Remember hearing Purple Martins eat a ton of mosquitos every day so every garden needs a Purple Martin house?
Not so, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association. The whole story about Purple Martins being natural mosquito predators was promoted by Purple Martin house manufacturers. The campaign worked so well Purple Martins today are the only bird species to depend exclusively on manmade houses. They eat insects but few to no mosquitos. If they eat anything interesting, these birds feed young insects and small rocks and glass pieces to help them digest.
After years of watching these birds in other yards, I bought a plastic purple martin house kit this year I thought I could easily put together and install next to my pond in a cleared area. So much for that plan; even instructions for this relatively lightweight birdhouse recommends two people install it.
I may still make it.
I usually spot Purple Martins sitting on utility lines and in Bluebird Gardens mid March, their big wing span and long, double pronged tail marking the arrival of north America's largest sparrow. Like hummingbirds, Purple Martins winter over in Brazil and make their way back in early spring through Florida. Fun to track their way back to North America; some weather forecasters now even show this map! For many years Fort Leonard Wood, our neighbor to the southwest as the Purple Martin flies, celebrated the arrival of these lovely purple birds with Purple Martin Day on March 14.
Whether you celebrate or not, consider getting a Purple Martin house, either for yourself or to give as a gift. Pair it with a book on Purple Martins for a gift that will keep on giving all season. If you're handy with wood, consider making a Purple Martin house. Some of the most interesting Purple Martin houses I've seen have been lovingly handmade as gifts. Once Purple Martins decide they like the real estate, they will keep coming back. After centuries of peacefully co-existing, Purple Martins have little fear of people and make charming, very interesting neighbors.