Archive for the ‘S&S’ 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!

Starlings and Fledgelings and Jumpers, OH MY!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

So much news and I have really been negligent on the blog. My apologies but between helping customers of, 2 kids, a busy colony and a landscape project…I have been swamped!

Bad news is the BirdCam has turned out to be a huge disappointment this year. I invested more money and hired a “computer geek” who, in MY opinion, swindled me out of my money. I was very specific with what I wanted my streaming camera to be and instead ended up with what he felt was good enough. But enough said about that…

My landscaping project turned out pretty well. Nothing huge. Just redoing the front of the house which had become a snake haven. I moved 3 cubic yards of large egg rock (that’s about 3 tons worth) over the course of a week and achieved my goal of having the front be presentable. Many thanks to Lawrence over at who gave me some tips and ideas for the fountain. It is a disappearing fountain that recycles water as it flows down a stepped “mini river” of sorts. Though his is much more natural looking and longer, mine was created with basically stuff I already had laying around. A preformed pond liner, pond pump and hardware cloth. I only added the spitter from Lowes and the preformed stepped river portion was on CLEARANCE for $14! My husband admits it came out better than he thought it would. Of course, he is used to my projects…some of which turn out badly.

The purple martins are fledging all over the place. I think there are more youngsters flying about today than babies in nests. 2 skinny jumpers were found on the ground from a nest that I am sure the parents abandoned. Perhaps an Owl or Hawk got them. But I placed them in a low hanging gourd with youngsters in it. I could not lower the rack as so many nests were over 20 days old. For those that do not know, once nests are over 20 days old, babies can jump out during nest checks from fright. The PMCA recommends that you block off entrances to those nests that are over 2o days old…some say 22 days old by attaching a rag to a string then pulling out the rag once the housing is back up for a few minutes. Just wait 2 or 3 minutes for them to settle down and then pull the rag out. But since so most of my nest were over 20-24 days old, it just wasn’t possible. So I saw them begging and no one feeding them and watched helplessly until they jumped and gave them some Gatorade before sticking them in the new gourds. Remember, you can read about common purple martin emergencies and what to do at our store site

Starlings took up residence in a flicker box located way to close to my house for the woodpeckers to be interested. But a pair of starlings did. Since no one else wanted the nest box, I let them nest and waited until they were incubating to catch them. I learned something very interesting about them. Once they decided to nest, I was hard pressed to see them both at the same time. They were very quiet, almost as if they knew that I was on to them. I did get a great pic of a starling nest. Very different from a martin nest. Of course, I could have pierced the eggs with a small sharp pin, addled (shook them VIGOROUSLY), or coated them with a thin coat of mineral oil, and let momma starling waste half a season.

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 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!

Another Case of Wing Entrapment

Monday, April 18th, 2011

It seems like this is a yearly event. (knock on wood) I hope only once a year is my lot in my landlord life. It could be more, I suppose. It definitely could be worse. So far no lasting effects, other than some worry on my part and some moments of terror on the part of the martins that I had to extricate from the sreh gourds. 2 ASY males, one stuck in the sreh and one within the nest. Gratefully and gently freed. They are so amazing to look at up close.

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 wonder if vented rooms vs non vented rooms have a better survival time and if the deaths are strictly due to the heat build up in a nest with a plugged entrance? Or is it a dehydration issue? 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.

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.

Tucking In My Martins

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

My favorite thing to do is tuck in my martins. I leave the children inside with my spouse, take a coffee (or some other beverage) out on the back patio, and enjoy the show. My purple martins, 35+ at this point, weave an invisible quilt of flight and song. An unseen drain swirls them in closer and tighter until they all swoosh into their gourds in a mad dash to escape one darkness for another.

Today a young male Starling made a home of the repeating nestbox trap. One starling down…200 Million to go.

Last night an American Kestral gave a half hearted attempt at what I can only assume was harassment. I could almost hear the martin laugh. Though speedy his attempt was awkward and clumsy and he flew off in disgust with himself. Maybe his eyes were bigger than his stomach as I am not sure what he would have done if he had caught a martin.

