Archive for the ‘housing maintenance’ Category

Starlings Breaching SREH

Sunday, 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!

Season Having Ominous Start

Monday, February 24th, 2014

I hope this is simply a case of what my husband refers to as my “Glass Half Empty” tendencies BUT yesterdays joy about seeing the martins bringing in nest materiel has been dampened. While sitting at my desk a loud bang at the window got my up to investigate. Having heard bird strikes before, I looked down low outside the window. There, with wings sprawled open was a gorgeous ASY female with her eyes open. I ran out just in time to scare off a pair of hawks from withing feet of the martin. I suspect a young (fledgling) hawk was being instructed in his hunting technique and the martin hit the window in a desperate attempt to flee. After scaring them off, with the martin colony in hot pursuit, I turned to the female. She got up and flew (a tad bit unsteadily) off. I wish I could have caught her, to give her an hour of quiet and safe recovery. She obviously wanted none of my coddling.

Last year the end of our season was plagued by Coopers hawk attacks. Often 2,3, or 4 times a day, we saw Coopers hanging out in the trees at the edges of our property, hanging off gourds trying to flush out birds and nestlings, fly by attacks, and flying off with both adults and fledgling birds. I told myself that this season I would erect some sort of hardware cloth cage to protect the housing…but alas…that didn’t happen.

Though this photo shows what I wanted to do, my gourd racks have much smaller and lightweight brackets that would not support the weight of the wire.  Hmmm, it’s making me think!

 

(C)  2014 S.Halpin

Motivation to Clean Those Purple Martin Houses

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

OK, I know how it is. After the first few years, after your martins leave, you kinda loose the excitement of cleaning out those dirty gourds and house compartments. I guess it is one of the less glamorous aspects of playing landlord to a couple hundred or so odd birds every year. Even though I know better, I find myself again putting off the dirty task. Heck, my birds will be headed back in only a couple of months! What is the big deal, you ask. I know for a fact that there are plenty of folk, good and decent folk, that don’t touch their purple martin houses or gourds from one year to the next. You may be one of those people. You watch from the sidelines and enjoy the view in the spring and come fall you walk away. Nothing wrong with that…unless you want to be taken over!!! Here is my lesson learned from last summer and the reason why I WILL finally get to my gourds this week. I promise!  The bees simply loved the gourds and made quite a nice hive. The paper wasps like to make a home in there also. The solution is simple. After cleaning out the gourds I just cover each gourd with a tall kitchen garbage bag and they sit clean and protected from all sorts of non-purple martin wildlife. You can take all the houses down if you have the garage space or you can plug the entrances with door shields or plugs. Beware, if you use door plugs, look for air vents that you may also have to plug that are large enough to let in creepy crawlies or stinging friends. And if I don’t…well, I deserve what I get!

Where To Not Place A Purple Martin House

Friday, June 28th, 2013

There are plenty of places to buy a purple Martin house. Now, with the explosion of the virtual world, one can decide to get a martin house and be shopping within minutes.
Unfortunately, most places that will sell you a Martin house have really no idea where they should be placed. Even buying a purple martin house in person won’t guarantee that the sales person knows anything about them. Thankfully we are not one of those places! We always have a Martin specialist ready to answer our customers questions.
Recently, while touring a nature preserve, we came upon several purple Martin houses. Terribly placed, I brought the bad placement of the houses to their attention and was told that the trees had encroached over several years. Also I was told they were aware of the poor placement and that they used the houses as an educational tool. That didn’t really make much sense to me, as the best tool would be a house full of martins. I doubt the houses are used as a, “Here is what you shouldn’t do…”
For those that have questions on where to place a Martin house, check out our articles at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com for full details. In a nut shell, a minimum of 40 feet from any trees is needed. I further instruct people that depending on the height of the tree, if you have (for example) a 60 foot tree, the housing should be at least that far from the said tree.

