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Cyndy Holda

20 PURPLE MARTIN MAJESTY Dare County By Michael E.C. Gery

Robin Mann


or more than 30 years, no one made a big deal about the huge numbers of purple martins that sought refuge under the bridge crossing Croatan Sound between Manns Harbor and Roanoke Island. It was just a phenomenon of nature that locals appreciated. As traffic running to and from the Outer Banks grew In summer months at dawn and dusk, you can see thousands of purple martins flying to and from their roost under the west end of the old Manns Harbor bridge. heavier, however, the birds themselves found their bridge roost no longer the safe haven they thought it was. their favorite food—insects—available among the vast agricultural fields, wildlife refuges and wetlands of the coastal Vehicles were killing thousands of martins every sumplain. Their morning departure is so large they can be seen mer, terrifying not only the birds but also the motorists who encountered the swooping swarms at dawn and dusk on Doppler radar. They return at sunset to sleep under the western span of the bridge, building up fat stores in every day. preparation for their 2,600-mile migration back to Brazil in September. A SOLUTION FOR BIRDS AND MOTORISTS During the last few years, local birders studied the martin roost and began informing local people and officials about AMERICA’S MOST BELOVED BIRD the amazing summer display and the traffic safety issues Martins rely 100 percent on people for nesting quarters and surrounding it. The idea of protecting the roost and motorreproductive success. Most birds return to the same colony ists took hold easily. Now, from July through mid-Septemeach year. After nesting, martins may travel up to 150 miles ber, flashing lights and a 20-mph speed limit on the 50-year- from their breeding colonies—ranging from the Outer old William Umstead Banks to Williamston, Elizabeth City to Belhaven—to reach Bridge protect birds and the Manns Harbor roost. drivers alike, and allow Martins have been called America’s most beloved bird, all of us to witness the says Alisa Esposito, chair of CCPMS. “Residents of North spectacular display of Carolina’s coastal plain have a long history of providing birds during sunrise and homes for these birds,” she says. “Generation after generasunset hours. tion of residents and visitors alike are rewarded annually The Coastal Carolina with pleasant martin chatter and the added benefit of natuPurple Martin Society ral insect control. These martins grace our community each estimates that some year because our coastal 100,000 martins come to open spaces and waterCoastal Carolina the Manns Harbor Roost ways provide these birds Purple Martin Society each year after their with such spectacular P.O. Box 172 young are able to fly. The habitat.” Once young purple martins are able Manns Harbor, NC 27953 birds like it under the Look for a series of to fly in mid-summer, they will roost (252) 394-6205 bridge because there are educational programs under the old Manns Harbor Bridge no land-dwelling predaassociated with the roost in Dare County awaiting the time to tors nearby. At dawn this summer. You also can head to Brazil for the winter. they leave in search of join the society.


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20 Carolina Country Adventures Your Vacation Photos Literary & Culture Trails The 2008 Touchstone Energy Travel Guide—pages 45–82 INSIDE...


20 Carolina Country Adventures Your Vacation Photos Literary & Culture Trails The 2008 Touchstone Energy Travel Guide—pages 45–82 INSIDE...