SREH Wing Entrapment of Purple Martins

Monday, March 1st, 2010

So not even a week ago I wrote a blog entry entitled “Switching Martins From Round Entrances to SREH” and in that post I mentioned Wing Entrapment. Well this morning I look out my window and lo and behold a case of entrapment staring me in the face.

For those not familiar with wing entrapment, it is a phenomenon that is increasing due to the advent of SREH. It is basically when a martin gets stuck in the SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Hole). Without removal the bird will ultimately die as will any birds that are stuck within the compartment itself. Though I am still a strong believer of SREH, entrapment highlights the need to be an active participant in the conservation of purple martins.

A customer asked me only today if getting Starling Resistant entrances were worth it with the threat of entrapment. My response was that the cases of death by starling would always be more common place. That the threats to adult martins, nestlings and eggs is much greater than the risk of entrapment. Never mind the fact that a martin house devoid of martins and producing starlings makes life difficult for all other cavity nesting birds. So in starling prone areas, SREH are a vital component that requires vigilance on the part of the martin landlord.package of weatherstripping foam

A case in point of why doing walk unders is so important. The ASY female would have surely died, had I not freed her. Oddly enough, no other martins were in the gourd. The worrisome part of this case of entrapment is that it occurred on a tunneled entrance that I had placed a wing entrapment protector made of 1/2″ insulation foam weather stripping. Placed above the Conley II entrance, the strip of stiff foam is supposed to (in theory) extend the distance from the foam tapeopening making it less likely for the bird to be able to lean against the opening and have a wing pop through and be stuck.

The PMCA has recently began selling (at cost) a plastic wing entrapment protector as part of a study to determine its effectiveness. The idea for those protectors came from the discussions on several purple martin forums. These discussions brought about the foam weatherstripping modification.

Here are the details of this case of wing entrapment.

1. SY male martins present this AM

2.Troyer horizontal gourd

3.Conley II entrance non-traction stripped tunnel (original)

4.Partially modified troyer neck (NOT cut all the way around as now recommended) though in looking at the interior of the martin she was stuck in such a way that this does not appear to be an issue. It almost seems that her body became stuck due to some conflict that was occurring on the outside of the gourd rather than a fight on the inside as what is usually seen.

wing entrapment tunnel interiorIt is important to note that entrapment can happen on any type of gourd or house that has SREH. My previous cases of entrapment have been on a troyer and on a S&K gourd. One with a Conley II entrance and one with a clinger entrance.

In the worst case scenario of delayed discovery of wing entrapment, the results can be devastating with the deaths of 1 or more birds. But through vigilance and monitoring of your site the benefits of using SREH entrances far outweigh the risks involved.  Though in satellite colonies or purple martin colonies that are not monitored daily, wing entrapment may be cause for more concern. Other techniques to control starling populations, a phone number to call if trouble is detected should perhaps be posted or even more frequent monitoring in the time frame where SY martins return, should be employed.


Switching Martins from Round Entrances to SREH

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

At times I believe that with the ever increasing pressure from European Starlings, it would be just a matter of time before purple martins become extinct! Luckily for us landlords Charles McEwen of Mocton, NB developed the SREH or Starling Resistant Entrance Hole. This development has single-handedly helped save more purple martins than we will ever be able to count.

The starling resistant Crescent entrance, which has given rise to nearly a dozen variations has virtually neutralized the threat of the invasive European Starling to our native songbirds. Many folks deal with the pressure and destruction caused by starlings entering their round holed colonies, rather than converting their entrances to SREH because of the apparent difficulties one can have in teaching your martins how to navigate such an odd looking entrance. Looking at the entrances it is no wonder, the shapes are downright strange and seem to defy logic. How would a bird get in? But trust me! They do!

types of srehAs I stated before there are many types of starling resistant entrance holes, some of which are protected by patents and copyrights. Some have even touted Starling Proof entrances, though in my opinion, it is a bit premature to stake that claim. You can read more about “starling proof” entrances HERE. There are also many opinions as to which SREH is better or more effective than the next. I have only tried a handful myself and even with SREH I continue to trap non native starlings at my colony.

