Maintaining a Purple Martin House

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Purple Martin houses make a great addition to any backyard. Learn the specifics about how to maintain a lively Purple Martin house.

East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins are completely reliant upon nest boxes for breeding.  If you want to help these stunning birds proliferate, maintaining a nest box is one of the best ways.

purple martin house
Purple Martin House

Finding the right purple martin house

Purple Martin houses come in a variety of styles and designs.  The two main kinds of Purple Martin housing are houses and gourds.  

Gourds, which are oval-shaped cavities usually made of aluminum or wood, have been used to house Purple Martins for centuries.  In fact, Native Americans used to welcome Purple Martins to their communities with gourds. When selecting a gourd, a natural wood or aluminum product is ideal.  Also, it's best that your gourd have an unpainted interior.

Purple Martin houses range from simple to elaborate architecture.  They are primarily made of aluminum or wood and almost always colored white.  Martin houses can range from single-housing dwellings to a multi-unit Purple Martin mansion, which may contain as many as 30 Purple Martins.

Purple Martin House Dimensions

The interior of a Purple Martin house should be a minimum of 6 inches by 6 inches, although bigger compartments are ideal, as they help protect the birds from predators and provide more room for nestlings to spread out.  Remember that an adult Purple Martin is approximately 8 inches long and they will occupy the apartment with a mate and nestlings.  For this reason, the recommended compartment is 7 inches by 12 inches.

Entrance Hole

The ideal size for the entrance hole should be 2-1/8 inches in diameter, but anything between 1-¾ inches and 2-¼ inches is acceptable.  If you are trying to make your entrance hole resistant to starlings, it should measure 3 inches wide and be 1-3/16 inches tall.  Starling-resistant entrances should be positioned no higher than ½ inch above the porch or floor.  Also, remember it's important that you have door plugs to keep out other birds during the non-breeding season.

purple martin
Purple Martin


Purple Martins like open areas and humans, so if possible try to find a spot 60 feet away from trees or buildings, but within 100 feet of human activity.

Other considerations

You'll most likely be mounting your Purple Martin house on a bird pole.  The ideal length above the ground is 12 to 20 feet, which will keep the birds safe from predators.  

Lastly, remember to construct your Purple Martin house in a way that makes it resistant to the elements. Consider building a roof overhang to protect birds from the rain and make sure your ventilation holes are drilled at an angle to prevent water from funneling into the compartments.  Another tip is to buy a house with raised sub floors and/or larger compartments, which offer more protection from the elements.

Ready to purchase a Purple Martin House?  Then browse our large online inventory of Purple Martin houses. Want to learn more about the Purple Martin?  Check out some of the additional articles below.