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Last updated 6:14AM ET
February 28, 2021
Purple Martins Arrive In Fewer Numbers
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - While purple martins by the hundreds of thousands roost for a time at favorite stops in Alabama as they head south for winter, some bird watchers have noticed a change in migration patterns.

Ray Moore, who is president of the Northwest Alabama Purple Martin Club and has put out nesting gourds for 30 years, said the numbers began dropping a couple of years ago.

Normally he had 160 nesting pairs in his nearly 200 gourds, he said, but last year he had 70 pair and this year 35 pair.

"They've been faithful coming back every year until two years ago," said Moore, who suspects Hurricane Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29, 2005, played a role in disrupting the migratory routes to South America.

He said others around Alabama reported they were overloaded with purple martins, and some had none.

"It's just been crazy. I don't know why they are not coming in ... I know the coast is overloaded with them," he said.

Keith Hudson, a state wildlife biologist, said the purple martins also changed their pre-migratory roost along the Tennessee River. He said he is uncertain if there are fewer birds coming through or another large roost nearby that he's not aware of.

Recently he estimated 150,000 were roosting on a transmission tower island by the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Last year he estimated 300,000 to 400,000 had roosted on an island west of Wheeler Dam.

While the birds roost in Alabama this time of year on the way to South America, mainly Brazil, they begin returning around the middle of February.


Information from: The Birmingham News

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