How can you be a responsible Purple Martin landlord?
Remove nesting material each year from houses and gourds in order to protect and preserve the nesting compartment. Old, moist bedding with acid bird droppings and insect remains tend to deteriorate houses and gourds faster. Cleaning with a bleach solution and treating compartments prior to nesting can reduce the threat of parasites. Several products are now available which are safe to use.
Provide nesting material
Martins prefer to nest in compartments with material already in place. Without needing to spend energy for about a week building a nest they can nest sooner and channel their energy into producing more eggs and tending the young. Since old nesting material should be removed at the end of the nesting season, new material should be placed in compartments shortly before the Martins return. It is best to use material the birds naturally use in each area of the country. In Southwest Florida, martins use a lot of coconut fiber taken from the trunks of palm trees, pine needles, and dried palm fronds for nesting and landlords tend to use those also. Whatever is used should be non-toxic and not absorb water.
Perform regular nest checks
Landlords who lower their housing and check each of their compartments at least once a week during the nesting season are able to find and resolve problems. They have more successful colonies and fledge more young. Begin when the birds are completing their nests and record the progress in each compartment. With regular inspections and accurate records, landlords can predict hatching and fledging dates, detect evidence and act against predators, and do their best to maintain the general well-being of the colony.
Be predator wary
Installing predator guards is just the beginning. Be observant. Check the ground for owl pellets, feathers, or broken eggs. During nest checks inspect all empty compartments for critters such as snakes or tree frogs. Other common trouble makers include raptors like owls & hawks. Refer to records to be aware of missing eggs or young birds.
Keep competitors out
Be aware of Starlings and Sparrows in the area. Both are non-native, non-protected species. They are NOT good neighbors and should not be allowed to nest in Purple Martin housing. Install proper excluder entry doors to keep them out of compartments. Remove their nests if they should get in.
For the safety of the birds and the landlord, check all working parts of housing and poles – particularly ropes, pulleys, & winches during the off-season and make any repairs or upgrades before the Martins arrive.