The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) was established in 1974 when over 300 hawk watchers from across North America first gathered in Syracuse, New York. Interest in raptors and their conservation grew dramatically after the Second World War even as populations of Bald Eagle, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon were declining precipitously from the effects of DDT.
Hawk counts were conducted at Hawk Mountain and Cape May before the war, but now seasonal hawk watches were conducted at several dozen sites, primarily from Duluth, Minnesota, and east in the U.S. and Canada. Even as the number of hawk watches increased, at first no established standards existed for recording species data, weather conditions and other parameters. Worse, no mechanism existed for communicating and sharing count data or interpreting raptor population trends.
Participants at the Syracuse conference read like a Who’s Who of government, academic and amateur researchers (including banders). Dean Amadon, Dan Berger, Bill Clark, Dave Evans, Mark Fuller, Richard Fyfe, Fran Hamerstrom, Michael Harwood, John Haugh, Donald Hopkins, Colin Pennycuick, Pat Redig, W. John Richardson, Chan Robbins and F. Prescott Ward were among the attendees.
The 1974 conference established HMANA as a volunteer, non-profit organization of field birders, research scientists, banders and conservationists:
- To promote and conduct studies of the migratory patterns and behavior of diurnal birds of prey by:
- creating a formal network of observers throughout North America,
- standardizing the recording of empirical data,
- providing a central clearing house for that data,
- encouraging the exchange of information, and
- making that data available to the public and to professional and amateur ornithologists,
- To educate the public about birds of prey and their role in the world’s environment, and
- To help develop improved methods of estimating bird of prey species populations, and identifying and assessing fluctuations of these populations.
It took several years to develop standard paper reporting forms, called “green sheets,” for what was then to be eventual data entry into mainframe computers. A semi-annual newsletter published complete daily counts for each site’s season, with regional analyses of that migration season. A journal for refereed articles on hawks and hawk watching, Hawk Migration Studies, began publishing.
This was before the era of the personal computer, the Internet and cell phones. News of major flights was passed on by phone after long distance rates went down at 7 pm. Seasonal site reports and daily species totals were first seen a full year after the actual count. In August, you received from HMANA the species reports for the previous fall. All the lines of daily count totals were keyboarded on a typewriter, with WhiteOut® employed as necessary.
As personal computers became the norm and the Internet emerged, HMANA became one of the conservation leaders in applying the new technologies.
- HawkCount was created in 2000, evolving from the reporting method created by Jason Sodergren for a single site, Holiday Beach Observatory. By making the system available to all of HMANA’s hawk watches, we were able to create near real-time data entry of hawk counts and make them instantly available, along with earlier data. Data for more than 200 hawk watches in North America are now entered and available on HawkCount.
- BirdHawk, the HMANA listserv, allowed hawkwatchers to communicate directly with the greater hawkwatching community by enabling daily hawk count reports.
- The computerization of data gathered systematically over decades enabled HMANA to develop the Raptor Population Index (RPI) with Hawk Mountain, HawkWatch International, and Bird Studies Canada, to provide sophisticated analysis of migration data over many years. The first analysis was published in 2007 and subsequent analyses are now available directly online (2011 RPI Report).
HMANA continues to lead the way in the use of electronic technologies for conservation of raptors with its page on Facebook and Twitter.