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Sorry, Bats: Purple Martins Rule Austin Skies in the Summer
Purple Martins hit the sky at dusk in this 2013 image captured at Austin's Highland Mall.

Half a million Purple Martins have been migrating through Austin as they make their way to Brazil for the winter.

Austin – and specifically Highland Mall ­– is a way station for the birds and their young, letting them fatten up before the long trek south. And the swirl of purple and blue has become a popular spectacle – one that some audiences say rivals Austin’s popular bat departure from the Congress Avenue bridge.

While the show in the air may be easy on the eyes, nearby businesses have their reservations – particularly with the mess left behind.

That’s why a group of volunteers, self-proclaimed defenders of the purple bird, have taken up to cleaning unsightly mess the birds leave behind. Volunteers have even went so far as to bring cookies to employees at a nearby Jack In The Box just to keep spirits high.

Most of birds have made their way south by now. So if you want to catch the birds you will have to wait until next year – or listen to the report above from Texas Standard contributor Marc Airhart.

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