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Return of the Purple Martins

purple martin house

While it might be difficult for our more northern friends to believe, spring is just around the corner. For Purple Martin fans, it’s time to start planning for the new season.  Martins started arriving in Florida in January and by the first week of February reports were coming in from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.


Attracting Purple Martins

One of the most important steps in attracting martins is to match the opening of your martin house with the arrival of martins to your location.

Existing site
If you had martins at your location last year, they will likely return within a week or two of previous years’ arrival dates. You should have your house or gourds prepared and ready ahead of time, but keep them closed until some martins return.

New housing
Older martins will start by searching for their previous year’s location and are not likely to be attracted by a new house.  Younger martins arrive later than older birds, and will be looking for new housing. Delay opening 3-4 weeks after older adults arrive to reduce problems with House Sparrows and starlings.

purple martin house

A great way to monitor the arrival dates of Purple Martins is to visit the Scout Arrival Study page of the Purple Martin Conservation Association web site.

Here are five tips for locating and managing a new martin house.

1. The martin house must have at least 40 feet of free air space around it or the martins will not use it.

2. Best results are achieved if the martin house can be located within 140 feet of a home of building.

3. Martin houses are pole mounted, using either a gourd or apartment house. You must be prepared to monitor your house and remove House Sparrows and starlings that are trying to nest. The best style poles systems have a pulley or other arrangement for easily raising and lowering the nesting area.

4. Do not put up a martin house unless you are committed to monitoring it and removing House Sparrow and starlings that might attempt to nest.

5. Maintain written records of number and estimated age of young. This will help you watch for losses from predation. Be prepared to add a predator guard if necessary.

Visit the Purple Martins section for detailed information on attracting and managing your Purple Martins.

The following sites have products for Purple Martin landlords.

S&K Manufacturing

Purple Martin Products

Purple Martin Conservation Association


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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