Right Around the River Blog

Purple Martins Roost in Shockoe Bottom

Post Date: 07-19-2011

At Rocketts Landing, we love that we're surrounded by an array of wildlife, even though we're only three minutes from downtown. In fact, this feature is one of the many reasons our residents (residential and commercial, alike) choose our community. From seeing great blue herons, otters, turtles and eagles (and even once a manatee!) to enjoying instant access to the James River, the great outdoors is a big part of the Rocketts Landing -- and Richmond -- experience.

So, the fact that Purple Martins make our next-door neighbor Shockoe Bottom their annual breeding grounds while on their way to Brazil isn't a big surprise. If you've not seen these birds in action, they're pretty incredible. Roosting in trees directly north of the 17th Street Farmer’s Market, the thousands of Martins fly acrobatically overhead in amazing dips and turns that feel like a choreographed dance. But if the performance sounds a bit Hitchcock-esque, don't worry -- the birds avoid side-swiping their viewers below!

The Martins have just started arriving for their annual roosting and thousands more birds are expected. In fact, last year, the flock peaked at 15,000 birds before they left town, so they clearly mean some mating business while they’re here! Even more impressive, the Shockoe Bottom roost is the only active, publicly accesible one of its kind throughout the state of Virginia (and urban Purple Martin roosts are even more rare!).

To see the birds in action, check out this video capturing them at the Farmer's Market:

In honor of this unique event, the National Audobon Society is hosting free Martin watches combined with a discussion led by Purple Martin experts before their fly-in at dusk. You can join in on the bird-watching fun for their next gatherings on July 20 and July 27 at the Farmer’s Market. And, for additional revelry, be sure to attend the 4th annual Purple Martins festival Gone to the Birds on August 6, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

But remember, with all those birds flying overhead, you might want to wear a hat!