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Calling Professor Birdbrain... His academianness, the eminent Professor Birdbrain fields Purple Martin questions in his inimitable way

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Old 06-14-2009, 12:33 PM
Professor BirdBrain Professor BirdBrain is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Purple Martinville
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Default How to Face a PM House and Distance

Dear Professor Bird,

My husband and I live just South of Memphis, TN about 2 miles in Southaven, MS in a residential subdivision. I have had a martin house up for 14 years now and LOVE these wonderful, beautiful birds.

I've had a Heath house for years but it fell down recently so I bought a Coates wanting to try the new "starling proof" half moon doors. This house, as you know, has only two sides (front and back so-to-speak) for the birds, vs. the Heath hexigonal shape which allowed them to move all around each level on the outside.

I really like the Heath but was having lots of problems with the Starlings over the past few years so thought I'd try something different.

My question is what direction should I face this new Coates house? North / South? or East / West?

I noticed that my martins tended to nest in the more northern and southern sides of the old Heath house so right now I have my new house facing north and south.

BUT, wanted to ask some pros. I've pretty much just allowed nature to take it's course over the years but have recently become more interested in how I could be a better "landlord."

Thanks for any tips.
Bonnie near Memphis

Dear Bon,

Bird is just half a name just like Bon is half a name. My real name, Bonnie, is BIRDBRAIN!

To answer your question, Bonnie, technically, it doesn't matter into which direction you face the entrances of your Purple Martin house. Your birds selected the north and south sides probably because these were the most open of all four sides of your martin house.

While there are some that recommend, with good reasoning, that the house entrance holes should be placed as to NOT face west as this would subject the residents inside to the prevailing westerly winds that may not be kind.

Actually, you can face the entrance holes in any direction, but what I recommend is to consider two options:
  1. where is the most open area?
  2. how can you see your martins best to manage them
Personally, I like to face some openings facing my house so that I can better see what is going on in the house. I can see if martins are nesting, or if there are starlings or sparrows peeking inside and trying to nest in my house or gourds.

However, I would not face the openings toward my house if the space for the martins was not there.

I spoke with a gentlemen only last week and he was wondering why he was not getting any martins. In the course of our conversation, he told me that his birdhouse was twenty feet off of his deck or patio.

I said, "Whoa!" Let me stop you at the comma!"

While there may be some landlords with their successful colonies as close as twenty feet, it is not a good idea. Martins seem to think we are helpful to them--afterall, we provide their digs for them--but, they don't want to be that close to us. Being too close will certainly dampen down the enthusiasm of any self-respecting Purple Martin wanting to nest in your expensive PM house. They will want some space between you and them. So, there is really a good reason why PM houses should be placed 40-50 ft, minimum, from your own house.
Academically yours,
Professor BirdBrain

Last edited by Professor BirdBrain; 06-14-2009 at 12:36 PM.
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