Purple Martins return to Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Purple Martin birds have been migrating to Nashville since at least the 1990s when they were detected on radar. These birds have stayed within downtown limits while roosting but moving locations about every three to five years.

Lately, they have been roosting in the ten trees outside of the Symphony Center. Roosting takes place after birds are done breeding. Roosting is a time when baby birds learn to fly, find food, and store fat before they migrate to South America.

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Each day around sunrise the birds spread out across Middle Tennessee to find insects to eat. At sunset, the birds return downtown by the hundreds.

Laura Cook, the bird research coordinator for Warner Parks, compared the roost to a hotel of trees where the birds stay for a couple of weeks. Purple Martins are very social birds but the reason they choose downtown is still unknown. Cook said a few theories include that it looks like an island of trees, just like where they go in South America, there are fewer predators downtown, or the birds just want to be close to humans.

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The Mayor’s Office sent a statement to News 2 which reads, “Years of study, discussion, efforts, and expenses have failed to produce a solution to the hundreds of thousands of purple martins that roost annually in the 10 trees outside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The trees will be replaced with a new species at no cost to Metro, and we will be actively working to enhance our urban tree canopy by focusing on planting trees in all downtown tree wells, which is supported by the work of the Downtown Partnership whose watering program helps ensure trees in our downtown have a chance to stay healthy, grow and thrive. We look forward to working with our partners, businesses and residents to educate the community on the purple martins and their migratory activities, including ensuring that their self-selected roost site stays protected and safe. We remain committed to being a city that supports a healthy bird population.”

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