BACKYARD SECRET: In Georgia, purple martins rarely nest in anything but gourds or nest boxes.

      The purple martin is a cavity nester.  Historically it nested in such places as woodpecker holes, natural cavities in trees and even in the crevices of cliffs.  Purple martins nesting in the western United States still utilize these traditional nesting sites.  However, since sometime prior to 1900, such is not the case in the eastern United States.  Here our largest swallow appears to have completely abandoned naturally occurring nesting sites. 

       In all of my years working as a wildlife biologist, I never encountered purple martins nesting in a natural cavity or woodpecker hole.  However, years ago I found a pair of purple martins nesting in broken light fixture at a convenience store. 

       As I pumped gas into my vehicle, I watched a purple martin bringing food to its young housed beneath the plastic cover over a fluorescent light illuminating the fueling area. 

       If you have ever seen martins nesting in anything other than nest boxes or gourds, please let me know.

5 thoughts on “BACKYARD SECRET: In Georgia, purple martins rarely nest in anything but gourds or nest boxes.

  1. I have Purple Martins nesting on my front porch every year. They build their nests on top of the porch posts, near the ceiling, and refuse to nest anywhere else. I tried a Martin house in the back yard, which attracted only sparrows. I’ve also noticed that the under-side of bridges, crossing the Etowah River, are loaded with their mud nests, which leads me to believe that houses and gourds are useless. These birds are natural cliff dwellers, and there’s no changing that. Thanks

  2. Rosanne,

    That is a great report. Can you provide me with any details? It would be helpful to know where you live, whether or not this is the 1st time the birds have nested there, phot, etc.

    Thanks ever so much for reporting this.


  3. Good morning! We have quite a few Purple Martins here, with 3 sets of houses and plenty of gourds for the birds. It appears two young martins, however, have decided to build a nest in the corner of our carport. First time I’ve seen this. We’re in Jack County, TX.

    • Jeff,

      I personally have never seen what you described. However, I did see a pair of martins nesting in a crack lighting fixture at a gas station. I attributed it to a lack of nesting sites. Perhaps that is what happened in your case.


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