Hundreds of thousands of purple martins flock to Lake Murray’s Bomb Island

Purple martins flying overhead to Bomb Island. Karamie Sullivan photos.

It’s that time of year again. Many people living on or near Lake Murray know of the spectacle that attracts boaters to Bomb Island from June to August. Between 500,000 and 750,000 purple martins migrate to the small piece of land annually.

The birds migrate a total of approximately 5,000 miles each year. Their stay at Bomb Island will finish up around the end of August to early September, when the temperature begins to drop and the insects become more scarce. Then, the birds will fly farther south. It’s been reported that some of the tagged martins have been found to put off a signal from Mexico just two days after they leave.

The most dramatic purple martin scene occurs just around sunset, when thousands of birds can be seen flying into the island. Then collectively, as if one of them signals the rest, the majority of the birds fly in hoards around the island, almost in a large cyclonic pattern. Eventually less activity is seen, as they nest for the night on the island.

Dozens of boats are anchored around the island any given summer night to take in the dramatic visual. Bomb Island is considered a purple martin sanctuary.

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