May 16, 2022 - News

Symphony seeks to redirect purple martins

Purple martins fly around the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in August, 2021. Photo: Josie Norris/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

The Nashville Symphony is destroying 31 trees this week in an effort to divert 150,000 purple martins.

Driving the news: The loud, dirty birds that have flocked to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in recent years coat the property and surrounding area with feces.

  • Time is of the essence — purple martins send scouts in early June to identify adequate trees where they can roost.

Why it matters: Destroying trees can be a controversial issue, as Metro and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp found out in 2019 after cutting down and transplanting cherry blossom trees to make way for the NFL Draft stage.

Details: To avoid such fallout, the Symphony worked with the Nashville Tree Conservancy Corps on its plan. While the 31 trees will be cut down, the Symphony is paying to plant 146 trees around Nashville to help maintain the urban tree canopy.

  • The new trees that will be planted on the Symphony campus will have branch structures considered unattractive to purple martins.
  • Aviary protection groups — including the Friends of Warner Park BIRD program, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services program — also collaborated on the plan.

If it works, the martins' migration will be redirected and the Schermerhorn will be spared the property damage it has suffered in the past.

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