NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It is quite a sight to see over 100,000 purple martins returning to their roost at sunset! Every summer in July and August for the last 10-15 years, they have set up a roost in the Nashville area.

Courtesy of Graham Gerdeman. Graham Gerdeman website

We’ve even seen them during the morning on the radar when they leave their roost and fly off to look for food.

(Courtesy: News 2 Weather App)

Years ago, they were on the East Bank just north of Nissan Stadium near the interstate, but they have crossed the river since then.

Courtesy of Jessa Tremblay

“For some reason, in 2020, they showed up at the Nashville Schermerhorn, and they were in the largest numbers we’ve ever seen,” said Laura Cook, Warner Parks bird research coordinator. “We estimated about 150,000 birds. It could be plus or minus tens of thousands more, and they have been there for the most part since then.”

The birds roost at night in the 10 trees next to the Schermerhorn Center on Symphony Way and in some trees nearby on 2nd Avenue near the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.

Courtesy of Graham Gerdeman. Graham Gerdeman website

That large amount of birds in such a small area can be a mess, but the Mayor’s Office has worked with Nashville Downtown Partnerships to have the area cleaned daily with pressure washers. The wastewater is also captured and not allowed to go into the storm drains.

Metro Parks and Recreation is also providing volunteers to explain this phenomenon to tourists, as well as the locals.

(Courtesy of the Purple Martin Conservation Association)

“Some people are confused; they don’t know what’s going on,” explained Jessa Tremblay, Metro Parks community engagement naturalist. “So having volunteers down here most nights, we can engage with them, let them know what’s happening, teach them about the purple martins that are flying through. We teach them how they come here at night, staying together in big groups on these trees that are around us here and they’ll be here throughout the night, and then in the morning, they’ll disperse and go as much as 75miles away from here during the day to search for food before coming back every single night.”

Can you believe that in September, these birds will be migrating to as far away as Brazil?

Nashville has been designated a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “Urban Bird Treaty City” to provide habitat, reduce hazards, and promote education.

“It’s not often that you can go into an urban center and truly see a migration phenomenon,” Cook pointed out. “This is a migration phenomenon, and we have it right here in Nashville, and it truly is spectacular to be down there. You can look up and see these teeny little dots, and then they start coming lower and lower and lower, and then suddenly you’ll have tens of thousands of birds creating their own wind and their vocalizations are beautiful, and they’re right there! It’s really an amazing thing to see.”

If you want to see this show of Mother Nature, go downtown near the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and the Schermerhorn Center just before sunset, and it’s not a bad idea to wear a hat!