This was a first for me. I have never seen a Purple Martin roost before. The photographs and video in this post show thousands of these birds coming in for the night at a location in Garland, Texas.

The martins begin arriving at dusk, flying in from all corners of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Many of the birds marshal themselves on nearby power lines before coming down to the trees around the parking lot below. As the sun sets and light gets low the fast flying martins form abstract patterns against a purple sky.

Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost

As of this post, there is an estimated 10,000 birds at this location every night. This communal roosting behavior begins as juvenile Purple Martins start to leave the nest. Adults and their offspring participate. The birds in these pictures represent some of the earliest fledging birds in the area. Many more birds will join them at this spot as the summer wears on and additional young martins leave their nests. It is possible the population of this roost will triple or quadruple in the coming weeks.

Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost

But, the roost at this location is only temporary. By the end of the summer the population will begin to disperse—there is a challenging migration on their agenda. But in the meanwhile, collecting like this every night helps the young martins develop the strength and flying skills they will need for their long trip to South America in the fall.

Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost
Purple Martin - Garland Roost

Observations Details

CountyDenton
Garland - I635 and Shiloh
CityGarland
DateJul 3, 2013
Time of DayEvening
TemperatureHot (greater than 89°F/32°C)
WeatherClear
HabitatCommercial-Retail
Type of BehaviorRoosting
GenderMixed
MaturityMixed
ObserverChris Jackson