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Purple Martins

History of Purple Martin Roost in Downtown Tulsa by Dick Sherry

Photos from Previous Downtown Tulsa Martin Roost Watches

photo by Bill Horn

Every summer a true wildlife spectacle takes place in downtown Tulsa - A summer Purple Martin roost with between 100,000-250,000 birds. Purple Martins are highly social birds, and after leaving their nesting colonies form large, communal roosts where they sleep at night prior to and during migration. Downtown Tulsa has had a roost since the early 1980ís.

While the birds return to downtown Tulsa every summer, each year they may choose a different location. The year the birds roosting in some Bradford Pears in the parking lot between 9th and 10th, and Cincinnati and Detroit.  

The watches this year are set for 8 p.m. to dark, July 25 and August 8 at the Tulsa Community College parking lot at 10th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa.

Everyone is welcome to join us for a pre-watch dinner 6:30pm at the Mazzio's at 10th and Elgin.

Purple Martins in downtown Tulsa August 2012. Photo by Wayne Suns


Photos from the 2010 Purple Martin Roost Watch

In 2008 Tulsa Audubon hosted an inaugural Purple Martin Roost Watch on July 30. 75 people came out to enjoy what is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this spectacle. We held a second Roost Watch on August 16 with over 100 people, 39 of whom dined that evening at the Doubletree Hotel's restaurant.

Click here for various media coverage of the roost watch:

Tulsa World       KTUL Channel 8         KRMG Radio       KOTV Channel 6

This summer the best vantage point to view the Martins is the top of the downtown Doubletree Hotel parking garage. The Martins begin arriving about 8:00 p.m., and finish settling down by about 9:00 p.m.

Be sure to thank the Doubletree for allowing us to gather at there garage to view the Martins, and also thank them making the effort every day to clean up the mess!

Please contact Mayor Kathy Taylor at  or (918) 596-2100 and tell her what a great asset the Martins are to the city.

Click here to view an archived radar image of the martins leaving the Tulsa roost in 2005.

For more information on Martins, visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association

The Purple Martin's association with man was started by Native Americans. James Hill, founder of the PMCA, documented historical references to various tribes, including the Delaware, who have descendants in the Tulsa area. A story ran over the weekend on NPR with an interview with a tribe member from Tulsa.

Purple Martin Roost in Downtown Tulsa

by Dick Sherry

The purple martin is the largest swallow found in North America. The birds migrate north from wintering grounds in South America with the first arrivals reaching the Tulsa area in late February and early March. The majority of local residents arrive from late March to early May. After they raise their young in housing provided by humans, they spend their days feeding on a variety of flying insects to build up their bodies for the strenuous migration back to South America. In the evenings, they come together in large numbers at a communal roost.

Martins have roosted in or near the downtown area each summer since the 1980ís. The numbers at the roost this year may be negatively impacted by the adverse weather in this area during the nesting season which led to the deaths of both adults and nestlings. The roost is comprised of birds that nested in Tulsa and the surrounding area and their young, plus migrants from states to our north. Each day some of the birds move on to the south and are replaced by birds coming from the north. The roost numbers peak in late July and early August. All are usually gone by early September.

All of the adult birds nested in housing in yards, on farms and at lake properties provided by landlords. They are prized by those that host them, and martins are protected by Federal law that prohibits harming and harassing them.

Each morning, the birds leave the roost around sun-up. Some will continue the migration south, but most will spread out up to 30 or 40 miles or more along rivers and to lakes and large ponds. This departure from the roost shows up on weather radar as a donut shaped image that grows larger, then disappears as the birds spread out. After a day of feasting on flying insects, the birds move to staging areas (Lake Yahola in Mohawk Park, the Arkansas River south of the 11th Street Bridge and at Newblock Park are major staging areas). Around 8 PM they begin heading to the downtown roost.

Please enjoy the spectacle of the martins during this premigration roosting period, stay a moderate distance away from the roost trees, and encourage property owners and local officials to accept and appreciate the value of these winged natural resources that love downtown Tulsa.

For more information on purple martins, contact the Purple Martin Conservation Association at


Photos of the 2008 Downtown Tulsa Martin Roost

Photo by Wayne Suns

Photo by Terry Wollitz

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum

Photo by Robert McCallum





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Copyright © 2013 Tulsa Audubon Society
Last modified: January 28, 2014




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