Can Purple Martin Birds Build Their Own Nest? How YOU Can Help!

They travel over 5,000 miles a year, but can purple martin birds build their own nest?

Purple martins are the largest swallows in North America and we are preparing for their arrival here at the Orlando Science Center. Martins spend the winter and fall in Brazil but, like many of our tourists, they make their way to Orlando every spring! The martin families spend their time in the states raising their young and gobbling up their favorite foods – dragonflies, wasps and bees!

You could almost call them people martins because they depend entirely on human-made nests to raise their chicks. Can purple martin birds build their own nest? For several hundred years, humans have provided hollow gourds and other birdhouses for purple martins. The martins have adapted to this practice, so they can not build their own nests or steal nests from other birds. Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment department has built a specialized martin house for us at the Science Center. Our high-rise, waterfront condo features 22 different nests for new martin parents to raise their young (and it’s already furnished!) Our house is located in Loch Haven Park, just outside the 4Roots Cafe.

After just a few short weeks, we have already noticed purple martins using the house and hope to see them nest next season which will encourage them to return each year.

Several days a week, members of our NatureWorks team lower our purple martin house to make sure it is in tip-top shape for potential martin parents. They observe every nest compartment, record what they see, and send the information to scientists who are working to preserve purple martin populations.

The purple martin population in Florida declined about 50% from 1995 to 2015 due to loss of habitat and decreased insect populations.

a group of kids looking a a purple martin nest at orlando science center

Purple martin birds can not build their own nests, but the good news is that we can all help these beneficial birds in our very own yards! By adding native plants to your yard, patio, school, or business, you can provide a much-needed rest stop for martins on their 5,000 mile journey. The martins will also appreciate the buffet of native insects living in your garden!

Enter your ZIP code HERE  to find local nurseries and websites where you can get native plants for your home or community garden. To learn more about our house and help us create the perfect home for baby birds, visit the NatureWorks exhibit and join us for a Purple Martin Tour or read more about purple martins!

This project was made possible with support from Disney Conservation.