Roost Sites: One of Nature’s Most Amazing Spectacles

Megan McIntosh

Megan McIntosh, Purple Martin Project Coordinator

Nature Canada is looking for enthusiastic birders to help search for and monitor important swallow roosting sites as part of the Purple Martin Project . If you’ve yet to witness a roost, it is really something to see – the birding equivalent of watching fireworks!

A roost is a place where hundreds or thousands of birds regularly settle or congregate to rest at night before they undergo fall migration.  In Ontario, roosts typically begin to form in late July and can last until mid-September. They can be found in the wetland shorelines or marsh islets along the Great Lakes. At dusk, birds can be seen circling over the area and settling down in a seemingly choreographed display. The entire spectacle may take up to 30 minutes. At dawn, they can be seen flying out of the roost in massive groups so large that they often appear on the weather radar.

Roost sites are important habitat for many declining species of songbirds, yet often roost locations are unknown or unconfirmed due to the inaccessibility of the marshland habitat where they typically form. The information you contribute will help to identify important swallow roosting habitat and monitor the population status of these species.

Before planning an excursion, always make sure you have permission to access the site. Speak with Nature Canada or one of our partners about where roosts might be located in your area. You can download and print our data record sheet  to take into the field with you. Station yourself at a strategic location with a good view of the surrounding habitat and scan the sky for birds. Please submit your completed form to us along with any photos or videos of the birds and their habitat.

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