Austin, Texas: Purple Martin Roost at a Mall

Grackles and starlings fill the trees around a shopping center, while giant flocks of purple martins wheel overhead.

Highland Mall

E Highland Mall Blvd., Austin, TX
I-35 exit 238-A. At Highland Mall by Foley's. East side of building in seven oak trees by the building.
July and Aug, 8:15-9:15 pm.
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Purple Martin Roost at a Mall

The purple martins don't actually nest in the oak trees at Highland mall: The nesters are a mix of hundreds of grackles and starlings. What the Martins do (and is equally impressive) is wheel above the mall in huge flocks every late summer evening. Thousands of birds in the sunset -- between the grackle/starling colonies and the purple martins it really is a treat if you're a bird-sort.

[Gabriel, 11/12/2008]
Purple Martin Roost at a Mall

Millions of purple martins call seven oak trees their sleeping spot in July and August. Near sunset they start coming in to roost for the night in wave after wave of birds. The sky is peppered with martins as this begins. Some silent cue starts the process as group after group lands. The oak trees are finally "frosted" with martins by about 9 pm. It's loud, spectacular, awesome. Definitely worth seeing if you never have before. Just don't walk under the trees w/o an umbrella. Give them some space and hang out in the parking lot as their numbers are decreasing. There's also a roost in Houston at Sharpstown Center.

The bats at Congress Avenue Bridge are cool, but the purple martins are even easier to see. And it's less crowded.

[Katherine Murray, 08/06/2005]

July 2008: Robert Baumgardner writes to us: "These are not purple martins. Purple martins do not roost in trees, they do not gather in huge flocks, and by June they have all flown back to South and Central America. These are grackles." Grackles! The locusts of wild bird feeders everywhere.... July 2009: Pat Arnold rebuts: "Just Google "Purple Martins" to see what all they do and not do. As we speak a huge roost is taking place in Houston at the KBR office location, millions of birds (YES, PM'S and not grackles or starlings) come in at dusk and leave early in the morning. They are teaching their fledgings to eat in flight, and cover long distances before getting ready to winter over in South America."

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