Prepare for the arrival of purple martins in Nashville

Where will purple martins roost this year in Music City? Here’s how you can help local bird advocates keep track of their migration.

A large group of birds flying

Look up: Purple martins could be flying over downtown in the coming weeks. | Photo via Metro Parks

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No binoculars needed for this assignment. If you’re new to Nashville or missed this local bird phenomenon in the past, purple martins are expected to arrive in Music City in the coming weeks as part of their annual migration to South America.

According to local bird advocates, purple martins have historically roosted along the Cumberland River, with up to 150,000 at a time temporarily calling downtown home in recent years.

Locating and monitoring Nashville’s purple martin migration roost has been a citizen project for nearly three decades, and as of this year, it’s incorporated into Nashville’s new designation as an Urban Bird Treaty city.

How to help

If you spot purple martins in large numbers perched on wires, feeding high in the sky + low over the river, or landing at dark in trees, contact Bird Safe Nashville.

Purple martins are the largest swallow in North America, have slightly forked tails, and are known to feast on flying insects between 150-500 ft off the ground. Pro tip: Listen out for “throaty, bubbling chirps.”

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