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How to Attract Purple Martins to Your Backyard

How to Attract Purple Martins to Your Backyard

We all have favorite birds that we hope to attract each year. Over time, we tend to learn a few tips for encouraging some of our favorites to frequent our backyards. For many people, favorites include classics like cardinals, bluebirds, or blue jays. One bird that does not always receive the same amount of attention but is still a favorite for many birders is the purple martin.

What is a Purple Martin?

A purple martin is a type of swallow. In fact, it is the largest swallow that can be found in North America. This bird has historically been seen as an indicator of good fortune. Birdwatchers know that attracting a family of purple martins is certainly good fortune for your bird viewing pleasure.

These birds can be found through the majority of the United States. They range from the eastern coast to the Great Plains states from North Dakota to Texas. While you won’t find these birds across the Rockies, you can find them along the Pacific coast in many spots as well as a few areas of Arizona.

Purple martins can be identified by a purplish iridescent plumage with black wings and tail for adult males. Females and juveniles have a duller coloring with grey on their head and a whitish lower belly.

How to Attract Purple Martins

These birds are some of the most beautiful you can attract to your backyard. If you are hoping for some purple martin visitors, here are some tips to encourage them to take up residence near you.

Know When to Prepare

Realizing when to expect the first purple martins of the season is important for being able to prepare your yard in time. These birds are often some of the first to arrive at the beginning of the season. They migrate from South America, with some arriving in southern states as early as late January to mid-February.

These birds will reach areas like Missouri by March and will make it all the way to the northern ranges of their territory such as New England or Wisconsin by mid-April. Finding out exactly when to expect purple martins in your area can help you get prepared in time.

Setup a Nesting House

Purple martins are cavity dwellers. In fact, native Americans would hang hollowed out gourds to attract them. Today, most purple martins nest in birdhouses, although some on the west coast are more likely to seek out natural cavities.

A great way to entice these birds to your backyard is to invest in a purple martin house. These large houses last for a long time and are easy to clean with their telescoping pole. These special houses are important because these birds nest in groups. Typically, you will want to place the nest on a pole 12 to 20 feet in the air in an open space at least 30 feet from flight obstructions.

Employ a Decoy

When you think about birds, you often don’t think about trickery. However, a little trickery can go a long way when seeking to attract purple martins. These purple martin decoys work great for attracting families of the birds to your backyard. Simply place the decoy on or near your bird house. Martins will tend to take note.

An additional strategy for attracting purple martins to your backyard is to keep other birds out of their homes. Purple martin houses can be very attractive for a number of species such as starlings and sparrows, so keep the house closed off until you start seeing purple martins in your area.

Enhance Your Foliage

A final tip for getting purple martins to come to your yard is to add some foliage to your backyard. These birds are insect eaters. As aerial scavengers, they will typically pick insects out of the air. They particularly like mosquitos, winged ants, beetles, moths, and butterflies. 

Planting native foliage, particularly plants that flower at different times during the spring, will help increase insect activity in your yard. Small plants and bushes are best as they attract bugs without serving as obstacles impeding a purple martin’s swooping for food.

Find Purple Martin & Other Supplies at Birdertown!

Birdertown is your central location for everything bird related. Whether you need a new purple martin house on a telescoping pole or a myriad of other things for your backyard, be sure to check in with us for everything bird-related!

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