Purple martins roost in birdhouses remiscent of hollowed gourds

Southern Md. Town is First-Ever “Bird City Maryland”

The town of LaPlata, Maryland, just upstream of the Port Tobacco Rivershed on the Lower Potomac River, has a new claim to fame. It’s the first Bird City Maryland, designated by the state’s Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership.

The Bird City Maryland title recognizes LaPlata and its partners the Southern Maryland Audobon Society, Port Tobacco River Conservancy, and Conservancy for Charles County for their bird-conservation efforts.

LaPlata is known for the purple martins that return to roosting sites in the center of town every April, after a 5,000-mile migration to South America. The trip can take four to six weeks for the birds, and their diet consists of flying insects like moths and dragonflies because they only eat mid-flight. In February, the purple martin became LaPlata’s official town bird thanks to a Town Council resolution according to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

LaPlata has earned the first Bird City Maryland title by reaching the key goals of enhancing the birds’ environment, educating people about interactions with birds, and teaching about the importance of birds to a healthy community. LaPlata took steps like encouraging native plantings with its zoning code and education residents about birds through the Keep LaPlata Beautiful Committee.

“Quite simply the Town of La Plata is making great strides to improve the environment in our urban setting,” says Town Clerk Danielle Mandley.

For communities who really go all out in their bird-protection efforts, Bird City Maryland will offer the “High Flyer” title. The program says that level of recognition is for those who “truly go above and beyond in their dedication to local conservation and education.”

Any city or town that applies for Bird City recognition must submit a narrative statement, and sometimes photos and documentation, for each criterion. The application fee is $200.

To learn more about Bird City Maryland or for communities to apply, visit

-Meg Walburn Viviano