Starlings Breaching SREH

March 20th, 2016

Most people know that Starling RESISTANT Entrance Holes (SREH) do NOT mean starling PROOF. Though uncommon, starlings have been known to occasionally breech SREH. Once a starling breeches an entrance, it is even more important to dispatch the invasive bird. The fear by most is that smaller starlings that can enter a SREH could possibly breed and create more smaller starlings, and over the course of some years with the help of natural selection, the benefits of SREH would be made obsolete. This would be as tragic and possibly as devestating for the modern day martin as bringing in these pest birds to North America in the first place.

Of course, some SREH are more restrictive that others and most breeches have been reported with the less restrictive entrances like a simple crescent or a Conley II entrance. The more restrictive, the less likely a starling can get past it. So a more restrictive SREH like an Excluder entrance would be much safer.

One well known fix for the problem of starlings getting in through a SREH, is raising the floor (or lowering the entrance) as many houses use SREH that are placed much to far up. The bottom of a Staring Resistant Entrance Hole should be flush or as close to flush as possible. The lower to the porch, the better.

photo copyright Bradley O'Toole

Sometimes, the entrances are placed low enough, it’s just that the starlings are smaller than usual. Take the very popular Troyer Gourds. People love them. They are our best selling gourd…deep, strong, lightweight, pretty awesome really. The entrances are as low as they can go. You can modify the gourd and swap out the entrance for a more restrictive opening, trap the offending bird, or you can try this fix reported by Bradley O. on FB. We would LOVE to hear if this works or not from others who are having a problem with starling breeches in their Troyer tunneled gourds. By looking at his picture, you can see that all he did was clip 2 small binder clips on either side of the Troyer Tunnel.

Bradley states, “The clips are 1-1/2 inches “wide” (when in the position in the pic). We have done this for a few years now with no issues with martins rejecting or being injured by them. Very rarely, they push the clip open. And yes, Susan…, please spread the word! Once the starlings check out the gourds, they seem to be discouraged and we don’t see many on the gourd rack.”

Copyright Bradley O'Toole

We hope you all try it and let us know if it works!

PurpleMartins-R-Us is now

January 25th, 2016

It’s official. Our improved website is now online. Great prices, easier to navigate, guest checkout, and more purple martin items than ever before are just some of the benefits of our new improved site. is OPEN! We have been working on this new site since 2012 and it has been open and doing business for over a year but we are now comfortable letting PurpleMartins-R-Us take a little break.


January 22nd, 2016

I am quite excited to try this at our colony this year as so far I have heard a GHO (Great Horned Owl) hooting in a wooded lot across the street. It makes my blood run cold since I know that once an owl discovers the plump morsels that reside within the large white “orbs” in my yard, my colony is as good as gone. NOTHING is more destructive to a colony that owl predation…maybe snakes…hawks are up there also. But owls are up there for sure.
Several years back, we introduced NiteGuards as an owl deterrent, but we heard reports of these not working as well as expected. Also, they were pretty ineffective once an owl already discovered the easy meals at a martin colony. We now have DANCING SCARE CROWS! Read this testimonial:

“I have had problems with Great Horned Owls every year since my colony started, because my colony is pretty remote…I set (The Dancing Man) up with a timer that turned on at 10pm and off at 6am. That was the end of my GHO problems. I looked outside constantly and never saw a sign of a Great Horned Owl. I was losing 2-3 martins every night until I started using the dancing man.” R. A., Pa.

We have also heard rave reviews from some great folks on Facebook like Paul Whodatnation Gremillion. We are working on making a version of this dancing man available on our website, but if you look around and you can get it cheaper, GO FOR IT!!! We plan on getting one ASAP! Just Google SKY DANCERS or AIRDANCERS. Try and get one with a weather resistant blower as some are not. Also some are sold WITHOUT the blower and that is not always clearly stated (on sites such as Amazon) so beware. Let us know your experiences!

