Nest Boxes

Martin Houses provide designer homes for rare birds

Chicago has had a long association with planning and architecture. Many greats in both those professions called Chicago home, and we have previously shared delights such as the Avery Coonley House by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Garfield Park City Garden.

So it came as no surprise that even the rare birds of the city are architecturally accommodated.

A few years ago we came across these elaborate structures in Jackson Park.

This vast park is south of the main downtown area and fronts a long stretch of Lake Michigan. The East and West Lagoons extend the lake's watery presence deep into the park.

A more formal edge surround the Columbia Basin, which is heroically dominated by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Signage indicated that the structures were houses for the Purple Martin, a vulnerable species with no recorded hatchings in Jackson Park for 50 years.

 The Purple Martin. Image by Dori. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States license.

The Purple Martin. Image by Dori. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States license.

In 2002 the martin houses had been tenanted, with eggs laid, chicks hatched and fledgings departed.

Mayor Daley was photographed looking at a tray of eggs, blog posts were written, and it success was declared.

In preparation for this story I went back online to see what had happened to the Purple Martins of Jackson Park, and to the martin houses.

Whilst it was gratifying to see many photos taken by locals showing the abundant bird life, including Purple Martins, in and around Jackson Park’s Columbia Basin, East and West Lagoons, I couldn’t find any follow up on the martin houses themselves.

So if anyone’s able to update me I’d love to hear if the programme still continues, and what the results have been.