|Richard & Diane Van Vleck - Personal Pages|
We first tried to attract purple martins with several gourds in 1996. Several martins were seen inspecting the site in the early fall migration and 6 birds returned in the spring of 1997, resulting in one active nest. In 1998, there were two simultaneous nestings. One was successful, the other resulted in extremely thin shelled, broken eggs. When the gourds were cleaned at the end of the season, the successful nest was found to have at least 20 small clam shells in the debris, while the failed nest had none. The shells were, apparently, gathered at the creek, some distance away. Next year I will grind shells and provide a calcium feeder as I had in the past for the swallows and bluebirds.
In preparation for a growing colony of martins, we grew a large patch of gourds in 1998, which are now curing in the barn. The two dozen larger ones (14+ inches wide and 18+inches high) will be cleaned next month and the seeds saved for future use. The seeds used last year were three years old and 80% viable, so growing every year isn't necessary. We start the gourds indoors in March, putting them out in the sun each nice day and bringing them inside at night. Martins seem to share my appreciation for natural gourds, rather than those expensive metal houses.
2004 update The huge gourds that I harvested in 1998 actually proved less attractive to the martins than the average size gourds that were previously available to them. This wasn't obvious at first because the two different sizes were on different racks and I thought the martins were just selecting the previously used site. But, now it is quite clear that bigger isn't better and 14" diameter gourds may be too large.
2005 update This year the martins are in super gourds on a pole, since I didn't have time to prepare natural gourds with cam housings or replace the old rack which is leaning precipitously. A gourd cam has recorded the nesting of a second year pair, although I have reused the tapes each day, so there is no complete record. The five nestlings are doing great, as of today, July 26, 2005. Even the runt has caught up with its siblings. Actually, the term, "runt" should be reserved for the last hatched who then don't successfully compete with their larger nestmates. In this case, the last hatched seemed to receive as many feedings as its siblings and always appeared robust, despite its much smaller size. Now, I can see no difference in the size of the nestlings, who should soon fledge. They also seem to be doing just fine in today's intense heat. I had reservations about using the plastic super gourds, but, the young seem quite comfortable on video - as much so as nestlings in my cedar boxes on similar hot days in the past. No other nest box species are currently nesting, except the kestrels, who are incubating a second brood in their tower. The barn swallows still have several broods, but that is in the much cooler swallow room.
Most of the 12 super gourds have had their crescent entrances enlarged. The various starling resistant openings have been a boon to those who have previously had starling infested housing. However, starlings haven't been a problem with my super gourds so I and my martins prefer the larger round openings. Starlings were a problem with my large natural gourds, but have shown no interest in the plastic gourds as long as I offer them a large decoy house (flicker box)and then shoot or trap those starlings that claim this decoy box. As long as the deep wooden flicker box is available (not claimed by another pair of starlings), any visiting starlings looking for a nest site will go to the decoy box and not even enter the inferior plastic gourds. I even put up the super gourds before the martins return and haven't observed any starling actually enter one. I have seen several land at the entrance and peer inside. However, I am NOT suggesting that others should not use starling resistant entrances on martin housing. Many people swear by them and would not think of returning to round holes. But, in my yard, the use of the decoy box, in conjunction with the repeating traps and the shooting or trapping of starlings claiming the decoy box has eliminated the starling problem when using plastic gourds. Next year, when I add natural gourds, I may, again, have a problem with starlings, but the plastic gourds don't seem to be a favored site for starlings in our yard. Luckily, their most favored sites are the several 2" holes in the barn wall which lead to repeating starling traps.
|barn owl||American kestrel||purple martin||barn swallow||Eastern bluebird|
|tufted titmouse||Eastern phoebe||yellow shafted flicker||tree swallow||chimney swift|
|house wren||big brown bat||Carolina wren||brown thrasher||catbird|
|Eastern wood-pewee||cedar waxwing||Northern mockingbird||Turkey vulture|
© 1999 - 2013, American Artifacts and Richard Van Vleck, Taneytown, Maryland.