Carter Henson is hooked on birds — specifically on purple martins. He currently has five martin houses in his backyard.

“We practically live in the backyard,” Carter said, “and love watching and hearing them.”

Attracting purple martins is just a hobby for Carter. He got his first house 12 years ago and attracted one pair of birds. A year later, when they came back to spend the summer, he had three  pairs. And the numbers have grown ever since. Today, he has 44 pairs.

Recently, Carter was contacted by Tim Mangan from Pittsburg, Kan., who wanted to band his birds. Mangan has a federal license for banding and he was looking for someone with at least 20 pairs. Mangan had talked to a traveling salesman who knew about Carter’s success with purple martins. So, Carter and Mangan got together a couple of weeks ago and banded 47 young birds.

“That was my first experience with banding.” Carter said. “It took about two hours with four or five helpers. Now, my birds are part of the three-year study.”

Purple martins are only in southern Missouri for a short period of time. They come in March, have their babies, and are usually gone the third week in July. They spend most of the year in Brazil.

Carter says he’s gotten quite attached to the birds and he hates to see them leave.

“My daughter’s birthday is July 20, and my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary on the 24th of July. It’s kinda sad because the birds usually leave between the 20th and 24th,” Carter explained. “It a lonely time for me.”

The birds are out feeding most of the day, but when they start coming home in the evening, Carter says it is a very noisy time. Once they are all back it quiets down again.

“We try to sit outside and watch,” Carter said. “It interesting to watch.”

English sparrows, starlings and snakes are the biggest predators of purple martins. His job is to get rid of as many of the nuisance birds as possible before the martins return, and he puts snake guards around the houses which sit on high poles.

Carter encourages anyone who has a place to put up a purple martin house. He has recruited two of his neighbors to put up houses and he says they are both very happy about it. People seem to like having martins around, even though they don’t eat mosquitoes as most people think they do. But their other qualities make them a pleasure to have around the yard and the neighborhood.

So, for being a friend to the birds, Carter Henson is this week’s good neighbor.