Does Offering Different Types Of Cavities Help Attract Martins ?

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Bird Brain
Posts: 170
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:22 am
Location: Highland Village, TX
Martin Colony History: 2017-nothing
2018-1 visitor
2020-the most visitors/activity by far after making many site improvements. Unsuccessful SY Male visited for 2 weeks.

Hi. I'm already thinking about next year. Next year will be my 4'th year trying, which is a good thing in my opinion. Time served. Does offering different types of cavities help attract martins ? Currently, I offer Troyer verticals and Troyer horizontals. I'm thinking about integrating a few Chirpy Nests and Heritage Farms Quad Pods to the mix. Does offering more diversity of cavities help attract that first pair ? Also, one more question. I currently offer 12 cavities. Would increasing the number of cavities offered help attract that first pair ? I have the ability to offer as many as 40 cavities. Just not sure if it would help. Money is not an issue. I just want to attract that first pair.
Why do Americans only flee blue states? Why don't Americans flee red states?
Hanover Bill
Posts: 623
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

I would say yes. Especially when trying to attract your first nesters. In my own case I started with a plastic house, added gourds, Troyer horizontal and verticle, and finally found success when I also put up a T-14. The T-14 seemed to put me over the finish line. Of course all of this took 5 years to attract those first two nesting pairs. Strange thing is that even though the T-14 seemed to be the difference maker, my Martins now prefer the gourds.

For whatever reason a Martin picks a certain type of housing, I guess it stands to reason that the more options we present them with the better chances that they will be attracted to one type or the other.

As for the question is more better, just keep in mind that every empty compartment is an invitation to HOSP and Starlings. You will probably be better off adding housing as you go, but starting out with a reasonable number of compartments.

Best wishes for next season.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: 2006 - SY pair, unsuccessful nest attempt, 3 houses = 52 cavities

2010 - ASYM + SYF pair - male disappeared after storm, female fledged all 4 young.

2015 - Lone SYM stayed month of June...added 8 gourds = 60 cavities

2016 - 1 nesting pair (ASYM + SYF) 2/3 eggs hatched 2 young fledged.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched, 16 fledged, 16 banded - 2 banded SY returned in 2018 (12.5%), added housing: 11 houses w/gourds, 4 gourd poles = 376 cavities

2018 - 10 nesting pairs, 46/52 eggs hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded - 3 banded SY returned in 2019 (10.3%)

2019 - 32 nesting pairs, 145/160 eggs hatched, 139 fledged - 87 banded - 12 banded SY returned in 2020 (13.8%).

2020 - 35 nesting pairs, 180/199 eggs hatched, 178 fledged - 150 banded.

Before you add any additional housing to your site, make sure you have open flyways to your existing housing, with any existing trees in the area as far from your housing as possible. As these variables will likely have more of an effect on birds selecting your site to nest than what type of housing you provide.

If you're looking to add different options for martins to choose, I'd suggest adding a multi-unit house to your site instead of more single unit nesting options. When I started my colony site I had a situation opposite of your set up as I only had multi unit houses and no gourds to begin with. I had a plastic house and two wooden houses up for a decade with little interest from martins. I added gourds to my housing and the very next day I had that stayed a month and came back the next year with a mate to successfully nest. They nested in one of the wood houses I offered. Interestingly, I offer about 3 wood house cavities for every 1 plastic gourd cavity (Super gourds and big bo gourds) and have only had one pair nest in a gourd in the 4 years I've had an active colony. I have all round holes at my colony. Not sure if adding gourds made my colony more attractive to martins or not, but I sure don't think it hurt anything.

Good luck next year...year 5 typically seems to be a good year for many beginning colonies.
Black Jack
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon May 06, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: NC

Where I am from in North Carolina. Open farm fields with house as back drop and home grown gourds painted white seems to be the ticket.
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 1:03 pm
Location: VA/Abingdon

I believe offering variety would help in attracting that first pair but make sure the site meets the recommended criteria. Open flyways mainly and distance from trees.
If you haven’t tried the dawn song I would highly recommend trying it, especially if you haven’t seen martins investigating.
Number of cavities offered isn’t as important as site as far as getting that first pair. Once you get martins you can grow the colony to a size you are able to manage. I of course would encourage you to try ChirpyNest along with your other offerings then you and the martins can decide what you like best to expand. Last year I replaced all my gourds with ChirpyNest and am not going back.
Posts: 3097
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

