Ruling the pre-migratory roost: Purple Martins return to downtow - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Ruling the pre-migratory roost: Purple Martins return to downtown Shreveport

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For eight years now, Shreveport has been the site of one of the area’s largest pre-migratory roosts for the purple-hued birds. For eight years now, Shreveport has been the site of one of the area’s largest pre-migratory roosts for the purple-hued birds.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Purple Martins are once again putting on quite a show in downtown Shreveport.

Gary Pung, a bird enthusiast with about 20 years of experience, has a special place in his heart for these birds in particular. "I grew up with them on a farm in northern Minnesota. It's just a life long passion of mine. It's always grown."

If you've ever wondered why they're called Purple Martins, Pung explains, "Their feathers are iridescent, so when the sun hits them in a certain way, they have a purple hue to them."

For eight years now, he says Shreveport has been the site of one of the area’s largest pre-migratory roosts for the purple-hued birds. The largest of the North American swallows, their roosting behavior around this time of year can be an impressive sight to see.

"It's a natural phenomenon and spectacle in itself," Pung says. "We're not sure why they gather in huge roosts like they do, but they do." The roost has now moved to several live oak trees on E. Fannin St., directly in front of Sam's Town parking garage.

"What they will do is they will swarm about 7 o'clock and more and more and more will appear, and eventually they will start dive-bombing into the live oak trees where they will roost for the night."

On a recent evening, he captured video of what he estimated to be some 50 to 70,000 birds in a flight, swirling in great dark clouds in the early evening dusk in downtown Shreveport. Besides being mesmerizing to watch, they eat a lot of insects.

"That's a fairly large roost, and I think Shreveport should be proud we can host such a roost. And so far, they've tolerated them pretty much."

At one time, the pre-migratory roosts were known to roost outside what used to be known as LSU Hospital on Kings Hwy. Now, they've moved downtown. As Pung points out, many people raise them in their backyards. Wherever they may roost, Gary Pung just hopes others will appreciate their presence, too.

"If people were made aware of this phenomenon, I feel it would be greatly appreciated and better understood," says Pung. "People are naturally curious of this happening. Many stop to look, but many do not know or are aware of what is really going on."

The roost will peak for several weeks then slowly dissipate when the Purple Martins start their migration to Brazil. Next spring, they will return to their local nesting sites to start this process all over. As Pung points out, they are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Pung says if you'd like to see it for yourself, the best view is from the top level of the Sam's Town parking garage between 7:30 and 8 p.m. "You actually have a bird's eye view of the roost, which is a spectacular view."

Learn more about Purple Martins here, at http://www.purplemartin.org/.

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