Most of my 30+ compartments are Conley II (also called “The Clubhouse” entrance) and crescents. I have a gourd with a modified Excluder and one with an Excluder II also. ALL fill with martins.
I must admit that at first I had some issues switching them over but eventually they got the hang of it.
If your colony is established, that is they are bonded to your site and have nested there before, they should figure it out pretty quickly. You may witness the SREH Shimmy (as I call it) which is often mistaken for the martins “not fitting” into the new entrance hole. Do not fret, these designs have been designed and tested with many thousands of martins and they will fit in it. The martin will stick his head in and make it appear as if he can not fit. He may even appear to squeeze and push, to no avail. Trust me though, if the entrance is either bought from a reputable source such as or or comes pre manufactured, the sizes are carefully measured and the bird can fit. Be patient. Many landlords suggest keeping a few round holed compartments available.  The rounds will fill first but the desire to stay together at the colony will get the other martins to eventually get in the starling resistant entrances. Of course you must intensify the battle against any starlings, as they will now be focused on the few round nests that remain. This will buy some time for the martins to become familiar with the change and master the entrances.  It just will take time. A couple of days at the most.

Consider building  a repeating nestbox trap or purchase one pre built. Also called a S&S trap these can trap repeatedly without resetting. Since the trapped bird is released into a holding cage, the trapped birds can tolerate it much better than a conventional nest trap. That is to say, if you leave the house for a few hours and a native bird is trapped in the repeater, they will be none the worse for wear when you get home. In a regular nest trap, the bird won’t do well at all. I would never recommend leaving a regular nest trap set while not actually watching it. Stuck in a closed off gourd or house with little air flow-It gets hot quick. Also you can stick the repeating nest box trap in a spot that is less desirable to the martins and lure the starlings away from your martin housing.

If your colony is new, that is you are still trying to attract your first pairs of purple martins, then converting them can be a bit trickier. Hopefully the martins that come to investigate your site come from a colony that uses SREH. If they are familiar with them they will enter the compartments like quicksilver. If they are not familiar with SREH then leaving from a couple of entrances  to half the compartments with round entrances will work. Monitoring your housing and keeping starlings out becomes even more important to these new colony sites and trapping and neutralizing is key. Local Starling population control can reduce the pressure form these invasive birds and increase the possibility of attracting and keeping your first pairs of martins.

Now for the downside. Though SREH are a wonderful tool that has helped martins to flourish in otherwise starling infested areas, their are risks. Though not common, Wing Entrapment can kill if not caught. I have encountered this problem a couple of times at our colony and you can read about Wing Entrapment HERE. When using SREH it is recommended that you look at your colony twice a day to observe for any martins that may be entrapped. Entrapment usually happens at the peak of martin breeding season when martins will often have territorial fights within the nest. The birds back up to the entrance while fighting and get their wings stuck. Lowering your housing and gently removing the stuck bird will not only save the life of the martin that is stuck but the 1 or 2 other martins that (I guarantee) are in the gourd with it.

Unfortunately there are no sparrow resistant entrances, when it comes to Purple Martin houses. So getting a good trap either nestbox or a baited trap becomes essential.

REMEMBER, when using traps of any type, monitoring is essential to preventing harm to native birds that may be inadvertently trapped. Native birds may not “learn” that it is a trap and are often caught repeatedly. If you are unable to monitor your traps they should be disabled while you are away.

Credits and copyrights are/may be in effect for SREH designs

Dually entrance design by Ken Landry

ACE entrance designed by R. C. Moser and developed by Bob Flam.

Excluder entrance designs by Duke Snyder

Conley entrance designs* by Willie Conley


Pesky Starling

Monday, February 15th, 2010

After capturing the female in the old faithful S&S Repeating Nest box trap, the male continues to come by. Usually in silence, he lurks on the gourd rack watching the goings on around him. I have left him alone for now. For no other reason except that he poses no real threat AND I am a horrible shot.

The S&S awaits him and I am sure that when he finds a girl to bring by she may take a gander at the trap herself. I do have my old plastic martin house attached to the side of my home that I welcome any starlings to nest in. Since the house will not attract anything other than the starlings, in my neighborhood, it should do nicely as a trap.