Good Bye Natureline…(and good riddance)

June 12th, 2015

Well, I can’t say I am surprised to see them go. Around for ages, Natureline gourds have finally been discontinued. The company the produced these plastic gourds has gone out of business. Though the company is still technically “in” business until next Friday, there is no stock of any products, so for all intents and purposes, they are out of business already.

Natureline gourds were cutting age when they first came out in the late 1970′s (or was that early 80′s?) but compared to what is available now, Natureline gourds fell way behind the times due to failure to continue to integrate new ideas into their product. As a company that sells their product, I always told my customers of the drawbacks of Natureline gourds. Some of these drawbacks were quite significant. For example, the access port was actually the entrance which one was able to pull off to either access the gourd contents or to swap entrances. Sounds cool right? Sure, get martins started in a new colony with round holes, then switch to SREH to keep them safe from Starlings. Unfortunately, just as easy as it was for landlords to open the gourd, owls also were able to figure out how to open the gourds. Landlords were reporting finding the doors pulled off and martins gone. The “viewing port” on the side was utterly useless and was big enough for nothing really. The 2 piece construction invited leaks and though they were a large gourd, there are plenty of better gourds now available.  The Natureline line of gourd rack hubs was less popular but no less riddled with problems. The plastic connectors were reportedly easy to break and would crack within a season or two, dropping gourds on the ground.

Of course, I should not unfairly disparage the Natureline gourds. These gourds ultimately were a huge improvement over other plastic gourds which are ironically still on the market. Perhaps with a different name or manufacturer but still on the market nonetheless. These gourds are renowned among “true” purple martin enthusiasts, to be nothing short of an owl or hawk buffet line or purple martin death trap. These poor quality gourds are a testament to the martins will to live and reproduce, not to the qualities of the gourd themselves. Which is why we refuse to carry these gourds…they stink.

For those that still have Natureline gourds, we still have a very limited supply of Natureline replacement doors.

But alas, Natureline Gourds are gone. Making room for much superior gourds to continue to gain traction and help martin landlords host birds.

Wing Entrapment CAN Happen to You!

March 18th, 2015

Once again wing entrapment has struck again. Every year (early in the season usually) I have to deal with martins that get stuck in SREH entrances. 2 ASY males, one stuck in the sreh and one within the nest. Unfortunately I was out all day visiting family, came home after dark and this AM this was what I found.

For those that don’t know, Wing Entrapment is when a purple martin becomes stuck in a SREH. It usually happens when 2 or more martins are fighting over a compartment (nest spot) of any gourd or house with SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Hole) As one bird tries to leave the nest and is trying to fend off attacks from within the nest from a rival or occupant, the bird gets stuck in the entrance. Basically gets stuck when he turns as he is trying to exit. If not discovered fairly quickly the birds in the nest can die as can the stuck bird. I have wondered if vented rooms vs non vented rooms have a better survival time but this nest was fairly well vented. But still the blocking off of the entrance must have happened early in the AM and as I was out all day, there they sat and died. Those that have reported deaths from entrapment usually say that they discovered it either the same day or within a day or two of the event.

It is important to note that this Sunset Inn house did NOT have wing entrapment guards on the inside of the crescent entrances. Also there have been reports of wind entrapment on the large Trendsetter houses that DO HAVE wing entrapment guards. I am not sure if the problem is the thickness of the guard, as the Trendsetter entrapment guard is not the thickest I have seen There is no standard thickness for a guard also and it is hard to just say that thicker may be better, because we are not real sure if at some point, the thickness would hamper their entry and exit into the compartment or cause some kind of situation with young birds crowding at the entrance waiting to be fed.

You can read about wing entrapment in previous blog posts as well as on our parent website, Is wing entrapment a reason to not use SREH? Absolutely not. Wing entrapment remains much less common than the threat of Starlings in an unprotected colony. Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons in your colony along with your sites individual risk factors for both problems.

2015 Nesting Begins!

March 6th, 2015

Even though much of the country is experiencing record snow fall and returning martins are being greeted with inhospitable conditions (to say the LEAST!) Purple Martins in South Florida are starting to nest. Males and females are bringing in pine needles, bark bits, and an occasional leaf. With temperatures in the mid 80′s today, they have had a mild season here so far. Our birds here have been back since just after the new year.

