Purple Martin Obsession

Two Christmases ago, ThrillCam received a Martin house.

You see, his grandparents had a Martin house when he was growing, and he recalls it quite fondly.

So, our youngest punk gave him the Martin “apartment” house, below.


He put up the house last Spring, but, sadly, no Purple Martins took to the new home.

This is a Purple Martin, by the way:

IMG_9532 PMObsessioncopy

(That is a female, I’m pretty sure. Females have a light chest and are more brown in color–young male Martins also have a lighter chest, but I’m pretty sure this is our female. Males are a deep, deep purple, almost black, all over. I’ll have better pictures in a following post.)

Purple Martins are known for their amazing in-air acrobats and bug-catching skills.

After we moved, and before ThrillCam put up the Martin house this Spring, he did a little more research. The internet is chock full of good information on how to attract and prepare your birdhouse for Purple Martins.

And, because of my husband’s new-found obsession, I am now very knowledgable in the ways of the Purple Martin. I patiently sit at the feet of my love and listen as he explains the habits and needs of these migrating birds.

For example, did you know Purple Martins migrate to the Amazon each winter?

*Once they have laid claim to a house, Purple Martins return to the same house every year.

*Purple Martins send out scout birds (young males) to find a new place, if the family of Martins has outgrown their home. (We noticed scout birds back in February.) I’m assuming they kick out their oldest male punks to go out in search of a new home, new career, etc.

You know, I can relate to the Purple Martin mamas…we did the same with our oldest punk (insert sad, crying emoticon); we sent him off to college. Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!



That’s a different story…has nothing whatsoever to do with Purple Martins.

*Once Purple Martins nest in a house, they will fight off anything that tries to move in. (More on that later.) But, if a House Sparrow, for example, builds a nest in the house before Purple Martins move in, the Purple Martins will seek other housing. (My next post will show you this problem.)

*Purple Martins soar quite high and feed while flying. Rarely do they come down to the ground to capture a bug.

*Did you know that the eastern Purple Martin is dependent upon people to provide their artificial homes?

These are just some of the little, fascinating facts ThrillCam has passed along to me as we patiently awaited their arrival.

For nearly a month, the man would stand at his office window, looking through his binoculars, watching, hoping a Martin family would move in.

Then, over the Easter weekend, sure enough, a set of Martins began circling the house and actually landing on it. In fact, our Martin house initially had a Martin decoy on the top. That weekend, we witnessed the female Martin dive-bombing the decoy, while the male would land on the house. I told ThrillCam he needed to remove that decoy; that mama bird was not going to raise her babies with that intruder leering over them!

ThrillCam took off the decoy on Easter Sunday afternoon. Sure enough, they both began landing on the house and going in and out of the tiny holes. I’m pretty sure the female started hanging pictures on the wall that very evening.

ThrillCam has been beside himself with excitement at having a new family move in! He has been watching, expectantly, for about 2 months now.

I wish I could convey to you how invested my husband is in these little bug-eating birds.

It’s almost as much fun watching HIM watch them, as it is to watch the birds!



Want to find out more about Purple Martins? Check out this link to the Purple Martin Conservation Association.



  1. Lisa Freeman

    I have been eye-balling purple martin houses for years. Someone told me the females are little gossipy curious type women. They explained that they go into other female martins apartments and look around. Ken Freeman does not seem to have the same fascination. Maybe he will one day. Have fun.

    • Elizabeth Simmons

      Lisa, you should totally get Ken a martin house for Christmas! That way, y’all can research how to best set up the house come February. I think I got his Martin house down in Dickinson, if memory serves me right.
      I make fun of C., but really, it has been fascinating to watch and wait. E.

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