Part Year Residents
A pair of scouts show up every year on Feb 15, plus or minus a couple days.
Usually fully mature males (dark purple,completing their second migration) but sometimes includes 2nd year males (white breasts,completing their first- horny like teenagers)
By early May all of our 20 nest cavities are fully occupied- this year 96 young purple martins were hatched. Both parents feed the young - mostly large insects like wasps. It is a myth that martins eat lots of mosquitos- they fly higher and leave that small stuff to the swallows that also live on our dock.
By the first week of July the young martins come out of the nest to be fed and will soon fledge. By mid July they'll be gathering in a roost elsewhere prepping for their migration to Brazil where they spend 1/2 the year but do not breed. Many of these youngsters will not survive their first migration but those which do will be back next year, like clockwork, to produce the next generation.
In the east, martins breed almost exclisively in human-provided housing, having learned it is by far the safest protection from predators. They prefer to nest in open spots about 50-100 ft from a house and tolerate human activity right under nests as well as regular nest inspections. Native Americans were already providing nesting gourds when Europeans first came to America.
Photos are downsized crops using a Nikon D800E with an 80-400mm Nikon zoom
We have some for the first time in five years...early on a Starling was wreaking havoc and pulling nest material out of each cavity like a bad landlord. Enough martins finally outnumbered him and things settled down.
Hopefully they keep coming back...we only had 5 pair this year...but still noisy!
To ensure we get full occupancy every year, our house and gourds all have the excluder door shape- it works- no starlings or even sparrows.
Also the metal houses all have double cavity setups and the gourds are large with protected entrances to shut out predators. We've had no owl problems with this setup though in the past, without it, I have.
Standard nest boxes with 6"X6" single cavities rarely fill up in my experience. Before going to double cavity setups, I averaged a bit more than 1/2 full..
Good luck next season...Don't forget to clean and close yours as soon as this years bunch fledges.
Thanks for the tips...this metal house was on the property when we arrived and I have cleaned/lowered it regularly. It looks like a 60's apartment building and has been beaten up by hail and time. It does have the double cavity setup as well.
We waited for the scouts the first few years with no sightings. Our senior neighbor who grew up out here said he hasn't had any for the same five years as us. I can see a 6 level house down the hill from us and it has nothing going on.
I am going to get one from the local purple martin guy with the crescent holes to add some rooms. We are also growing some gourds this year to build a colony set up also. I need to relocate the old one, but am worried it may throw them off next year...the plan is to move it about 20 feet, hopefully not disturbing their use next year.
When we had the property on Galveston Island...it was enjoyable growing up with 40 years of returners...hurricane Ike finally destroyed it as well as my sense of humor of owning coastal property.
Don't know about the rest of your location but tall trees nearby will hurt chances a lot.
An ideal site is open in all 4 directions for 100 ft but trees on one side maybe 50 ft away are OK if everything else is open.
Although porbably not needed, I play morning calls starting around the expected return date.
We're approx 40 ft above the high water on a rise next to salt water where a river enters the intercoastal..High enough to be away from wind driven water but not wind though this property has survived 110 mph winds in the past with no serious damage. Wouldn't bet on the dock though, its getting old. I pull the houses poles and all after the young birds leave- which is just before hurricane season gets going in this part of the world- our peak high risk is Sept/Oct.