Speed limits lowered at dusk and dawn on William B. Umstead Bridge for annual purple martin roost

Published 7:58 am Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The annual summer purple martin roost has begun on Croatan Sound and that means it is time for motorists to slow down for the birds.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has temporarily lowered speed limits from 55 mph to 20 mph on the William B. Umstead Bridge at dusk and dawn. The lowered speeds began Monday night, July 25. The Umstead Bridge in Dare County is known by many as the Old Manns Harbor Bridge.

“From late July through August, the west end of the bridge becomes home to as many as 100,000 purple martins as they prepare for their annual migration to Brazil,” stated a press release from NCDOT. “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 radar.”

Get the latest headlines sent to you

NCDOT has partnered with the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society since 2007 to help educate the public about the flock and protect the birds and motorists. NCDOT activates flashing lights and lowers the speed limit on the bridge at sunrise and sunset and the speed limit is monitored by law enforcement and allows 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, according to the release.

As an alternative, 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 on the Dare County mainland.