The end of summer means back to school, back to the grindstone, back from vacation. And for millions of birds, it means time to fly south for the winter.
One particular type of bird — the purple martin — has spent the summer preparing for that journey under the Causeway bridge. Right where the south shore connects to the Causeway, tens of thousands of the birds have maintained a roost, with a second roost further along the bridge. They sleep under it, flying in right at sunset. The last summer stragglers are now getting ready for their flight south.
WWNO’s Eve Troeh visited the birds, and talked to the Audubon Zoo’s Curator of Birds, Carolyn Atherton, about this local phenomenon.
A few quick facts about purple martins, via Atherton:
- They are indeed purple. The males have a deep, iridescent hue, and the females are a bit lighter.
- Contrary to folk wisdom, purple martins do not keep mosquitoes away from humans.
- Purple martins are the largest member of the swallow family, and have the distinct split tail of other swallows.
- They number about 6 million birds, with approximately 200,000 coming through the New Orleans area for their annual migration.
- The peak for viewing the martins' roost is earlier in summer, but a few stragglers are left.
- Directions on how, when and where to visit the purple martins are here.