Purple Martins as pest control

Any reasons not to build a Martin box and attract purple Martin’s? I’ve read they they are a voracious eater of insects and pests and also read that that only eat while flying. This means they won’t eat my blueberries or peck at my fruit trees.

I need something that eats house finches. I’m removing a whole row of arborvitae that they’ve been using as an apt building…eviction notice has been given.

Amen to that brother…!!!

Martins are great to have around- beautiful birds, aerial acrobats, very social, love to sit and chatter. Their diet is heavy in dragonflies, not mosquitoes as most people think.


But do they eat Japanese beetles?

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Martin house owners report finding JB wings in the martin houses, so they do eat them but apparently not in sufficient quantity to control a JB invasion.

I suspect JBs are icky-tasting - they leave an icky smell on the squishing hand

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Well, birds don’t have well developed taste buds, so that’s probably not a factor for them, Lois :slight_smile: One of the reasons I use safflower seeds during my off-fruit season for my birds: Safflower seeds are pretty bitter, and the squirrels, who are mammals and have taste buds, do not care for the bitter taste. Same for folks who put cayenne pepper in their bird feeders to discourage squirrels and rats. Sadly, many birds can taste sweet, which is why certain birds are a pain for us fruit growers.

Patty S.

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I’d like to encourage swallows at my home for the general natural insect control. However their mud homes are messy, and I only have certain parts of lot I’d like this to occur. Unsure of how to do this.

Robert, I wouldn’t recommend attracting Cliff swallows. Frankly, they’re a nuisance. We have two nests under our eaves, and the bird droppings are not to be believed. They will come back every year, more and more, and you’ll end up with a giant, very unhealthy mess. Next year we’re going to have to discourage them with a high power spray house, knocking down the nests as they try to build them. Although they do eat a large number of insects, the mess they make simply isn’t worth it. You’ll not be able to keep them confined to a certain area as more and more progeny come back every year.

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Boy is Patty ever right about swallows! They build those mud nests in the rafters of my metal barn and its absolutely amazing how much “droppings” that a single nest can generate, and in as little as a day or two. I’ve seen a nest be built and a huge spattering of white droppings all over my tractor within a 3 day period. I feel sort of bad knocking them down, especially if I don’t get too them until they have babies, but I also can’t just leave them to cover everything in my building with poo! @trev3411 (Robert), I’d definately consider Martins instead. You’ll rue the day you did ANYTHING to encourage or even allow barn swallows to locate on your property. Once they are there- just as Patty said- they’ll be back in bigger numbers from then on!

Barn swallows are are federally protected migratory birds so if you do not want them nesting you must remove the nest before they begin occupying it, or after they have gone for the year. Keep barn doors closed, fix whatever other holes they may be entering in late spring/early summer. They are not a problem on the order of pigeons, all it takes to keep their dooky off of things is to create a shelf or set newspapers over important stuff below the nest.

I will give you a reason… but it is my situation and may not be yours… I have martins and love them… have had them for years. They always arrive on or about 1 April of every year. They do everything you read about… dive… eat bugs and boy do they chatter!!!

So here is my situation… I love them… they are near my orchard that attracts lots of other critters… CROWS especially… shot a raccoon this morning before I left to work… so … here’s the catch… if you want to chase the other critters out and crows with bird deterrents and other means you have to remember you have guest that you want to stay… so… LOVE my martins and have to put up with the other birds so as not to chase my guest away.

Just my thoughts…


Hoosierbanana, we don’t so much have Barn swallows out here, but Cliff swallows. Think, “The swallows have returned to San Juan Capistrano”. And Cliff swallows are on par with pidgeons. HUGE mess, huge. I’m not up for building what would be an entire shelf under my extremely high two-story eaves (I have 12’ and 10’ ceilings in my house). Then, have to get up and clean those shelves off every few years, ick. You might have a couple of nests one year, but by year five, you’re have been taken over.

Sadly, we don’t have Purple Martins out here in S. California. Maybe passing through, but not to nest.

Patty S.

I looked up cliff swallows and they pass through to migrate but nest just north of here, your situation does sound messy. The barn swallows don’t seem to congregate like that at all. Nests are here and there but not usually very close to one another.

I’ve also read that mosquito’s are not a big percentage of their diet. (Mosquitoes hang out in lower lying spots, whereas Purple Martins are higher flyers…)

Dragonflies on the other hand eat a ton of mosquitoes.

I had a barn swallow problem on a country house I was flipping last summer. They would build their mud house right on the top edge/ledge of a window trim, under a covered porch. The mess was unreal. I’d knock the house down and they’d rebuild it pronto. Then they had some wee ones, so I let them stay until they left the nest then I knocked it down for the last time. I cleaned up the area real good and then I ripped a piece of 2x4 at a 45 degree angle and placed it on top of the window trim. With nothing for them to hang onto, they never rebuilt. I left the board in place until we sold the house and they never returned.

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Stayed at a vacation house that used pinwheels hanging near likely nesting places to scare them away. Seemed to work great, but they had them right next to their favorite nesting places.

Thanks, Jerry, great idea. And Kokopelli, another good idea. I’ll have to get my husband to climb that ladder, though. And, we’ll probably have to rent a ladder, because our eaves are really, really high up.

Patty (and Kevin), Thanks for sharing first-hand experience. I was getting ready to walk down the path of good intentions…

I am no expert, but I think you guys would be OK trying to attract tree swallows with nest boxes for bug control.