Summary of what was known in early 20th century in Birds by Bent 
<> - rare but not 
completely unheard of at that time. Note that Naples, Florida was 
considered to be remote country then!
> *Nesting*.--Before the advent of the white man the martin used natural 
> cavities in trees and cliffs for nesting sites. But even in those 
> distant days there was some bird-house nesting, for the Indians were 
> fond of these birds and, as Wilson (1832) says, "even the solitary 
> Indian seems to have a particular respect for this bird." He gives an 
> account of the methods used by the "Choctaws and Chickasaws" who "cut 
> off all the top branches from a sapling near their cabins, leaving the 
> prongs a foot or two in length, on each of which they hang a gourd, or 
> calabash, properly hollowed out for their convenience." Forbush (1929) 
> adds that "when saplings were not conveniently situated the Indians 
> set up poles, fastened cross-bars to them and hung the gourds on these 
> cross-bars."
> Instances of strictly primitive nesting are still to be seen in remote 
> parts of the country. Roberts (1932) gives an account of martins 
> breeding among large boulders on Spirit Island, Lake Milles Lacs, 
> Minn. Howell (1932) mentions two or three examples in Florida, one 
> near La Belle and another at Naples. A unique situation came under his 
> observation on Anna Maria Key in May 1918, when he found a pair using 
> a hole in a palmetto piling over water, the cavity being about 3 feet 
> from the surface.
> I have seen one instance of primitive nesting in Florida, that of a 
> small colony of about five pairs utilizing a tall, dead pine 
> perforated with woodpecker holes. This tree stands near the banks of 
> the Kissimmee River, near the hamlet of Cornwell, in Highlands County, 
> Fla., and martins were using it late in March 1940. Shown to several 
> participants in the Wildlife Tours undertaken in that region during 
> the early part of 1940 by the Audubon Association, it never failed to 
> elicit the greatest interest. Flickers and bluebirds, as well as a 
> red-bellied woodpecker, were also using this avian apartment house. I 
> have had it reported that martins use the hollows in very old 
> cypresses in some of the large river swamps of South Carolina, along 
> with chimney swifts, which is certainly very likely, though I have not 
> seen this association personally.

On 4/14/2021 10:18 AM, Johnson, Alyssa wrote:
> Good morning,
> As I watch the Purple Martins returning, and setting up seasonal 
> residence, I wonder about natural nesting locations. I’m not asking 
> for directions to one, but has anyone ever seen one? What do they look 
> like? Do they nest in dead trees? Or holes/crags in cliffs?
> I’d love to see a natural nesting site, the only time I’ve ever seen 
> PUMAs are at the colonial nesting boxes! And I got to thinking- what 
> did they nest in before we built these condos for them?!
> 😊 Alyssa
> --
> *Alyssa Johnson*
> Environmental Educator
> 315.365.3588
> *Montezuma Audubon Center*
> PO Box 187
> 2295 State Route 89
> Savannah, NY 13146
> /Pronouns: She, Her, Hers/
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