The New Excluder Gourd
Ken Kostka
Purple Martin Preservation Alliance
Pittsburgh, PA

    There has been a new plastic Purple Martin gourd on the market for about a year, and it is proving to be a winner. The new Snyder Excluder Gourd has a variety of features that make it both very attractive and - more importantly - extremely functional. (Click on the photo above for a close-up view.)

    I can remember the first time I saw this new gourd.  I was impressed!  First, it has the look and feel of a large natural gourd that has been painted white. Unlike some other plastic gourds on the market that have artificial shapes which are unnaturally round, elongated or flattened out, the Excluder Gourd looks like a typically-shaped and yet symmetrical natural gourd. And there is simple explanation - the model used to make the mold was based on a natural gourd grown right in Duke's gourd patch. It even has the textured look of a natural gourd, unlike many other plastic gourds that are artificially smooth. You really must see one close up to fully appreciate this feature.

    Weighing in at about two pounds, the Excluder Gourd has a 10.5" diameter - larger than most competitors - to offer martins a roomy, sheltered cavity that is big enough to raise a large brood while offering protection from driving rains. The gourd is blow-molded, meaning it is one solid piece, without any seams that could leak or come apart. And this gourd is very strong. Unlike natural gourds or thin-walled plastic gourds, which can crack if dropped, this gourd is very tough and would be very difficult to break, so it can't be damaged by hail, rock-throwing youngsters, or clumsy landlords. The hardware used to attach the porch is stainless steel, meaning there is nothing to rust, and since the Excluder Gourd is molded in white polyethylene, it never needs painted.

    Like other commercially available plastic gourds, the Excluder Gourd has hanging holes, drainage holes, a rain canopy, and a screw-on closure cap for easy nest checks and cleanouts; but it also has several other functional features that other gourds do not.  One unique feature is a set of sturdy porches (internal and external) with deep, molded-in ridges for traction . Some manufacturers offer porches made of either metal or thin plastic as add-ons. While acceptable (I use both), they have some disadvantages. First, both require silicone caulking to attach properly, while the Excluder gourd porches are easily attached with two stainless steel bolts. Second, the thin plastic porches can break off if the gourd is dropped or the porch is bent hard . This has happened to me on three occasions. The Excluder Gourd's porches are about one-half inch thick and virtually unbreakable. 

    But the most exciting and unique feature of the Excluder Gourd is its patented starling-proof entrance hole called the Excluder II. This new entrance hole prevents European Starlings from entering while allowing for easy entry by martins. The starling is an introduced pest species that can kill martins and destroy their nest in an attempt to take over a nesting cavity. They are strong, aggressive, and abundant. If allowed to claim a nesting cavity at an uncolonized site, they will drive off investigating martins and ruin any chance of establishing a martin colony. I used this entrance hole at several colonies during the summer of 2006 and it was a a big hit with the martins. While several other gourds offer a starling-resistant entrance hole, no other gourd offers a starling-proof entrance hole.

    For all of these reasons, I can recommend the new Excluder Gourd highly and without reservation. It is, in my opinion, one of the best - if not the best - commercially manufactured gourd on the market. But perhaps the most convincing testimonial to the Excluder Gourd comes from the martins themselves.  In 2006, Duke Snyder placed 18 new Excluder Gourds at the PMPA's Gastown colony site in Shelocta, PA, and all 18 were used - 17 by martins and 1 by a Tree Swallow. At his Butler colony, Duke offered 10 Excluder Gourds and all were occupied. The Purple Martin Conservation Association erected martin housing, including a variety of gourds, at several sites in Presque Isle State Park, their new home in Erie, PA. They attracted  two pairs of nesting Purple Martins - one pair at each of two sites - and both pairs chose the new Excluder Gourd to nest in!

To summarize, the Excluder Gourd has the following nine features, the first two of which are unique to it alone.

1. Martin-friendly, Starling-proof entrance hole
2. Sturdy, easily-attached, grooved porches
3. Natural shape (most natural shape of any plastic gourd I have ever seen)
4. Natural texture (looks like a painted natural gourd)
5. Large Diameter - 10.5"
6. Maintenance-free; never needs painted
7. Thick, strong, unbreakable
8. Rain canopy over entrance hole
9. Access door for easy nest check/cleanout