Purple Martin

Nest structure Plan and Information

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Purple Martin
© Jim Paris
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Species in decline

This species is in decline in certain regions. You can put up a nest box to help if you live in the right region and habitat.

  • Declining
  • Not declining
  • Not present
Source: USGS

Nesting Range

Purple Martin Range Source: Birds of the World

Nesting Habitat

  • Desert
  • Lake
  • Town

Attach Nest Box To

  • Pole

Known Nesting Period

Not Nesting
Some Nesting Occurrence
Nesting in Most of Range
Source: Birds of the World

Nest Box Placement

Nest Height:

10–15 feet

Minimum Spacing:

10 feet


South or West

Helpful Tips

  • The Purple Martin is a colony-nesting species, readily using nest boxes with multiple compartments (more common in the east) or individual hollowed gourds strung close together (more common in the west).
  • Houses painted white seem to be most attractive (do not paint the interior).
  • There should be no trees or buildings within 60 feet of the martin pole in any direction. However, overhead utility wires for perching can be nearby (so long as they do not obstruct the access to any side of the martin house).
  • Mount the martin house on a pole that can be lowered for cleaning and maintenance.
  • Keep the area under the martin house clear of brush and shrubs.
  • Purple Martins compete with House Sparrows and European Starlings for nesting sites. By keeping compartments closed until Purple Martins return to their breeding habitat, you can help reduce this competition. Starling-resistant entrance holes can also help reduce competition from starlings.
  • Houses mounted on poles in water (e.g., lakeshores) may have less problems with European Starlings, House Sparrows, and predators like cats, squirrels, and raccoons. If mounting the martin house over water, be sure to place it about 2 feet above the high-water level of the lake. The houses should be placed in a shallow area that can be checked while standing in the water.
  • Martin houses can also be attached to docks.
  • You can place a handful of pine wood chips in each compartment in the spring when opening the house for martins.
  • Commercially available Purple Martin decoys and recordings of dawn songs can be used to attract these social, colonial birds to newly-installed martin houses.

Did you know that NestWatch is seeking more data on this species?

Learn about Purple Martin here.