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Tens Of Thousands Of Birds Fly In For Nightly Show In Downtown Jacksonville

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Jessica Palombo
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WJCT News
Audubon Society past-President Carole Adams (center-left) watches martins with other members of the society on Sunday, July 2.

As Jacksonville travelers make their summer plans, thousands of their winged neighbors are getting ready for an epic journey of their own to Brazil.

Birds called purple martins are prepping for their migration by eating as much as they can during the day and roosting in the trees of downtown Jacksonville by night.

That’s why, at sunset, bird watchers are flocking to the Jacksonville Landing to take in the sight of tens of thousands of martins’ coming home for the evening.

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Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News
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WJCT News
Members of the Duval Audubon Society watch purple martins on Sunday, July 2, near the Jacksonville Landing.

On Sunday night, Duval Audubon Society members and more casual bird enthusiasts were watching through long camera lenses and binoculars as birds swooped low in formation.

“I get the chills when I even think about it. It’s beautiful. And the sound and everything — it’s just incredible,” said Suzanne Diltz, a self-described “fair-weather birder.”

Audubon Society past-President Carole Adams agreed, this is one for the books.

“I’ve never in my life — and I’m over 70 — I’ve never seen such a magnificent turnout of birds,” she said.  

Audubon Society Education Chair Brett Moyer said the martins begin circling each evening around 8:30 p.m. and come to roost in the trees along Hogan Street at the riverfront around 9 p.m. The nightly show is expected to continue through late July or mid-August, when they’ll head south for the winter. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP