They're baaaack! A couple of days ago, as I gathered tools from the truck bed, I heard a familiar sound. Looking up, I spotted them. Waving my arms overhead and whistling, I ran to the tall pole that holds eight birdhouse gourds and, by the time I stood under the newly installed homes, two birds perched over my head, singing and chattering to greet me.
Martins check out the new homes
When Purple Martins, those migratory aerodynamic daredevils return to our farm, we experience an almost-indescribable joy. Not only do these transient birds eat tons of insects, they provide companionship and entertainment to weary farm workers. From the time they leave our western NC area, usually by August, until they return in late March, Purple Martins enjoy a warmer South American climate, but we sorely miss them and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first "scouts," birds that fly ahead of the flock to investigate possible housing sites. When Martins find suitable nesting, the same birds often return to that area for years.
|Purple Martin homes ready for 2015|
Purple Martins' diet consists of flying insects and when we first erected birdhouse gourds on a high pole, we were concerned about our honeybees, but after witnessing those hard-working girls chase Martins on numerous occasions, it appears the honeybees are able to defend themselves. Martins are very theatrical and there is clearly fear in those faces when they look back, over a shoulder, to see if the bee is still in pursuit. By the same token, after Martins successfully chase away predatory hawks from their nesting area, they will often celebrate with loud chatter and even midair "wing bumps." We believe our colony recognizes us and they swoop low to greet us as we drive into the farm, then briefly perch on poles that support their homes, chattering excitedly before flying away to search for food.
|Purple Martins are very social birds|
|Chef Clark Barlowe hangs Purple Martin gourds at Heart & Sole Gardens|
Although you may purchase birdhouse gourds made from synthetic material, our birds seem to prefer natural dried gourds. Before preparing a gourd for Martins, be sure it is completely cured from a previous season, is sturdy and free of cracks.
|Thicker & heavier than other gourds, the one on the right made a "brick house"|
|Caulk plumbing parts in place to make next year's cleaning easier|
|Use flexible plastic, recycled from a container, to make a SREH pattern|
If you have an open field, a nearby water source and some flying insects you can spare, perhaps you should consider offering living quarters to Purple Martins. For more information about these entertaining birds, patterns for the Starling Resistant Entry Holes and detailed directions for preparing birdhouses, or to purchase prepared gourds, visit www.purplemartin.org. To see our birds taking a break, watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yarmcrsd8Qg&list=PL4p9xUjYcB_sJNR0E4dWesl5t7vNYiChH&index=10