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Purple Martins Coming Home in Droves!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

For some reason the purple martins this year to be a lot more vocal than usual. In past years they seem to trickle in a few here and there and then they keep a low profile. Staying away feeding for much of the day. Not wanting to draw too much attention while their numbers are low. This year seems a bit different. Maybe its because our colony here in Loxahatchee, Florida is now firmly established as we enter our 6th year, or perhaps its just the size of the colony, now offering over 45 compartments. It just seems like the birds are hanging around, chortling, sitting in the entrances of their gourds staking their claim. They were a few days late this year but they seem to have arrived in greater numbers. I counted 15 in the air but I am sure there were some in the gourds.

I have a few final finishing touches to complete to the colony site. Putting up 2″ x 4″ hardware cloth on the 2 aluminum martin houses on the MPP, is on the to-do list. Also changing out some access caps with the new Heavy Duty caps that won’t stretch and pop off. Also the BirdCam is being worked on and though it is proving to be a bit more troublesome this year, I am sure the live streaming cam will be up soon.

The MPP is a Multi Purpose Pole that lets you hang 2 houses on 1 pole and plus hang gourds below. The picture shows not only the MPP pole at our colony but the same pole we sell at our site, BTW. I added even more gourds to this set-up by adding a set of Universal Gourd Hanging Arms to the houses themselves. So The pole has 12 house compartments and 8 gourds for the martins to choose from. Though you could in theory add more gourds, I  usually don’t recommend going more than 18 compartments/gourds on any 1pole. Remember, the problem isn’t with the weight, per sea, but with the time it takes to check on so many compartments. Inevitably what happens is that you will end up not being able to check nests because of the variation in nest ages and then you have to worry about scaring babies that are close to fledge age. It can get a little tricky and if you don’t keep up on nest checks, you end up with a cluster! For those that want to offer houses and gourds and have limited backyard space, the MPP is a wonderful thing.

BIG Troyer Purple Martin Gourd Improvements for 2012!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Its official. All Troyer Horizontal and Troyer Vertical gourds (with SREH) are now featuring Anti-Wing Entrapment tunnels AND new thicker Heavy Duty access caps that WON’T pop off! We are proud to offer the Troyer Horizontal Gourds and Troyer Vertical gourds and we use them ourselves in our own colony.

Off course you can buy these HD Caps separately to upgrade and improve your current selection of Troyer Gourds, Supergourds and Excluder gourds. These caps are opaque (so light won’t leak in), are stronger (so they won’t stretch out and pop off), have a ribbed grip and have 4 purple martins embossed on the top to boot!

All Starling Resistant Entrance Holes (SREH) on Troyer Gourds will now feature an anti-entrapment Guard on the interior of the tunnel. We have written several post in the past on wing entrapment and any SREH is susceptible to having this happen. If a bird becomes entrapped and it goes unnoticed the bird and any trapped behind it will perish. These new guards will cut down on this risk. Read more about wing entrapment at PurpleMartins-R-Us and also on this Blog. The guards are molded into the tunnel and are trap compatible with the Troyer-Haskell Tunnel Trap. Perfect for trapping S&S (Invasive House Sparrows & European Starlings) or even can be used to safely capture purple martins for banding/research purposes.

The season is almost upon us and the martins will be arriving in South Florida within the next few weeks. So stay tuned for an increase in posts here on MyPurpleMartinBlog.com and follow us on Twitter for martin Scout reports. (We are “PurpleMartinArt” on Twitter) Also we are working again on our webcam to get it up and running for our birds return.

In closing we wish you all a relaxing Joyful Holiday and a Healthy New Year!

GoodBye Trio MSS-8

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Erva announced recently that is was discontinuing a couple of their aluminum purple martin houses. The MSS-8 is therefore being discontinued. I was never crazy about the MSS-8 as it was just too small and there are several much better values out there. Once you close off alternating compartments, as recommended by the PMCA and PurpleMartins-R-Us.com, you end up with a pretty standard, unimpressive 4 room house. Not giving you much room for a healthy colony, our opinion is a 4 room house is just wrong.

