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Austins purple martins are doing the most amazing thing

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“This is an amazing spectacle of nature happening in North Austin,” Travis Audubon volunteer Shelia Hargis told “The aerial show is amazing, and you don’t have to travel very far to see it… At the roost, I’ve heard from people who have no connection to birds say, ‘Oh my god. This is spectacular!’ and ‘This is better than the bats!’ and then come back the next night with their family and friends.”

purple martins austin


The martinsВ first showed up in notable numbers in 2000. At that point, the Austin birding community, spearheaded by theВ Travis Audubon, began keeping tabs and raising awareness about them.В To that end, TA hostsВ multiple free “Purple Martin Parties” each season, inviting locals to gather to learn about the birdsВ from birding experts and watch the nightly swarms.

purple martin female


“Travis Audubon is always looking for ways to connect people to nature,” TA Executive Director Joan Marshall told “What’s exciting about the Purple Martin Parties is that most of the spectators are new to birding. В It’s a great educational opportunity – you can’t protect and care for the environment if you don’t appreciate it!»

In 2015, you can join the flockВ from 7:45 to 9 p.m. on the following weekends:

  • July 10 – 11
  • July 17 – 18
  • July 24 – 25
  • July 31 – August 1
  • Last yearВ marked theВ martins’В largest gathering in Austin yet – roughly 600,000 birds – and Hargis expects that we will see similar (if not increased) numbers this season… butВ not at Highland Mall. According to early viewers, the swallows appear toВ have selected a differentВ roost site for 2015: the live oaksВ near Shepler’s Western Wear at Capital Plaza Shopping Center.

    “This newВ roost already has more than 100,000 birds,” Hargis said. “That’s lots more than we normally see at this time of year, so this year’s show could be even more spectacular than normal… if that’s possible!”

    Purple martin viewing is best in JulyВ and fizzles out quickly after thatВ as more and more birds migrate south, so be sure to catch the display before August rolls in, either by going it alone or with friends, or by attending one of TA’s Purple MartinВ affairs. To find the roost, turn into the Plaza through the main entrance, which is just before Target, and find a parking spot between the stop sign and the end of the road, keepingВ an eye out for pedestrians.В Swarm time varies but usually begins near sunset, so make sure you’re camped out in your lawn chair with umbrellas up and/or hats on by 7:45 p.m. And for goodness’ sake, after our crazy spring deluge, doВ notВ forget to slather on theВ bug spray.

    Visit the Travis Audubon’s website for more logistical details.

    Here is footage from Texas Parks & Wildlife of the 2014 roost (watch in HD):

    — Featured photo:В Flickr user Ann Harkness,В CC licensed

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