The S&S repeater trap plans are available as is the ASSEMBLED trap also. The assembled trap is already put together and only requires minimal assembly of the pole.

I still have not noticed any SY martins and due to some odd weather the martins seem to be out feeding a lot. Between record low cold fronts and rain storms with gusting winds upward of 30 mph, the martins seem to be conserving their energy.  Remember that you can watch the exterior of the colony on our live streaming webcam at

Purple Martin Colony Cam is Up

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Yes, last week the purple martin colony cam went online. What is the colony cam? Well, it is the exterior view of a portion of my purple martin colony. Located in Sunny South Florida (Loxahatchee, which is western palm beach county, to be exact) the colony consists of 2 gourd racks and 1 multipurpose pole. The camera is currently on the “numbered” purple martin gourd rack.

As of right now there is capacity for 33 pairs but a few more gourds will go up bumping up this years capacity to about 36 pairs of purple martins. Last year 131 purple martins fledged from this site and we hope to do as well this year.

As of this morning there appears to be 2 pairs of martins. More should be showing up soon. Since migration appeared to have been delayed due to weather, the time between the ASY or adult purple martins arrival and the SY or sub adults arrival may be shorter than usual. So be prepared and get your houses up. If you live in the northern portion of the purple martins range and don’t expect them till later in the year, feel free to watch them on the web cam which should be running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…barring any technical issues which sometimes arise.

A few European Starlings keep making early morning visits but will not enter my nest trap. The first day they arrived the starlings tried to enter the trap which was stuck and since then they seem in no hurry to enter it again. Of course, it is working now but as my luck would have it, they wont even look at it again. Instead the starlings will sit and watch from atop the gourd rack and do that drawn out backwards wolf whistle that makes my hair stand up. Like fingernails on a chalk board. Normally the repeating nestbox trap also known as a S&S trap would do the trick and trap them like a charm but alas, you can lead a horse to water…  For easy to build step by step plans on how to make your own S&S trap click on the photo above or this link:  Repeating Sparrow and Starling nestbox trap plans. But in essence the trap has a clever teeter totter type mechanism that automatically resets itself after depositing the trapped bird (UNHARMED) in a cage below. A great tool for those that manage bluebird trails as well. Our native birds need all the help they can get!

New Product: One Fits All Insert Trap!

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Martin house Insert Trap that Allows for a SREH (Starling Resistant Opening)!

Much like the famous Universal Sparrow Trap (UST) the One Fits All is even better. You can catch Sparrows AND Starlings where in the past you may not have been able to catch starlings.

You may ask, “Well. why not?”
The UST traps and others come with round holes meaning that if your colony consisted of SREH you would have to either permanently or temporarily convert a SREH to a round in order to use any of the traps. That may not be a big deal. but when time is of the essence and the pesky sparrows (who can easily thwart your SREH) start nest building you want to catch quickly.

Now you can pop in the One Fits All and catch just as humanly as the UST and other popular traps but do not need to change openings. In those that have aluminum houses, changing out an entrance SREH to a round can be quite a job. Unless you bought a spare round entranced door or front panel. And tripping at around 10 or so grams, the trap is sensitive enough to catch any hosp that enters. (a typical house sparrow weighs about 28 grams)

Is it named One Fits All because it fits any door (SREH or round) or because it fits any trap?
The manufacturer tells us that it fits all the houses he tested it in and with measurements of 4 1/4 inches high, 5 inches wide, 4 3/4 inches deep, it just may. The small size is advantageous since the nest, eggs and young of the offending sparrow or starling can be pushed to the back of the trap and still be seen through the hardware cloth back of the trap. Larger traps require that you remove the nesting material which just could send the sparrows into a rage before you have the chance to trap.
The top of the crescent shaped opening is 2 3/4 inches from the floor of the trap and the crescent shaped opening is generously sized at 3 3/4 inches wide to accommodate any entrance types.

We are excited to have this new trap to our lineup available at and look forward to hearing about your success with it.