Why do we make such a big deal about enlarging compartments? 6×6 is so 20th century and so unsafe. 6×12 is the way to go. Predators such as Owls can reach in 6 inches with their feet making anything in a small 6×6 compartment an easy dinner. Even Fish Crows and in some cases Blue Jays, have been known to reach in and snatch an easy meal. Also PMCA studies show that purple martins that nest in larger compartments lay more eggs on average, more eggs hatch and more survive to fledge.  A simple feat to enlarge existing compartments. Some housing systems (Like Quad Pods) use a “baffle” to deter Owls. That is simply a plastic barrier, within the compartment that prevents the owl from seeing past it and into the compartment itself. Larger compartments simply increase the distance from entrance to the nest interior. The added length makes it difficult for an Owl to reach in and pull out birds with his talons. Since an Owl can not reach in far enough, houses or gourds that incorporate this added length can help your Martins have some measure of safety.

The other models being discontinues are the DH-12N (a budget version of the popular Trio Mini Castle system) and the winch version of the MSS-12. The Budget DH-12N has always had stiff competition from the Heath 12/6 convertible that has the added features of SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Holes) and compartments that can be easily enlarged to the recommended size, and still has the same hexagon shape that folks find so attractive. Though Heath does make an even cheaper version of the 12/6 convertible, again we do not recommend it due to the safety issues it poses to purple martins.

How to Make Snake Netting to Protect Your Martins

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Krueger Snake NetBluebird trails, Tree swallow boxes and purple martin landlords can all benefit from using snake netting (actually bird netting) on your poles. Snakes can climb up any pole and can even thwart many predator guards. Since no predator guard is 100% fool proof, this quick and easy tip can further decrease the chances of one of these critters from slinking their way up your martin pole.

Bird netting can be found at just about any garden center, home improvement center and is used to keep birds from eating the fruit and veggies in your garden. It can be found in either rolls or flat packaging, and comes in several sizes. We recommend using 2 sizes to protect against larger and smaller snakes. 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch.

European Starling and Bird Netting

The exact way to attach the netting to your poles is unimportant. The netting needs to be held out and away from the pole to both prevent ground predators from using the net to circumvent any other predator guards in place (such as a stovepipe type)  and to make the snake go through the net rather than up and around it. Thus the exact way to layer the netting is  a debatable issue. Many different techniques have been used successfully. The main idea is for it to be above your predator guard to serve as a last “hail Mary” of protection. The netting should be full and hang loosely. Think of a big fluffy skirt under your housing.

The image of the Krueger Snake Net above will take you to the website of Audubon-omaha.org page on how to make your own snake netting.

Why Purple Martin Nestlings Jump

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Our last blog post touched on one of the reasons that purple martin nestlings jump prematurely out of their nests. Referred to as “jumpers” these youngsters are often doomed. The reason why I,  along with many other South Florida landlords, have seen a huge increase in jumpers this year over previous is our record breaking drought conditions. Dry weather means fewer bugs which means purple martins go hungry and nesting success plummets.

The main reasons that martin landlords encounter jumpers are: parasites, extreme heat and hunger. Drought, though not a specific reason, contributes to low food supply and hunger/malnourishment.

Parasites can torment young inside a nest. Though some have argued that nature should be allowed to take its course, the natural instinct of the Purple Martin (Progne subis, subspecies: subis) has been altered by man.  Before Native Americans created the tradition shift in martins, the nest sites of these birds were tree snags and they nested farther apart. You can read about some of the 1/4 tsp in nesthistory of martins at our parent site: PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. They were much like their West coast cousins, Progne subis, subspecies: hesperia and subspecies: arbicola. The shift not only affected were they nested (tree snags vs man made houses) but the way they nested, as it is believed they were not as colonial in their nesting. That is to say, they were spaced further apart and did not nest in such large groups. The groups of martins nesting in close proximity can create parasite population explosion. We counter this by periodic nest changes and/or the use of a small amount of Sevin. We have a great link to a video on how to do a nest change.

