Our magical purple martins

By on August 14, 2019

By Janet Woodard, Outer Banks Voice

Photo by Tony Brittan, Island Shore Productions

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are famous for beautiful beaches and other natural attractions, including a fascinating roost of purple martins at the William B. Umstead Memorial Bridge. East of the Rocky Mountains, martins are completely dependent on people to provide them with nesting structures in which to raise their young.  Without their caring “landlords,” these birds would likely become very rare throughout the eastern United States.

Up to 100,000 martins converge on the William B. Umstead Memorial Bridge every night from mid- July through mid-August. The roost is active until mid-September, however there are fewer present that month.  After nesting, some martins may travel up to 150 miles from their breeding colonies to reach this location.  Arriving at sunset, they sleep under the bridge. At sunrise, they depart to feed for the day, building up their fat stores in preparation for the annual migration back to Brazil. 

Photo by Tony Brittan, Island Shore Productions

Thanks to the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society, you can see these beautiful birds in action while enjoying the sound waters on the Crystal Dawn. The mission of the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society is to protect the annual roost of purple martins and to promote, through public education, the conservation of these migratory birds throughout the coastal plain region of North Carolina. 

For more information on the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society log on to www.purplemartinroost.com.  The 2019 purple martin tours on the Crystal Dawn may be over, but you can go to their website to find other observation areas and what you need to do to book your purple martin excursion for 2020.

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