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Attracting Wild Birds To Your Back-Yard
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Attracting Purple Martins

Martins are colonial nesters and are entirely willing to use birdhouses. Expert flyers and voracious incect eaters.

To attract Purple Martins to a birdhouse, the house should be placed in an open space, at least 40 to 60 feet from any trees taller than it is, preferably within a few hundred feet of human habitation. The birds need a wide space to approach the house from at least two sides, and they seem to know that people will protect them from their natural predators. The activity of people does not seem to bother them at all.

The house should be mounted 10 to 20 feet off the ground, preferably on a telescoping pole so that it can be lowered for easy cleaning and for checking on the young in the nests. A predator guard on the pole is also highly desirable. The house should not be moved, once martins have taken up residence in it, as they will reject it the following year if it is in a new location. 

If any other species of bird nests in the martin house before the martins arrive, the house will not attract martins. This may involve frequent, even daily, lowering of the house to evict unwanted tenants, or plugging the entrance holes until the martins arrive. 

The houses which are most successful in attracting martins are of a light color. This helps to keep the house cool in the summer's heat and highlights the dark entrance holes. Ventilation holes also keep the birds from perishing on hot days. 

The birdhouses should not be opened up until about four weeks after the first martins are scheduled to arrive in the area.  The first to arrive, commonly called "scouts," are not really scouts, but are merely the oldest martins. Older martins cannot be attracted to new locations, because they have high loyalty to the exact home where they bred in the past.  Usually only the previous year's fledglings can be attracted to unestablished sites, and they begin returning to an area about 4 to 5 weeks after the "scouts." 

Bushes and shrubs growing beneath the martin house should be removed, as this attracts predators such as cats, and martins will avoid the house.  Similarly, they will avoid houses which can be reached by squirrels, even by a wire.


The white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) ranges
throughout most of eastern North America, inhabiting most
woodlands and orchards.  It prefers deciduous forests.  Its
typical nesting site is a natural tree cavity, old woodpecker
hole or bird house, rarely a hole excavated by the bird itself.
     Nuthatches are expert climbers and in this respect differ
from woodpeckers and creepers in their ability to climb nimbly
down a tree or rock surface, head down, as well we to climb
up such surfaces.
     Long, slender bills and long
tongues tipped with hair-like tufts or
hooked papillae (protuberances of
the upper surfaces of the tongue),
also assist the feeding habits of
nuthatches.  Their animal diet
consists of beetles, moths,
caterpillars, ants, wasps and spiders.  Their vegetable food
includes soft-shelled nuts such as acorns and chestnuts.  The
nuthatch is not equipped for breaking the shells of hard nuts;
in this respect their name is misleading.
     The family Paridae includes chickadees, bush-tits,
verdins and titmice.  They are small, stocky birds with short,
conical bills and strong claws; the hind toe claw is especially
strong.  Their colors are solid olives, browns or grays on the
upper parts; dull whites and grays
for the underparts.
     These little birds are almost
constantly active as they forage for
food.  Flying from tree to tree, they
search every crevice for insects.  It
is during the winter season that
these birds are most beneficial;
when no longer able to find insects, they feed upon hidden
insect larvae and eggs.
     This black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus) is
one of the most familiar and easily tamed birds of North
America.  During winter it is a regular visitor to seed and suet
feeders and even learns to feed from the hand.  It is a social
bird and roams the winter woods in flocks, accompanied by
woodpeckers, nuthatches, creepers and kinglets.
     The name chickadee is
derived from the bird's typical call,
chick-a-dee-dee-dee, most
frequently heard in winter.  Another
common vocalization, most often
heard in the spring, is the
chickadee's fee-bee song,
suggesting the song of the eastern
phoebe (Sayornis phoebe),  but an experienced listener can
distinguish between them.
     Both members of the black-cap pair commonly excavate
a cavity in a rotting stump or they may take over a natural
cavity or woodpecker hole for a nesting spot. This bird gives
an explosive sound, like that of a jet of steam, in an attempt
to frighten intruders from the nest site.


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Birding for Beginners
Ten Tips for New Birders

Common Feeder Birds

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Feeding Birds

Bird Feeders

Water for Birds

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Bluebirds Are My Favorite

Purple Martins Are My Favorite

Other Favorite Birds

Common Feeder Birds

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The Top 250 North American Birding Hot Spots

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