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Lake Murray's Purple Martins


Lunch Island, also known as Doolittle Island or Bombing Range Island, in the middle of Lake Murray, is North America's first officially designated Purple Martin sanctuary. On summer evenings, boats gather at dusk to witness the spectacle of thousands and thousands of Purple Martins coming to the island to roost.

What are Purple Martins? They are the largest North American member of the swallow family and, like other swallows, their diet consists of flying insects. That fact explains why people around the lake construct Purple Martin houses, or clusters of gourds, to attract the nesting birds. A yard with a nest of Purple Martins is a mosquito-free yard!

The tradition of putting up gourd houses for Purple Martins is as old as our country. When European settlers first arrived, they learned about Purple Martins from the native Americans, who were already putting up gourds for Purple Martin nests. Today, East of the Mississippi, Purple Martins depend exclusively upon humans to supply them with nesting sites, and build their nests only in gourds or man-made birdhouses.

Come see the spectacle of thousands of roosting Purple martins on beautiful Lake Murray!