Starling Resistant Entrances are not really Starling Proof
How many entrances are there to stop the starling from entering a martin house? Click on the chart below and discover what has been going on behind the scenes. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you see.
The search for the best hole to exclude starlings from purple martin houses started several years ago when it was determined that this introduced species had created havoc among the martins by destroying not only their eggs and young but adult martins as well. It wasn’t a pretty scene as several colonies were literally overtaken by its brazen attacks.
Charlie McEwen had experimented with ways to keep the non-native, European Starling out of martin houses in the early 1980’s. One of the reasons martins aren’t as abundant as they used to be, is because, in the 19th century, humans released a few starlings into this continent from Europe. In the decades that followed, starlings spread, unchecked, like a feathered black plague, at the expense of many native cavity nesters. Unfortunately, starlings aggressively took over martin houses, where they bludgeoned martins to death with their long, sharp beaks, and punctured and ate their eggs, and through their territorial aggression, prevented martin colonization at unmanaged martin houses. Because martins didn’t coevolve with the severe depredations caused by these non-native pests, they didn’t lay enough eggs to compensate – therefore, martin populations declined severely from what they were a century ago.
As one of the founders and officers of the Purple Martin and Bird Society of Southeastern New Brunswick, Charlie had the membership test this innovative entrance design at the northern limit of the martin’s breeding range, throughout the province of New Brunswick. He also has tested the entrance design in several locations around Lantana, FL., near the southern limit of the martin’s breeding range. Guess what? They seemed to work! A similar starling-proof hole has been recommended by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service and used successfully in the Pacific Northwest (i.e., in Oregon and Washington) . Their entrance hole was a rectangular slot measuring 2-3/4″ wide and 1-1/4″ high, placed flush with the porch and compartment floor.
Over the years several landlords have experimented with martin house entrances, and some have modified the crescent hole to make it adjustable. Ron Seekampf of Findley, Minnesota created a plate so the hole could be adjusted to allow larger martins to learn the hole and then reduce the size of the hole to 1- 3/16”.
The Obround entrance came around in the 90’s and so came more experiments with starlings and entrances. Tom Dellinger did extensive studies on the oblong hole and discovered that the starling had more room twist and turn. As a result, it was recommended that the hole not be used with porches.
Duke Snyder was a pioneer in developing the Snyder Excluder Hole. Duke Snyder did his homework and testing of his innovation over a three year period at his very successful martin colony in Western Pennsylvania. His first templates of the original Excluder and the Modified excluder were retro-fitted to martin houses and gourds and very few starlings breached this hole. He was also one of the very first martin landlords to patent his invention. His patented gourds now include his SRE entrance holes.
Willie D. Conley ,an Amish landlord experimented with Duke’s design and realized that if three 1-3/16” holes were drilled side by side, the martins would have more wiggling room and thus be able to enter this entrance. The Conley entrance is widely used today. Willie continues to experiment with other entrance holes and he has developed a new Conley entrance, supposedly starling proof.
Brian Naughton also experimented with a 1-3/16” hole times five and came up with the Naughton 5 Holer. I haven’t heard too much about this entrance type. It allows for many more young martins to feed at the entrance.
Several other developers came up with modifications to the crescent including Mike Brown. His Clinger was extensively tested and also great without porches but it too has not been starling proof.
A.C Moser developed another entrance which he and Bob Flam has experimented with to refine the shape. It is an exclusive ACE design and is more restrictive than others. Starlings have a hard time getting in but purple martins have mastered it.
The Purple Martin Clubhouse members developed an entrance a way back that was a combination of an oblong and the 1-3/16” centre round hole. It was called the Clubhouse entrance and was tested and used by its owners . There were others on the forum who developed entrances on the theory that theirs would work and they did at their colonies.
Ken Landry experimented with a brand new shape of hole or should I say holes which allow the purple martin to enter and for the young to feed . It consists of two entrances holes side by side. I have not heard too much about this entrance type and its relative success nor have I heard about any failures.
Most of these Starling Resistant Entrances have issues because no two martins are the same size and definitely no two starlings are the same size nor have the same determination.
Entrances come with their own baggage as well as their problems. What landlords must realize is that we live in a world where round holes don’t work with deeper compartments and starling numbers are growing exponentially. Their tenacity only makes the hobby more difficult and causes further problems for the landlord. Entrance holes cause the occasional wing entrapment so now we need some form of added wing entrapment guard on the SRE. The list of developments and precautions which have developed over these entrances can cause one to think twice about the martin hobby. Some choose to ignore the SRE and let nature take its course and eventually give up the hobby.
But one thing is for certain, as martin numbers decline, we will be forced to develop newer techniques to curtail the loss of purple martins in our areas.
The purple martin is still one songbird worth saving despite all the hassles its competitors continue to throw at it! Consider using at least one type of SRE at your colony, you will be glad you did.