When you say attract more martins are you talking about drawing in lookers or actually getting a pair to stay, I assume the latter. If you have been trying for 4 years and see little to no lookers you are either in an area with a low populations or your property is not appealing. In that case additional housing might not make a difference. If you are getting lots of visitors just none that stay then more options might be the ticket. You never know what will trigger that first pair to like your place more then all others.
2021.................HOSP count-8
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:26 pm
Location: Verona / VA
Martin Colony History: >>>>>>>>
2020 > 20 pairs, 39 Fledged
2019 > 20 pairs, 92 Fledged
2018 > 15 pairs, 39 Fledged
2017 > 12 pairs, 43 Fledged
2016 > 9 nesting pairs, 25 Fledged
2015 > 5 nesting pairs, 23 Fledged
2014 > 4 nesting pairs, 15 Fledged
2013 > 4 nesting pairs, 15 fledged
2012 > Several Lookers

From my own experience this is what I had to do. I had a beautiful 16 compartment house my brother-in law made me. It was up for 2 years and martins would just fly around it but nothing else. People say and I agree with them that martins don't like new. They like for your houses to look used and old. So I took mud and rubbed all over the house and did what I could to make it look used, rough up there landing (porch). Still no takers.

Long story short.
I drove around and looked to see who had martins and what type of housing they had. Closest one was about 5 miles and they had super gourds with round holes.
I came home and ordered a gourd rack with some super gourds most with crescent openings but 2 with round holes and had it installed 1 week after ordering. 3 days after installed I had several martins sitting and fighting over the new set up. Go figure!!

Looking back what I should have done was to installed/offered many different cavities.
Now I have a 16 compartment house (Chuck Abare), Super gourds, Natural gourds, Bo11P, and Troyer horizontal gourd.
I think martins like to chose cavities that they were born in and who knows what that would be.

I do think martins like to be close to people, my set up is about 40 feet from my house. Seem the martin's watch me as much as I watch them!

Keep trying and please do keep us informed.

Low~n~Slow that's sssSmoking
Posts: 518
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:44 pm
Location: Iowa/Pleasant Hill
Martin Colony History: Started trying in 2012 and still trying

On a similar note. There was a particular interesting behavior I noted at my site this past year. I decided to place a couple decoys with their heads in the tunnel of a couple compartments with their tails sticking out of the openings a couple inches. This caught the attention of one SY male. I observed him several times straddling these decoys trying to look inside the compartment to see what was going on in there. I will definitely use this tactic again next year.
2012 late start
2013 nothing yet, lots a lookers
2014 Bust again
2015 Bust again
2016 Bust again
2017 Bust again
2018 April 14 a group joined me, but moved on after a week
2019 Had SY male seriously check me out but didn't stay
Posts: 1026
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- didnt know anything about martins, put up an all wrong house in 2016 and had two come by and inspect all the cavities. Left soon after not to return. Learned what i could on PMCA made adjustments and next year was successful.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
Home colony: mix natural gourds, enlarged compartment house. All SREH.
Satelite colony: Oso Bay Preserve: 12 gourds: PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mino castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
PMCA member

Now that is interesting. Have a neighbor putting up a system, and have a system out at a preserve that drew a few visitors, no luck...trio mini castle and a PMCA 12 gourd system. will do that. Have a few extra decoys. Thank you!
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

My 2 cents....

Location and openness of the site trumps everything. If you’re good on that, then put up the type of housing that people in your area use who host Martins. If you’re good on that, then changing what you use is pointless. You’re offering good gourds. You’re asking about two different house types that while technically are houses, look and function like gourds. They’re single compartments. IMO if houses are successful in your area, you still aren’t going to put up house looking houses. If Trio castles are successful put up a Trip castle. If T-14’s are all the rage, put up a T-14.

If you’ve got an oak tree 30’ from your site, don’t waste your money
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 162 plastic gourds with tunnels, all with Conley II entrances with the Lewis modification. I have 24 Supergourds and the rest are Troyer Horizontals.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1912
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit and join.

Everyone responding covered all the bases, so I won't reinvent the wheel. Variety is good in housing. Open fly zones, away from tall trees and within 100 feet of your house, add some decoys, smear a little mud on the exterior of the entrance, pre-nest with soft white pine needles, play the daytime chatter and dawnsong CDs may all assist you in building a new colony. Hope that your area is not a dead zone of martins.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
G Saner
Posts: 140
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:37 pm
Location: TX/Kerrville
Martin Colony History: Fort Worth, TX (1967-1976), The Colony, TX (1981-1985), Carrollton, TX (1986-2013), Kerrville, TX (2015-present).

Two SuperGourd poles (12 gourds on each) at River Point Assisted Living Center.


As others have stated, a variety of housing is a plus but a good open site is by far the most important. If your site is mediocre, you might consider a satellite colony. That is what I had to do as martins would not nest in my backyard. Look for golf courses, schools, parks and assisted living centers in your area. My colony is at an assisted living center and the martins and the center residents are very happy.
G Saner
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