Hard to believe, but it’s time for purple martins to start arriving back in our area from Brazil and points south.
At eight inches, the purple martin is the largest of our swallows. It is also the bird more people build houses for than any other.
The champion martin landlords I have ever known were Hans Mueller of Wimberley and the late Mel Kirk of San Marcos.
Hans had numerous pole-mounted houses and maintained them on a rigorous schedule, keeping accurate records of eggs laid, birds hatched and arrival and departure dates each year. He moved to Sun City years ago and I don’t know if he still is in the martin business.
Mel built beautiful martin houses in the shape of castles, with multiple turrets. He kept a few and sold others as a hobby. His backyard castle was indeed fit for martins of royalty and it was very popular with the birds.
Martins once roosted in abandoned woodpecker cavities in posts and trees, but these days they are almost completely dependent on human-provided homes. It’s been this way since Indians put up hollow gourds near their lodges to attract them.
A graceful bird in flight, the martin has a cheerful, bubbly song. It spends winters in South America and is one of the earliest of all spring migrants. Vanguard males start arriving in February in Texas and when females arrive, they select both suitors and houses that most please them. Sort of like the human female species.