Hawk Migration Association of North America

Monarch Butterfly Migration Monitoring

There’s a long history of counting migrating monarch butterflies at raptor monitoring sites across the continent. Whether intentionally scanning for them, tallying here and there as they drift through your field of view, or trapping and tagging them, hawk watchers have been counting and admiring these migrating beauties for decades. Many sites enjoy keeping daily totals and comparing year to year as their numbers fluctuate. Most hawk watchers comment to some degree on their presence in their non-raptor notes or daily observations in their HawkCount reports. This has resulted in a wealth of information in the HawkCount database about migrating monarch abundance and their favorite routes. If only there were a way to get this information to monarch butterfly biologists. Well, now there is! HMANA is partnering with MonarchNet and Journey North so that these valuable data collected at hawk watch sites can be used to understand their migration patterns better.

The mission of MonarchNet is to create a central website where everyone can gain access to information about monarch monitoring programs, learn how to access the data, and find tools for data visualization to learn about monarch dynamics throughout North America. 

The mission of Journey North is the protection and conservation of migratory species and their habitats,
fostering scientific understanding, and environmental awareness. 
Journey North is a crowdsourced, participatory science program of the University of Wisconsin, Madison Arboretum. Begun in 1993, Journey North has engaged a wide audience across North America in tracking the migration of many different species, including Monarch Butterflies, six species of Hummingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Barn Swallows, Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles, American Robins, and Common Loons. Because many of these migratory species travel thousands of miles each year, Journey North needs a crowd to capture the action. From Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America, we need your help.

Every observation counts. All that is needed is an observant eye and 15 minutes to enter the data online. Whether you submit observational reports or not, you
can watch migration unfold on Journey North’s many migration maps or follow along by reading their weekly news updates.

This website serves as a resource for anyone who wants to know about monarch populations (i.e., government officials, researchers, members of the general public, or NGOs). Since the partners represent the most critical monitoring programs that collect data on monarchs, the collective data represent the most current and comprehensive information on monarch biology. We hope that by linking the data sets, our efforts will foster collaboration between monitoring programs, promote the use of the data to answer scientific questions, increase participation by citizen-scientists in multiple programs, and increase awareness of each monitoring program.

MonarchNet was started in 2009 during a meeting of scientists and monarch butterfly biologists, who proposed a cooperative network of monitoring programs and a central place where the data from such programs would be accessible. This effort is now a reality and a significant step forward for monarch butterfly conservation. MonarchNet is currently a joint project of the North American Butterfly Monitoring Network, led by Leslie Ries, and the Monarch Joint Venture, led by Karen Oberhauser.

How It Will Work

Rather than adding monarch totals in the daily observations notes or comment section for each day, sites now have the opportunity to add unique data fields to their HawkCount account. Sites will enter the numeric total of monarchs counted that day and be asked if all monarchs counted were reported to clarify whether counting effort was constant throughout the day or only for two of the eight-hour count, for example. Monitoring monarchs is, of course, optional, so sites may choose whether or not they’d like to participate and how much they’d like to. Some areas may focus all their effort solely on raptors, while others may prioritize monarch monitoring. We appreciate any level of contribution that works for you!

These data will be shared with MonarchNet better to understand their populations and migration across the continent. HMANA is also currently working with MonarchNet to draw historical observations from HawkCount to access data before 2019.

Get Involved

If you are a hawk watcher currently submitting raptor data to the HawkCount database and would like your site to participate in Monarch Migration Monitoring, please contact Julie Brown (brown@hmana.org), or to learn more, visit MonarchNet or Journey North.


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