Big Announcement Coming Soon!!!

June 2nd, 2014

We can’t tell you yet. But we can say some BIG changes are coming to our website. Within the next few weeks we will be rolling out some pretty significant changes. Stay tuned as we will be announcing some contests to roll out the new changes to get the word out.

Do you have Facebook? Make sure you “Like” us on Facebook because one of the contests will be ONLY available for those that like our PurpleMartins-R-Us page.

We hope you will all be pleased when we finally announce the news.

Unconventional Purple Martins

May 8th, 2014

It seems like in today’s age of instant access to information that everywhere you look the same purple martin information is regurgitated at you. Not to say that the information is incorrect. The guidelines outlined by the PMCA and even our site, is generally the best information. But sometimes even the best advice is a long way off from the realities of a world full of variables.

What do we always preach? Housing should be 10 feet, 12 feet up…if not more. No trees within 30 feet. EVERYONE knows that!

I could go on, but you get the point. Purple martins are not always the most cooperative of guests. We build, we buy, we plan, we modify, and then modify some more and they taunt us. They refuse to comply with our pleading, and land on our housing to sing a little chortle then off they go…and we wait another season. But one thing that I have learned from purple martins is that their drive to nest is all encompassing. They may not decide on your housing, but they are nesting somewhere. Oftentimes where they decide to nest can be the biggest slap in the face.

Some people are surprised when they see some of the places that martins decide to nest. Sometimes where they decide to nest flies in the face of everything we teach.

So I introduce to you, the shepherd’s hook martins. I am not claiming exclusivity to this idea. Only a platform to showcase how some positive  factors can over-ride other negative factors. OR just maybe, how a tradition shift occurs.


SO, martins can be had in any number of ways. The best way still is to follow PMCA recomendtions (as we do at lest you waste another season. Getting a purple martin to nest in something so against what is normal for them, is still very much a crap shoot. So save your time and follow the rules!


The purple martins showcased in these pictures were housed in gourds hanging off an assortment of shepherds hooks about 4-5 feet above the ground. Some had predator guards, some did not. All successfully fledged young except for 2 nests in the summer of 2012 which was exceptionally hard here due to drought conditions. The shepherd hook gourds were up from 2009 till 2013. We hung as little as 1 gourd (the first year) and as many as 6 gourds off these hooks. All were hung within 15 to 30 feet of a colony of 2 gourd racks and a MPP pole with 2 aluminum houses (a total of between 24 in 2009, to 44 compartments in 2013)



April 30th, 2014

Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees and we forget the roots of the modern day conveniences that we only recently have been able to enjoy. Ask a teenagers how they would feel without their cell phones and the endless texting and tweeting that would not exist if they had to depend on the phones of just 2 generations ago. Like comparing today’s instant access to news and information to our ancestors scribbling on cave walls, you can trace the evolution of the modern day conveniences of purple martin gourds and the SuperGourd by Bird Abodes.

It wasn’t that long ago when offering gourds was a downright intensive labor of love. Complete with environmental and health hazards thrown in as a free perk. Before the 1970′s, if you wanted to hang a couple of gourds, you had to go the au naturale route. Make sure you wear a mask, lest you breathe in the hazardous gourd dust as you drill holes in them. Make sure you wear gloves so you don’t get any of the poisonous herbicides on your skin as you soak them in the toxic fungicide-Copper Sulfate. Make sure you make arrangements to dispose of the Copper Sulfate, unless you want to be single-handedly responsible for killing a bunch of the plants and fish in the body of water where it will drain into. Make sure you properly glue, screw, and drill all sorts of entrances, canopies, entrance caps, and drain holes.  And that’s just for starters. Don’t believe me? Read this article posted by

Then in the 1970′s plastic gourds started making their their way into the market. But just because these gourds were easier to offer didn’t mean they were better. In reality they were just making it possible for more people to offer substandard and downright bad housing for our beloved purple martins. No access ports, hard to clean, hot and translucent, lightweight and cheap, these gourds traded the best properties of gourds out for the gimmick of being easy to buy and inexpensive.

