Family Fun! Grown Up Fun! Lake Murray

Discover: Purple Martins on Lake Murray

March 13, 2019

Roosts can be a spectacular sight with tens or even hundreds of thousands of birds descending at dusk.  (photo: Spirit of Lake Murray)

You may have heard about one of the largest roosts of Purple Martins (swallows) in the United States… on Lake Murray, just outside Columbia, SC. When can you see them flocking up in their signature swirls of many thousands… like choreographed bird ballet in the sky? Well, that depends. In late summer after leaving the nesting colony, Purple Martins gather in large flocks to feed, socialize, and rest before migrating to South America.  This activity, known as migratory roosting, can attract thousands of birds to one small area.  For many years (albeit for one year when the birds decided they preferred Lake Monticello, SC), an island in Lake Murray known as Bomb Island has been a favored roost for Purple Martins, with as many as 750,000 birds flocking together. Visiting the roost at dusk, as the birds descend to the island to rest, is a unique experience. From a boat is truly the only way to see it close enough to appreciate.

The Spirit of Lake Murray offers Purple Martin Cruises – public tours and private charters.

The Spirit of Lake Murray, a luxury yacht used for charter and public events and cruises, conducts sunset dinner cruises during Purple Martin Season – usually early July through August. The boat is currently out of the water for refitting, but should be back in for Purple Martin Season.

Migratory and wintering roosts are critically important to the annual life cycle and ecology of Purple Martins. (photo: Spirit of Lake Murray)

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