Purple Martin Landlords

Dave Hartwig always enjoyed doing wood working projects, especially making bird boxes.  He made a lot of extra Bluebird and Wren houses, and gave them out as Christmas presents.  One of the most enjoyable things for him was to see wild birds using his homemade boxes!  Dave found a lot of plans from the Missouri Department of Conservation.  The MDC produced a booklet that had different types of housing for different types of birds… including a plan for a Purple Martin house.  Dave built it, put it in his back yard and waited for the birds to show up.  He didn’t know much about them, really didn’t even know what they looked like!  Occasionally a squawking bird would show up and look over the house; Dave was pretty sure it was a Martin, but the bird never stayed.  He never did have Martins in the homemade house, but it was the beginning of learning more about them.  Then, in 2000, Dave and his wife Anita moved to the country.
Dave had also found the PMCA website and was learning more and more about Purple Martins and what they need. He became a member of the PMCA and began learning about everything on the Purple Martin Forum. In early 2003 he bought the first metal house that started the colony – a Trio Minicastle.  And from that house, today he has four other houses: two homemade, a T-14 and a Northstar, and two more metal houses, a Trio Castle and a Trendsetter. He also has plastic gourds under all 5 houses.
Now, in 2012, the colony has grown to 55 pair producing young. Dave contributes most of his success from learning through the PMCA Forum. Dave and Anita have a 5-acre pond next to the housing and that might be a big reason they have such a nice colony today…Martins really like the water, and the bugs!

Our Landlords 2011-2012


John Miller, a public relations professional in St. Louis, has been an important contributor to Purple Martin conservation in Missouri for almost a decade. He manages public colonies in St. Louis’s Forest Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden, and has helped establish and revive colonies at Cahokia Mounds Historic Site in Illinois, the riverfront park in Clarksville, MO, and at Hidden Valley Ski Area, Wildwood, MO. John, a native of Kentucky, learned about martins from his grandfather and has had a life-long interest. Miller edited the Purple Martin brochure that is available from the Missouri Department of Conservation and conducts field day events each year.


Randy Harlin knew an old man in Malta Bend, MO that had martins and was always impressed with them. He always wanted Purple Martins but knew nothing about how to attract them. At the Orsheln store in Marshall, Randy saw that there were Purple Martin houses for sale. His wife Sandy encouraged him to buy one, but being a do-it-yourselfer Randy decided to check the web for housing information and found the PMCA . After a lot of time looking and reading, Randy decided to build his own martin house. He purchased plan for the T-14 from PMCA, constructed it and put it up in 2005. In 2007 he added a gourd rack. Randy had 1 pair in 2005, 14 pair in 2006, 25 pair in 2007, 32 pair in 2008, 34 in 2009, 36 in 2010 and 37 pair in 2011. He hopes to construct another T-14 before spring 2012.


Kathy Freeze‘s colony was started in May 2007 by a pioneering sub-adult male who eventually fledged 3 young with his sub-adult mate. Since then, her colony has grown to 50 pair in 2011 with over 200 young fledged. As of 2011, Kathy offers 60 nesting cavities, consisting of a 12-room house and 48 gourds. She conducts weekly nest checks (every 3-7 days, depending on the weather and circumstances) and protect the colony from predators (raccoons, snakes, owls, etc.) and nest-site competitors (English House Sparrow and European Starling). Kathy keeps extensive records every year, recording ages of the nesting martins, dates of eggs laid, number of eggs, number of hatchlings and finally, the numbers of actual nestlings that fledge. f you’re interested in learning more about hosting Purple Martins or increasing the size of your existing Purple Martin colony, please feel free to contact Kathy at purplemartin@centurytel.net. She offers an excellent monthly newsletter during the Martin season that provides lots of ideas for starting or growing your own Purple Martin colony.


The Duncans‘ journey as landlords began 5 years ago, while doing some construction work for a client. At the time the client had 3 martin houses in their back yard. Jack and his son Jeremy quickly became fascinated by the birds’ unique behavior and beauty.. Before we left he had given us a detailed background of them as well as some info on house placement etc. It was June at the time and we were told it was too late to put a house that year but we could try early during the following year, February for our area. Over the winter Jack found the PMCA website which was a wealth of valuable information. They put up their first martin house in February 2008, and had their first pair in early May, an ASY pair at that. Four years later, the Duncans have 78 cavities and 75 active pairs.

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Dana Ripper: dana.ripper@mrbo.org
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MRBO Office: 660.886.8788
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