How to Design a Purple Martin Birdhouse

Learning how to design a Purple Martin birdhouse will insure that you attract these birds and enjoy watching them from the convenience of your own back yard. This project is not only easy to build with a minimum of tools, but will provide you with an enjoyable pastime as well.

Birdhouse Options

Building a Purple Martin birdhouse offers you many choices. Your birdhouse can accommodate from as few as 8 rooms, up to a quadruple decked 24 room structure. You can equip your birdhouse with a reflective roof, porch dividers and even perches on which Purple Martins can perch. 

Purple Martin Habitat

Although Purple Martins have traditionally built nests from twigs, grasses or have found homes in abandoned trees, most have now found dwellings in man-made birdhouses located mainly along the Southern to Midwestern United States, including the Eastern Seaboard.

The single most important factor in attracting and maintaining a nesting site for Purple Martins is good management of the nesting area. Purple Martins prefer dwellings that are placed in the most open area available; this means at least 40 to 60 feet away from nearby trees and at least 50 feet away from houses. This species arrives in North America in June through August.

Birdhouse Size

To welcome Purple Martins, and deter other species, it is extremely important to build birdhouses with the appropriate size hole for birds to enter. Starlings, Screech Owls and Tree Swallows will stay out of your birdhouse if the hole is exactly 1-3/16ths of an inch. This is extremely critical because if the hole is too big these other birds will take up residence; if too small, Purple Martins will not be able to get in. Hole placement is also extremely important. Place the entrance hole no higher than 1/2 inch above the porch, as this will also discourage unwanted birds. 

Painting birdhouses with either a very light pastel color or plain white will often attract Purple Martins, as well as keeping the housing cooler, as lighter colors reflect heat best. The width of birdhouses should be no less than approximately 6 by 12 inches, with a height of from 6 to 7 feet.

Returning Purple Martins

Just like the legendary swallows returning from Capistrano, Martins will return year after year, provided that their birdhouses are maintained and not overly modified or altered. If they find additional bird houses, trees or the encroachment of predators in the area, they will avoid their original habitat in search of safer nesting areas.


Predators will deter the return of Purple Martins by taking up residence in their nests. These can take the form of snakes, raccoons or other birds of prey such as owls, hawks or crows. A single visit to the nest of a Purple Martin by any one of these will be enough for them to abandon their nest. To avoid this from happening, pole guards should be installed to prevent predators from climbing up the poles. To rid the nests of other predatory birds, it will be necessary to lower the nest and clear it of other nesting species.