In January 2020, the Town of La Plata was honored with the very first Bird City Maryland designation. Bird City Maryland’s mission is to make communities healthier for birds and people. Through their programming, they recognize and promote municipalities in Maryland who take action to protect birds through sound conservation practices. In addition, Bird City Maryland municipalities recognize the important correlation between healthy bird populations and healthy communities.

The Town of La Plata has created Purple Martin T-Shirts to Celebration their Bird City honor. Credit:

To become a Bird City, the municipality must submit an application that is reviewed based on the following criteria:

  1. Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring
  2. Community Forest Management
  3. Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds
  4. Public Education
  5. Energy and Sustainability
  6. World Migratory Bird Day

At the Town of La Plata Council Meeting on February 24, 2020, Bird City Maryland’s Director Chris Eberly presented the Town with the official designation and a representative from Governor Larry Hogan’s office was in attendance to bestow an official citation acknowledging the Town’s effort and commitment to bird conservation. At the same time, the Town Council passed a resolution recognizing the Purple Martin as the official town bird. It was an evening full of celebration with the many partners that supported the application process including the Southern Maryland Audubon Society, Port Tobacco River Conservancy, Keep La Plata Beautiful, the Conservancy for Charles County, Town representatives, and many enthusiastic community members.

The shape of common Purple Martin birdhouses recalls the historical use of hollowed gourds by Indigenous people to provide Purple Martin roosting opportunities.

The Purple Martin was chosen as the Town’s official bird because of the two Purple Martin roosting sites in the center of town. These beautiful birds roost together by the thousands on the East Coast of the United States. They arrive in La Plata in mid-April, after returning from their summer migration to South America. The over 5,000-mile trip can take 4 to 6 weeks to complete. Because they eat mid-flight, their diets consist of moths, dragonflies, beetles, and other flying insects. Despite their name, Purple Martins actually have black plumage with an iridescent sheen that, when the light is right, gives the bird a purple appearance. To read more about this beautiful bird, you can visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Purple Martin site.

Southern Maryland Audubon Society’s Lynne Wheeler and the Alliance’s Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member Amanda Bland at the Bird City Maryland reception in La Plata on February 24, 2020.