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Secrets to owning a purple martin home
loc slt garden club birdhouse
One of several purple martin houses providing decor and entertaining bird-watching in the backyards of residents around McKinney Lake in Great Bend. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

At the March 17 meeting of Great Bend Garden Club, member Sharon East with assistance from Donna Krug shared a program on the interesting hobby of including a purple martin house in the landscape.
There are several secrets to the location of the birdhouses. A location near water provides insects for catching. Placing the houses within 30 to 100 feet of human activity attracts the birds and utility wires nearby provide ideal perching spots.
Purple martins arrive in two waves. In mid-February adult scouts arrive seeking previously used houses. By mid-March through April the yearlings arrive to set up nests in new houses. The Purple Martin Conservation Association has available on their website ( recordings of the birds’ songs which can be played to lure them to your house.  
As purple martin houses often also attract other birds, it is recommended that the nest holes be plugged prior to the first arrivals and that only a few at a time be opened. Early in the spring the houses need to be checked for interlopers such as sparrows and European starlings whose nests can be legally removed. The purple martin nests are a flat platform made of mud, sticks, pine straw, and leaves. The nests of interloper birds are usually balls of grass. Ideal poles for holding the houses are telescoping and triangular in shape to keep the direction accurate during checking so the birds can easily find their own nests after they are raised again.
To protect against predators, a circular baffle placed around the base of the pole will keep rat snakes and raccoons from climbing the poles. Every 5 to 10 days throughout March, April and May when it’s not too hot or too cold and there are no predators in the area, the pole should be lowered for no longer than 10 minutes to check the nests.
For birders who are interested in further interacting with the birds, nesting materials including a shallow pan of dirt and water for mud-making can be located on a table about 20 feet away. Also a calcium supplement in the form of broken egg shells, toasted to kill bacteria, can be left on the same table.
During the club’s business meeting conducted by President Nancy Swafford, Rose Garden chairman Alice Young reported that she and June Hillman from the City Beautification Committee will select the Mary Kummer Maneth memorial statuary from Northview Nursery. Staff fromthe nursery will set the piece in the center of the Rose Garden.
The broken birdbath has been removed by Tim Wornkey and the cemetery staff. The center area will be reworked and new roses added.
The memorial sign plaques have been repaired and refinished and are ready for Memorial Day.
The morning’s refreshments had a St. Patrick’s Day theme and were served by hostess Iva Behrens. The next meeting will be on April 21 with Pam Sweeney giving the program and Delores Grose as hostess.