Speed Limits for the Birds: Purple Martins Flocking to Manns Harbor Monday, July 24, 2017

Manns Harbor - With the annual purple martin roost reaching its mid-summer peak in Manns Harbor, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is reminding motorists of lower dusk and dawn speed limits on the William B. Umstead Bridge, locally known as the Old Manns Harbor Bridge.

From mid-July through August, the west end of the bridge on Croatan Sound becomes home to more than 100,000 purple martins as they prepare for their annual migration to Brazil. The birds roost under the bridge at night, departing at dawn to feed and returning at sunset. The flock is so large during its peak that it can be seen on Doppler radar.

Since 2007, NCDOT has partnered with the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society to educate the public about the flock and protect both the birds and passing motorists. NCDOT activates flashing lights and a 20-mile per hour speed limit at sunrise and sunset. The lower speed limit is monitored by law enforcement and allows both motorists and birds safe passage across the sound. Since the lights and speed limits were installed, the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society has seen a dramatic decline in bird deaths around the bridge.

As an alternate, motorists can use the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge. Those wishing to view the flock safely can do so at Dare County’s multi-purpose pier at the west end of the bridge.


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