Illustrator Christina Mattison Ebert shares depictions and information on coastal birds
One of the categories in the online shop at PurpleMartin.org is, oddly enough, “Gourds and Gourd Accessories.” This unlikely link between martins and gourds stems back thousands of years to when Native Americans encouraged martin nesting by hanging dried, hollowed-out gourds to manage insect and bird species that threatened their crops.
Flash forward a few millennia and one still can find humans luring purple martins to nest nearby, either with gourd-like structures or sometimes elaborate houses. It turns out, humans are almost too good at being “purple martin landlords” — purple martins now are the only bird species that has become almost entirely dependent on manmade structures for nesting. They also are highly particular about their housing and, therefore, successful martin colonies can be few and far between.
FUN FACT: Purple martins aren’t actually purple, rather, the male martin plumage is a dark blue with an iridescent sheen.