Welcome to Manns Harbor Purple Martin Roost

Plan Your Visit

Soar with 100,000 birds in flight over Croatan Sound!

Plan your visit anytime between July 15 and August 25 for best viewing opportunity.

Martins are active at the bridge from mid-June through mid-September, but they do not reach a population of 100,000 until mid/late-July. After September 1 st , their numbers will slowly decline. Click here to find out why.

We recommend you bring bug repellent and binoculars. Binoculars or a spotting scope are not necessary but will enhance your visual experience.  

SAFETY FIRST! For martins and motorists!

Please remember to obey the new reduced speed limit when crossing the bridge and be aware that even with a reduced speed limit, it is still possible to hit and kill birds. To avoid this, we recommend using the alternate Virginia Dare Bridge just south of the martin roost. And please do not stop on the bridge or exit your vehicle!


From the west : Take Hwy 64 to Manns Harbor. Do not cross the new Virginia Dare Bridge. Instead, turn left at the light leading into Manns Harbor community. Follow this road to the “Old Manns Harbor Bridge.” 

If you are traveling from the west on HWY 64 toward the roost between 7 - 8:00 pm, look overhead for martins flying east along with you! They are traveling from up to 150 miles away to reach the same bridge you are driving to! Look for “staging areas” along the way (powerlines and trees filled with martins resting on their travels.)

From Roanoke Island, North End: Go west on Hwy 64 and cross the Old Manns Harbor Bridge to it's western landfall well before sunrise or sunset to avoid harming birds.

From Roanoke Island, South End, or Outer Banks : Cross Virginia Dare Bridge going west, turn right into Manns Harbor Community and follow road to foot of Old Manns Harbor Bridge.

When to get there:

30 minutes before official sunset. Click here to view a sunrise/sunset chart for Manteo, NC, and REMEMBER when using this chart to ADD ONE HOUR for daylight savings time!

Where to go when you get there:

Best spot to view birds is on the NW side of the road. Park on the NCDOT right-of-way on NW side and stand near the foot of the bridge. 

Roost Facts to help you Plan your Visit

High winds prolong the bird's roosting activity because it interferes with their ability to land on the perching structures underneath the bridge. As long as it isn't raining, medium to strong winds put on a great martin show!

Calm skies and low wind means the birds will roost much more quickly.

Sometimes the birds roost far from land; this is when binoculars would be recommended.

Sometimes the birds will roost right near shore and they will seem to be flying all around you.

While you are standing near the bridge, look to the west along the water. The birds follow the waterways to reach their bridge. Just when it seems there couldn't be another bird on the planet, you will see more and more and more of them streaming in from the west.

As it gets darker, the bird's fly lower; late-comers use the water as a guide. Watch over the surface of the water as darkness sets in; it seems to undulate with the flight martins gliding over it.

Each and every night will be different, but every night is going be beautiful when you are visiting the birds.

If you have a group, club or organization and would like to schedule a meeting with a biologist at the roost, please email us or call 252-394-6205. Check out our educational programs page for already scheduled events.