The Hawk Migration Association of North America celebrated its second annual International Hawk Migration Week (IHMW) September 19-27, 2015, by tallying over 1.3 million migrating hawks, eagles, and vultures at over 100 sites throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Each year hundreds of thousands of hawks, eagles, and vultures make their journey from Canada and the United States through Mexico to wintering areas as far as South America. Dedicated counters at hawk watch sites document this movement starting as early as August 1 and continuing daily into December. Their daily numbers are reported to HMANA’s online database, HawkCount. This particular week in late September was chosen due to the impressive number of hawks that are counted across North America.
One hundred two watch sites from 31 states and provinces across the continent counted an astounding 1,370,005 raptors during September 19-27. Thirty species were tallied, the vast majority being Broad-winged Hawks (1,304,132). No surprise, this was the most common species, as IHMW took place during the peak of their migration. Other high counts included 23,244 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 6,659 Turkey Vultures, 6,182 Mississippi Kites, 5,696 American Kestrels, and 3,661 Osprey.
In addition to submitting their daily migration counts to HMANA’s HawkCount database, sites celebrated across the map with hawk watching festivals, identification workshops, and live bird of prey events. HMANA provided banners to participating watch sites in the monitoring network. Rich Conroy, site coordinator at Militia Hill Hawk Watch in PA, said: “We are thrilled to participate in IHMW as it draws attention to the network of sites reporting numbers throughout North America. I feel connected to migration on a larger scale, and it is a wonderful opportunity to let visitors to our site know about the migration happening around them.”
Raptors tend to follow topographic features during fall migration, such as north to south running ridgelines, coastlines, and river valleys. A funneling effect compresses their paths as they approach the southern U.S. The majority of hawks choose to avoid long water crossings, so they are squeezed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and on through Mexico. This is why watch sites in Veracruz, Mexico, counted more than any other at 775,037 raptors during the week. Corpus Christi, TX, located on the U.S. Gulf coast, tallied 267,395 raptors. Other counts across the continent included 53,341at the Detroit River Hawk Watch, MI; 23,807 at Hawk Ridge, MN; 8397 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area, ON, and 949 at the Florida Keys Hawk Watch, FL.
HMANA is a nonprofit organization with a mission to advance scientific knowledge and promote the conservation of raptor populations through the study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration. It oversees the online database, Hawkcount.org, an archive of count data with a wealth of information for birdwatchers and the general public alike, including maps and directions to sites, average counts, population status, and migration timing by species.
HMANA partners with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, Hawk Watch International, and Bird Studies Canada in the Raptor Population Index program, aiming to track changes in hawk populations for conservation purposes.
For directions and contact information for hawk watch sites near you, visit HawkCount.