Purple Martins takeover Texas Land and Cattle for annual roost

Hundreds of thousands of birds have filled up the sky near the intersection of I-35 and Highway 290.

The Purple Martins have chosen the Texas Land and Cattle restaurant as a roost site this year.

Each year around this time, the birds put on a show for those who know where to find them.

“The Purple Martins are far better than the bats,” said Jordan Price with the Travis Audubon Society. 

Although the bats may get more attention in Austin, there is some stiff competition from another flying animal.

“To see over 300,000 birds flying right over your head and swooping and swirling, these crazy acrobatics into trees, it's absolutely incredible,” Price said. These soaring swallows pick a pre-migratory roost location in Austin each year before their trek to the Amazon basin.

“These birds here, in a couple of weeks, are going to make a 4,000 mile trip to Brazil they go down to the Amazon jungle for the winter, and then they have to make a 4,000 mile trip back,” said Danny Sinclair, owner of Purple Martin Propagators. 

The Purple Martins are up for the challenge. They can fly more than 350 miles in a single day.

“They have a 15 inch wingspan,” Sinclair said. 

The aerial acrobats have drawn crowds of their own outside Texas Land and Cattle this year. Stunned spectators flock to the roost site to take pictures and videos of the multitude of Martins.

“Watching the Purple Martins is a magnificent way to enjoy nature in Austin,” said Price. 

However, there is some fear that the population may not be as plentiful in years to come.

“Purple Martins are on the decline throughout the U.S.  They're not endangered, but we're concerned that they are heading that way,” Price said. 

That's why Sinclair has taken the species under his wing earning him the nickname, “the bird man of Austin.”

Sinclair travels all over Texas installing housing for his favorite birds.

“This is a passion for me,” he said. 

Setting up at least a dozen of gourds for the Martins to nest in is mutually beneficial for anyone in need of insect control. 

“They're considered the jet fighters of the bird species. They go after those insects, the insects don't have a chance,” said Sinclair. 

At the same time, providing Purple Martin housing allows the birds to hatch more babies in a protected environment.

“We've gotten that population up to around 300,000 to 350,000 Purple Martins now in our pre-migratory roost and it's all because of these houses,” Sinclair said. 

That means this years' Purple Martin spectacle is even bigger and better than recent years. 

The Travis Audubon Society will be hosting Purple Martin parties Friday and Saturday nights during the month of July outside Texas Land and Cattle. It's best to get there around 8:30 p.m. as the birds are most prevalent after sunset. The Audubon Society said all people need to do is bring a chair, an umbrella or hat and enjoy the view.

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