What Attracts Purple Martins – Attracting Purple Martins To Your Landscape

A Purple Martin Bird
(Image credit: BrianEKushner)

If you love to watch birds then you’ll want to attract the entertaining Purple Martin. How do you attract Purple Martin birds? Native Americans were making Purple Martin habitats long before the pilgrims docked at Plymouth Rock, but what exactly attracts Purple Martins? Keep reading to learn about attracting Purple Martins. 

How do you Attract Purple Martin Birds?

Purple Martins (Progne subis) are the largest species in the swallow family in the U.S. These social birds are often welcomed for their aerial displays and melodious chatter. What attracts Purple Martins? 

Well, what is attracting to Purple Martins would seem to be food, but the fact is, these birds eat on the fly, literally. They have a very diverse diet consisting of all kinds of insects, but they don’t ever settle down to eat. This means that attracting Purple Martins has to be accomplished in some other manner rather than by putting food out. 

What else could attract these swallows? If it isn’t food, then another basic need is shelter. At one time, Purple Martins nested in rocky clefts or woodpecker holes, but today, especially east of the Rockies, the birds can primarily be found in manmade housing

Making Purple Martin Habitats

Native Americans used to hang dried gourds to lure the birds to their villages. Over time, the birds liked this idea just fine and used the nests year after year. After generations, Purple Martins east of the Rocky Mountains shifted from their natural predilection of nesting in rocky cracks or holes to seeking out human made housing. 

Housing of all types, from gourds to apartments for multiple birds used to be common place, but is once again gaining in popularity due to our collective concern for the environment and its species. 

There are a number of Purple Martin habitats that can be made or purchased. Gourds used to be the simplest but they are getting harder to find although plastic ones can be bought. Because the birds are highly socialized, an apartment high rise is good type of home to make and attract the birds.

How to Build It

First, start with a single layer and then add others as your colony of birds grows. Choose a light weight material that can easily be pulled down and cleaned. The size of the compartment is important since birds prefer larger over smaller. A compartment should be a minimum size of 6x6 inches (15x15 cm.) although Martins prefer more spacious accommodations such as those provided by a 7x12 inch (18-30 cm.) nest. 

Place the entrance hole an inch (2.5 cm.) above the floor. It should be about 2 inches (5 cm.) in size. Plan on including drainage and ventilation details when building a Martin house and situate it 10-20 feet (3-6 m.) above the ground.

Detailed instructions for building a Purple Martin home can be found on the internet. Remember that the birds are social and enjoy nesting near each other, although it is wise not to put more than 24 nesting compartments in a single apartment house.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.