Fast forward to 1987 and introduce the Grand Poobah of the modern day purple martin movement, Jamie Hill, III. If you have never heard of him, it is probably because you came upon this article accidentally while doing a Google search for Purple Doc Martin shoes. But to purple martin folks (the birds, not the shoes), Jamie Hill was the man who founded the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

Jamie Hill saw the plastic gourds that were on the market and wanted to marry the best qualities of gourds with the actual qualities that matter. The conveniences and ease of a plastic gourd are nice for us humans but include the things that really matter to a purple martin. Jamie wanted to make purple martin gourds safer for martins so that we could be better landlords and so the martins could in turn lay more eggs, raise more young, and fledge more babies. So in 1996, Mr. Hill introduced the SuperGourd. One piece blow molded means no seams that leak or loosen. Big interior dimensions mean more eggs and babies. Large access port means easy inspections, nest checks, and clean outs and the easy grip Heavy Duty caps will last. A ribbed perch-able canopy means protection from rain and easy place to perch. A variety of openings including round, bluebird, and SREH crescent entrances to choose from. There is even an insert trap that is available that was designed specifically for the SuperGourd to make trapping of invasive pets birds like English House Sparrows and European Starlings Super easy. Then inject some high quality recycled plastic with UV inhibitors means the gourd or access cap won’t become translucent over time. All of these factors and more, add up to a very nice gourd.

All New SuperGourdFast forward again to 2014 and Jamie Hill is at it again. Now the SuperGourds have an all new SuperGourd Porch available for purchase. The porches are made specifically for the SuperGourd and are sturdy, attractive, and add to the overall attractiveness of these gourds to purple martins. Now when you purchase your SuperGourds from, you can add on the new porches to your order. These porches work with any of the entrances and fit both inside and outside the gourd giving a nice convenient landing spot for your birds outside and a safe place underneath for the martins to make their nest. Perfect on SuperGourds with crescent SREH entrances, these porches install flush to the entrance, unlike some other porched housing. The Purple Martin Conservation Association recommends that SREH entrances are placed as near to flush as possible to increase the effectiveness of Starling Resistant Entrances. The rounded porches give the SuperGourds a beautiful outline, keeping with the organic shape of the gourd. It is good to see that though the SuperGourd was one of the earliest of the modern era gourds, they are still leading in innovation.

Most of the modern purple martin gourds that are sold on the market today have taken cues directly from Jamie Hill, even so far as using the same cap, mold maker, and blow molder to make their gourds. It is important to give credit where credit is due and today we here at give a great big “thank you” to Jamie Hill. His contribution of the SuperGourd has improved conditions for purple martins all over North America.  18 years after their introduction most, if not all of the original SuperGourds, are still in use. With over 250,000 happy purple martin families calling the SuperGourd home, we are sure many more will come to love SuperGourds even more with the addition of these new porches.


(c) 2014 PurpleMartins-R-Us, llc/ S.Halpin

Our Humble Beginnings

March 18th, 2014

Sometimes on days such as today, I look back and am amazed at how our colony here has grown. From our small meager start with a cheap plastic house, to our 44 compartments of state of the art purple martin heaven, our colony has far exceeded any dreams we could have had for it.

But just how did our colony start? Our first attempt to put up a house was very late. I believe it was in late March of 2007 when we put it up. In April, being very late for our birds (considering that our birds arrive in January), we did succeed in attracting a SY female. She raised 2 martins to fledging. Her ASY mate and all the other martins had long since left. But she faithfully watched over her brood of 2 and I was lucky enough to watch them sitting side by side in a tall tree as she brought them dragonflies to eat. She fed them most of the morning and afternoon in that tree and in the late afternoon she coaxed them off that branch and flew southward and never came back. The house was quiet.

A lot has changed since then. And I am sure she came back the next year. Actually I am relatively sure she came back for 3 years after that. But each year she returned she saw better housing, better planning…and an earlier start.