residents provide thousands of housing sites for Purple Martins to
nest in when martins return from South America each spring.
After the nesting season is over, martins assemble in groups to rest
and put on weight in preparation for the long migration to their South
American wintering grounds. Such bird gatherings are known as roosts
and when martins roost there may be hundreds or thousands of purple
swallows in one place. Laverne Riha, a martin landlord from Texas
said. "Since the last of my colony left, I have been seeing a
steady stream of Purple Martins cruising through our skies over Alvin,
Texas almost every day."
Purple Martins living east of the Rockies have made a tradition shift
in their nesting requirements. Woodpecker holes in trees were once
the chosen nest sites of martins; now they nest only in man-made human-supplied
The change started when Native Americans provided gourds on racks
for martins to nest in. The racks were made from saplings and pieces
of rawhide. These gourds became accepted housing for the cavity-nesting
swallows. Martins recognized the benefits of staying near people and
their homes for protection from predators. Native Americans were the
first Purple Martin landlords.
Today, Purple Martins still need landlords to supply proper housing
in suitable locations. The current information available to landlords
gives them the ability to provide some protection from predators and
cavity-nesting site competitors. Martins also need landlords who will
monitor the colony sites. Supplying information to landlords is one
of the services provided by the Purple Martin Conservation Association
James R. Hill, III formed the PMCA in 1987 when he discovered the
needs of the Purple Martin through scientific evaluations and bird
studies. Hill said, "The PMCA is devoted exclusively to the scientific
study of Purple Martins; their biology and habitat requirements. Seeing
Purple Martins fill the sky so that you, I and future generations
can attract, manage, and enjoy a colony of North America's most beneficial
songbird is our goal."
The PMCA published an article in its quarterly publication, of the
Purple Martin Update, recognizing the conservation efforts of the
martin landlords of Texas. Gisela Fregoe from Grand
Prairie organized a group of martin enthusiasts who call themselves
the Purple Martin Landlords of North Texas. Fregoe said, "There
is so much to learn to be a successful landlord."
Landlords who are members of the PMCA can rely on the Purple Martin
Update, a quarterly magazine published by the PMCA. The magazine is
a useful information exchange between the members and the scientific
community. It gives members the knowledge they need to manage martin
The PMCA encourages landlords to form local organizations that will
function as an educational vessel for their local area Goals of local
organizations coincide with goals of the PMCA so both organizations
reap benefits of greater numbers of landlords and Purple Martins.
The PMCA also hosts a forum on its website where landlords can meet
at any time of the day to exchange information. Interaction with other
landlords is a source of friendship and help as they actively involve
themselves with the everyday survival of the birds.
Hill said, "Active management means doing frequent nest checks
(i.e. every four to seven days) eliminating nest-site competitors,
controlling nest parasites, offering eggshells and using predator
guards." Biological and practical information is available for
landlords and prospective landlords on the bessite, www.purplemartin.org,
or by calling the PMCA at (814) 734-4420. Hill said, "Establishing
and hosting a martin colony can be one of the most enjoyable, entertaining
and educational of human experiences- certainly worth the time, effort
and expense it might require to get started."
Texas is a very important part of the Purple Martin conservation efforts
because they have so many landlords and martins. In the year 2002,
Grand Prairie proclaimed a Purple Martin day A quote from the City
of Grand Prairie Proclamation, office of the Mayor & City council
says, "Purple Martins are highly valued for many reasons, both
practical and aesthetic. Martins feed entirely on flying insects,
many of which are pests to people , crops and domestic animals. Thus
their economic value is great."
© Judith D. Mitchell, Journalism Intern
Purple Martin Conservation Association
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
"They shoe horses,
don't they?" October 16, 2004