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Raptor Migration/Hawk Watch
Roger Tory Peterson said it best;
"On any clear cold weekend in October, tens of
thousands of men, women and youngsters gaze skyward from the rocky ridges across
the land, and from strategic spots along the coast and the Great Lakes. All stare fixedly at black
spots in the blue sky; many use expensive binoculars. They are not plane
spotters; they are hawk watchers, devotees of an increasingly popular facet of
the sport of birding..."
(Roger Tory Peterson, Editors note, A Field Guide to
Hawks, William S. Clark & Brian K. Wheeler).
Roger Tory Peterson (RTP)
published the his first field guide in 1934, the same year Hawk Mountain
Sanctuary was created. At the time, RTP only knew of 3 good places to watch
raptor migration: Hawk Mountain, PA, Cape May, NJ & Point Pelee, Ontario. Now
there are 100s of ?Hawk Watch? sites around the world visited by 1000s of people
daily during the peak raptor migration periods.
Many migration sites have official counters that document the numbers of each
species that are seen. These data are being used to monitor raptor populations
RTP should have included September...
The peak numbers of raptors can be seen at many sites around September 21
(First Day of Autumn). Depending upon the species and location, Autumn/Fall
migration starts in August and can last into December.
Raptor Migration Sites
There is also a Spring Migration of raptors as they return from Wintering
areas to their breeding areas. The Spring Migration is shorter duration, with
most birds being seen during March, April and May.
We have compiled a table where raptor migration can be observed. The table
includes many of the key migration spots throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
We've also added sites we know of personally. This is a good place for beginners
to start to find local hawk watch sites.
Check out the Raptor Migration Site Link below to find a Spring Migration
Site near you.
Migrant or Nomad?
Migration is defined as the regular movement of all or part of a population from
breeding areas to non-breeding or Wintering areas. Nomadism is an irregular
movement of some part of a population in almost any direction. Migration is more
typical of grassland species (temperate, subtropical or tropical regions), but
is not typical from tropical rain forests (stable & warm).
Nomadism is more typical of arid and semi-arid areas in the tropics or sub-tropics.
Nomadism appears to be a response to low food supply.
Migration also appears to be an attempt to escape cold weather (and shrinking
food supply) in temperate areas, but this is not always true of migrants in
The larger the bird the less the need to migrate
The more specialized the food the greater the need to migrate
Witness as five film crews follow a rich variety of bird migrations through 40 countries and each of the seven continents.