When I was a kid, my dad built a pair of impressive birdhouse complexes intended for Purple Martins. One was a long ‘rowhouse’ style, while the other was a wonderful jumble of boxes three stories high with entrances all around. They were placed high up in the back of our yard and I remember every year before spring they would have to be cleaned. And I remember my dad hopefully wishing for Purple Martins every year, but only attracting House Sparrows. Because he had a hard time attracting PUMAs to the birdhouses, I somehow got the idea that it was hard to find them at all in our area. Years passed and I forgot about the birdhouses. I moved away and became interested in birds on a different continent, and when I returned to the area where I grew up I was delighted to finally understand that Purple Martins actually aren’t too hard to find around here. In fact, there is a busy little colony using a series of houses down the road from my parents at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where these photos were taken.
(Knowing just a little bit more about martins now, I think my parent’s back yard isn’t the ideal habitat for PUMAs. Just don’t tell my dad!) To learn more about Purple Martins, visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association. By the way, the title of this post refers to a collective noun used for groups of martins. Others include circlage, gulp, and colony.