How to Maintain Your Purple Martin House

Your Guide to Maintaining Purple Martin Houses

Everything works better and lasts longer with simple maintenance – your new Purple Martin house is no exception.

Before the nesting season:

    • Assemble your new house – most require assembly with simple tools.
    • Clean out any old nests from your existing houses and gourds and disinfect the cavities by scrubbing or spraying with a weak bleach solution
    • Make sure the pole sits solid in its socket or in the ground. It is best to cement the ground socket or pole into place. Familiarize yourself with the workings of the pole; grease or oil the mechanisms if necessary.
    • Keep entry holes plugged until the nesting season begins. For mature colonies, this will be when you see the first martins, or scouts. For new colonies, this will be 3 to 6 weeks later.

During the season:

  • Place your decoys and play your attractor CD’s and tapes.
  • Once occupied, do regular inspections of the ground beneath the house – this is where you may first notice problems with predators.
  • Do regular inspections of the nests – lower the house and keep notes on what you see. This will not cause parents to abandon their young!
  • Join the Project Martin watch of the Purple Martin Conservation Association.
  • Keep your house up through August

After the season:

  • If you are in an area subject to severe winter weather, it may be best to remove your housing from its pole.
  • If you don’t take down the house, plug the entry holes to keep late season birds from entering.
  • This is also a good time to clean things up so you are ready for next year. Use simple solution of soap and water to clean out your house or gourd cavities
Purple Martin

Every year, hundreds of thousands of purple martins migrate to the United States from their wintering grounds in South America. This species of swallow typically arrives in mid-March and can be found in most parts of the country during the breeding season, with concentrations in the eastern and southern United States.

During the fall migration, these birds head south again and continue on their journey until reaching Central or South America. The exact number of migratory purple martins that make this transcontinental journey every year is unknown; however, it is estimated to be between 500,000 and 1 million individuals.


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