successful colony and the males hope to attract sub-adult females to the area.

Prospective martin landlords can play a tape of the martin dawn song in late spring to enhance the chance of establishing the initial colony.


Other considerations when selecting a purple martin house

House dimensions

For apartment style houses, the best results will be obtained by considering a few options.

  • Floor dimensions should be at least 6″ x 6,” and 7″ x 12″ is even better.
  • The entrance hole should be placed about 1″ above the floor.
  • The entrance hole should have a diameter in the range of 2″ to 2-1/4.”
  • Crescent shaped holes may help prevent problems with starlings.


Learn more: Nest Box Sizes

Vines and shrubs

Do not allow shrubs to grow around the base of the pole or vines to grow up the pole.


Other species

Learn to recognize House Sparrows and the European Starling. These two species are non-native and any nesting attempt by these two species should be thwarted as soon as possible.

house sparrow female

Female House Sparrow


house sparrow

Male House Sparrow



European Starling


Easy to manage

When selecting a pole system, make sure it provides easy access to the nesting area, so it is easy to raise and lower the gourds or apartment house.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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