Welcome to Manns Harbor Purple Martin Roost

Home to 100,000 Purple Martins!

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The Outer Banks of North Carolina are famous for beautiful beaches and other natural attractions, including a fascinating roost of purple martins at William B. Umstead Memorial (“Old Manns Harbor”) Bridge. East of the Rocky Mountains, martins are completely dependent on people to provide them with nesting structures in which to raise their young. Without these caring “landlords,” martins would likely become very rare throughout the eastern United States.

Martin landlords, like this one from eastern North Carolina's coastal plain provide housing for martins in which to raise their young.

You won't believe it when you see the martins in action! 100,000 martins converge on the bridge every night from July through August (although the roost is active from mid-June to mid-September when there are fewer birds present). After nesting, some martins may travel up to 150 miles from their breeding colonies to reach this location! Arriving at sunset, they sleep under the bridge. At sunrise they depart to feed for the day, building up fat stores in preparation for their annual 2,600 mile migration back to Brazil.

Manns Harbor Bridge roost is so large the bird's morning departure can be seen on Doppler radar!!

Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society (CCPMS) formed in late 2006 to advocate for the protection of martins at this roost, where thousands of the birds have been killed annually. CCPMS has determined that this spectacular roost has been active at this bridge for over 30 years. The birds travel to Manns Harbor from martin colonies across the northeastern coastal plain. “Each and every bird present at the bridge was raised in a martin house that a caring bird-lover erected in their yard,” says Alisa Esposito, chair of CCPMS.

100,000 martins from throughout NC's coastal plain visit “Old Manns Harbor Bridge” over beautiful Croatan Sound.

“Residents throughout the coastal plain have a long history of providing homes for these birds,” she says. “Generation after generation of residents and visitors alike are rewarded each year with pleasant martin chatter and the  benefit of natural insect control. The Manns Harbor martin roost is a truly unique phenomenon in Dare County and we are privileged to be part of it. These 100,000 martins grace our community each year because our coastal open spaces and waterways provide these birds with such spectacular habitat.”

CCPMS worked with Dare County Commissioners, NCDOT and Senator Marc Basnight to install speed reduction signs and lights which now alert drivers to slow down to avoid killing birds. Signs are in place July 1 through Sept 15, and are in effect only when flashing.





The mission of CCPMS is to protect the Manns Harbor roost and to promote the conservation of purple martins throughout the coastal plain region of North Carolina through public education.  Please consider joining us today!


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Photo credits:
Purple Martin (top right)/Nicole Janke