Bird-spectacle notice: Purple Martins in South Carolina
July and August is the time to see hundreds of thousands of martins at their largest known roost.
July 17, 2007
WAUKESHA, WI — One of America's most popular backyard birds is about to put on a show.
From July to the end of August, nearly one million Purple Martins will inhabit Lunch Island in Lake Murray located just west of Columbia, South Carolina.
Photo by Whitney Robertson/South Carolina Wildlife Federation
Each night in July, hundreds of thousands of Purple Martins will gather on Lunch Island, also known as Doolittle Island or Bombing Range Island, the nation's first martin sanctuary and the largest known roost.
The island is located in Lake Murray, just west of Columbia, South Carolina. Click here for a map of the area.
As many as 750,000 to one million martins will spend time on the island throughout the summer, before departing for wintering areas in South America around Labor Day.
"Seeing a martin flock fly to its roost is spectacular," says Chuck Hagner, editor of Birder's World. "Lake Murray is one of the best places to watch the phenomenon."
The best way to observe the roost is by boat. The charter Southern Patriot operates a 2.5-hour evening cruise on Sundays and Mondays in July and August. The South Carolina Wildlife Federation will hold a special tour on July 17.
"It's a lot of fun to share the experience with other people," says Louise Chambers of the Purple Martin Conservation Association. "It's like watching fireworks together. Everyone has their mouths open in disbelief."
To learn more about the birds, read "Purple Martin Science: Three fun ways you can help answer questions about a bird that fascinated Audubon" in the June 2007 Birder's World.
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