Brake For Purple Martins

Jul 27, 2017

Credit Audubon

North Carolina's Transportation Department is reminding drivers of a lower speed limit on an Outer Banks bridge to protect purple martins, which roost annually on the span over the Croatan Sound. Jared Brumbaugh has more.

The speed limit on the William B. Umstead Bridge in Manns Harbor is 20 mph at dusk and dawn to protect the more than 100,000 purple martins that roost on the west end of the bridge as they prepare for their annual 3,000 mile migration to Brazil.

“It’s one of the biggest roosts in the eastern U.S.”

Michael Gery is the Chair of the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society.

“The people come out to see it are just mystified.  They’re awestruck by what they see.  And once you see it, you’ll never forget it.  It’s a really natural phenomenon that’s really spectacular.”

Gery says this is the most active time of year for the birds. They leave at dawn to feed and return at sunset. The flock is so large during its peak that it can be seen on Doppler radar.  Gery adds the Bridgeton side of the Neuse River bridge in New Bern is the closest roosting population, albeit, smaller. The State Department of Transportation has been working with the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society since 2007 to protect the birds.