Attracting Purple Martins to Your Yard

Central South Carolina and especially Lake Murray is known to be a favorite nesting spot for the beautiful and graceful Purple Martin.

Preferring to have a water source nearby (swimming pools, ponds, lakes) they are not your typical backyard bird. Members of the Swallow family, Purple Martins historically nested in cliffs and hollow trees, but today they thrive in man-made nesting structures. Typically social birds, they love to nest in colonies and will very likely return to the same nesting site year after year.

Purple Martins flock to Lake Murray

 

Understanding the Purple Martin’s particular needs is the key to attracting and enjoying these beauties in your yard.

Where most of your favorite backyard birds will visit your bird feeder, Purple Martins feed mainly on flying insects, which they catch in flight. Even grabbing a drink of water is different from your standard backyard bird. They will fly over open water and skim the surface to dip their bills in for a drink, instead of perching to sip like most birds. If you want to encourage them to your bird feeding areas, you can offer bits of crushed eggshells.

As with attracting any bird to your backyard, if you provide their basic needs for survival (food, water, shelter and nesting sites), you can invite them in.

  • Food – Purple Martins almost never visit bird feeders. They will skim over open grassy areas feeding on flying insects. As a bird landlord, you will want to avoid using insecticides in and around your yard that would kill off their main diet source.
  • Water – If your home is near a natural water source you already have a good chance they will find your yard home-worthy.
  • Shelter – Purple Martins are aerial birds and prefer open areas, as opposed to tall trees and bushes. They are agile fliers and will soar and dive around open spaces looking for food. Keep brush and vines cleared away from the base of their nesting boxes. They will avoid any areas that also attract ground predators, such as cats, raccoons, snakes and squirrels. Provide perching spots such as wires, clotheslines or antennas, far away from bird predators.
  • Nesting Sites – These birds are cavity-nesting birds and prefer old woodpecker holes, specialized gourds, and bird houses that are perched high off the ground in open spaces. The perfect spot for nesting is about 60 feet from your house and 40 feet from any large trees. The standard rule to constructing a Purple Martin house is there should be no trees taller than their houses within 40 feet. If you remember one thing it should be this: trees and Purple Martins do not go together. They construct their nests with dried pine needles, dry twigs, straw, leaves, grass, and feathers. Offer a stash of these favorite nesting materials in an unused suet feeder where they can get to it easily.

This is just a quick guide to attracting Purple Martins to your yard, but we have so much more to share with you stop into Wings & Things inside the Produce Market for more information.

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Here at Wingard’s Market, we specialize in providing outstanding customer service, offer professional gardening advice, and answers to your everyday gardening questions. Stop by and visit our Beautiful Gift Shoppe and Fresh Produce Market while you stroll under century-old pecan trees. It’s truly a Garden Wonderland!

Located at 1403 North Lake Drive in Lexington, SC. Call us at (803) 359-9091