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Purple Martin Roosts

Purple Martins are very sociable. After nesting they gather in large numbers in martin ‘roosts’ as they prepare to migrate to South America for the winter. These roosts can be very large, some approaching 1 million birds.

Martin roost locations
Martin roosts are often located near large bodies of water, sometimes on islands or large bridges. Not all roosts are near water, and can even be found in shopping mall parking lots.

Once a roost area has developed, it tends to be used year after year. The Purple Martin Conservation Association maintains a list of known roosting locations.

purple martin flock

Purple Martin flock coming in to roost.

purple martin flock

Purple Martin roost

The above photographs were taken in a shopping mall parking lot near Denton, Texas. Each evening, thousands of  Purple Martins swirl into the small trees in the parking lot.  Estimates range form 80,000 to 100,000 martins in this roost.
Purple Martins also form communal roosts on their South American homes, although they tend to be centered around city parks and similar habitats.

Birding Quick Hits

Blue Jays do Johnny Appleseed one better.  After the retreat of the last ice age, oak trees spread back north faster than might have been expected.  There is speculation that Blue Jays helped the process by caching acorns underground, some of which grew into new trees.