HMANA celebrated its first annual International Hawk Migration Week (IHMW) September 20-28, 2014, by tallying over 1.2 million migrating hawks, eagles, and vultures at 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 1 August 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 sheer number of hawks that are counted across North America.
One hundred and one watch site from 33 states and provinces across the continent counted an astounding 1,203,780 raptors during September 20-28. Twenty-nine species were tallied, the vast majority being broad-winged hawks (1,125,597) – since IHMW took place during their peak migration. Other high counts included 24,899 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 8,909 Mississippi Kites, 8,724 Turkey Vultures, and 7,192 American Kestrels.
Raptors tend to follow topographic features during fall migration, such as north to south running ridgelines, coastlines, and river valleys. As they move further south, there’s a funneling effect as they approach the southern US. The majority of hawks choose to avoid long water crossings, so they are then squeezed along the Gulf of Mexico and on through Mexico. This is why the Veracruz, Mexico watch sites counted more than any other at 812,949 during IHMW. Corpus Christi, Texas, located on the US Gulf coast, tallied 226,224 raptors. Other counts across the continent included 15,862 at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, MN; 4,151 Holiday Beach Conservation Area, ON; 4,811 at the Goshute Mountains, NM and 2,777 at the Florida Keys Hawk Watch, FL.
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.
Thank you to everyone who made IHMW a success! We hope you’ll celebrate with us next year!