Attracting Purple Martins to Your Backyard

North America’s largest swallow is the Purple Martin (their wingspan is about 15”!), and they’re such a treat to have in your backyard! They’re famous for their graceful flight and their nearly insatiable appetite for insects. You’ll probably have noticed Purple Martin houses in your town; unlike many birds, they nest in colonies. They rely on HUMAN-supplied housing for their nests, so we encourage you to help these elusive, remarkable songbirds.

Purple Martin on pole

Quality Food:

If you have flying insects nearby, Purple Martins will do just fine! No need for bird feeders or birdseed. Avoid spraying pesticides or insecticides on lawns, shrubs and trees, and these birds will take care of insects for you. Another remarkable fact about Purple Martins is that they eat and drink while flying!

During nesting season, they will also eat finely crushed eggshells as a calcium supplement.

Clean, Fresh Water:

Purple Martins prefer large, natural water sources such as ponds, lakes or streams. They drink by scooping their bills into the water as they pass by, so if you have room to add a water feature, choose an elongated design. The water source can be several hundred yards away and still be acceptable.

Safe, Secure Shelter (including nesting sites):

Purple Martin House with Gourds

Purple Martins In this part of the country are entirely dependent on human-supplied nesting cavities – so it’s very important to supply nest sites and set them up properly. You’ve probably spotted white Purple Martin houses – like little apartments! – on high poles in open areas. They also enjoy gourd houses, so offering an assortment of houses in a clustered area will encourage large colonies.

Taking steps to deter predators, like using baffles on birdhouse poles, will also make your backyard more attractive to Purple Martins.

For nesting, they prefer twigs, grass clippings and leaves. And since they use mud as a binder to hold their nests together, a much area nearby is also attractive to them.

It can take a while for Purple Martin colonies to be established, but they’re worth the time and effort you take to attract them!