Extreme heat in a nest can  be challenging to combat but if not associated with drought or food shortages, are usually easy to remediate. By making sure all vents are open in nest compartments and gourds, air circulation can be increased which can help lower temps. Many artificial gourds have vents that can opened as an option. For example Troyer gourds have built in mini vent canopies that can be drilled open easily. We recommend drilling these open before the season but a cordless drill can open those up quickly. If those are too small or you want larger vents (more air circulation) than a 1/4 inch threaded PVC elbow (90 degrees) is perfect for the job. It can  be easily installed on any gourd or house for that matter to increase air flow. Just drill a hole large enough to thread the end in and caulk in place. Make sure it points down and, if you want, attach a small piece of screen to cover the opening to allow air in but keep wasps out. The picture shows a modified gourd with elbow in place at the highest point which will push out the hot air as it rises. Know that in Northern climates you may have to plug these vents inn the early spring in times of cold weather to keep your martins warm.

Other tricks folks employ:

Using a frozen gel pack placed in an empty compartment. A frozen bottle of water can be used also.

A secondary shade can also help. Placing a sunshade to keep the sun from beating down on the house surface can decrease temps.

-------photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr

Even a misting system has been used by many with success. Just makes sure the water does not go into compartments which would lead to wet nests. Also the misters should only run intermittently in the hottest part of the day so that the water can dry off. The evaporation is what cools. Don’t let the misters run at night or continuously. Our Free Purple Martin House Plans page has instructions available on how to make a mister system for your martin houses.

Hunger is a difficult problem and the debate is heated on how much humans should intervene on this. Though supplemental feeding is often done in early spring cold snaps for returning adults, one should strongly weigh the consequences of feeding purple martin nestlings. Remember that if you have several nests that are doing poorly from lack of food, the parents are suffering also. If there is a long term problem, supplemental feeding is a very short term solution. Read our Emergencies page for first responder care of purple martins.

What other problems lead to Purple Martin nestling Jumpers? Let us know what you think.

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(c)2011 www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Wooden Purple Martin Houses

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Today I received a question and I thought I would share it with you. This DOES NOT pertain to T-14 or Cedar Suites wood houses which use winch / pulley systems and high grade poles designed for the weight of these houses that weigh from 65 to over 100 pounds.

Question

I have a purple martin wooden house that weighs 35lbs. I need to purchase the pole and the plate to set it up. Please recommend the best pole and plate to use to set it up.

ANSWER

It depends on what type of wooden house it is. Is it home made or store
bought? DIY Purple Martin houses that are just flat wood on the bottom, folks mount it to a 4×4 wooden post bought at a lumber yard or home improvement yard. The weight of the house will make it too heavy for a telescopic pole.

Though some websites may say that a telescopic pole can handle up to 25 lbs and sell brackets, galvanized pole or pipe FLANGES can be found in any hardware store. It would be cheaper for you to buy at Lowes, Home Depot or any local hardware store. We do not sell them due to safety concerns. We believe that the weight of the house combined with the height at which martin houses are mounted, substantially increases the risk of pole failure. Though we sell aluminum houses that use galvanized pipe, these
houses have been tested and are proven to support the weight they are designed for.

If you mount to a wooden 4×4 wood post then the base of the house can be screwed onto a post using “L” brackets, also found at any hardware store for under a few dollars.

Unfortunately many wooden purple martin houses sold on the web are poor choices to actually house martins. They are not built with martins in mind. Which is why we do not sell them.


One good tip when buying ANY purple martin house is beware of the term “Easy end of season cleanout” or” top level detaches from the bottom”doing nest checks you want to be able to selectively open compartments. Opening a whole floor at a time is just ASKING for trouble. I mean, where are you supposed to put that portion of the house while you check the other section? On the ground? What about if a nest is close to fledging? The nestlings would be jumping all over the place. Never mind the issues with the posts that these houses are designed to be mounted on. Decorative at best, way to short or impossible to reach at worst.  And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there are no starling resistant options and the compartments are WAY too small.

Any good purple martin house will have large 6×12 (or even 6×11) compartments and the ability to selectively open portions of the house with minimal disruption. Easy to lower and SREH options show that your and your martins comes first.