The group of birds known as diurnal raptors are birds of prey that are sometimes referred to simply as “hawks.” They include eagles, falcons, ospreys, vultures, kites and harriers as well as hawks. They range in size from the diminutive American kestrel (not much bigger than a robin) to the massive bald eagle with a wingspan of more than six and a half feet.
Raptors are particularly sensitive indicators of environmental health and change because they inhabit most ecosystem types, occupy large home ranges, feed at the top of the food pyramid, and are highly sensitive to chemical contamination and other forms of human-caused disturbance. Spring and fall are the ideal times to collect data on raptors because they congregate during migration along coastlines, prominent mountain ridges and river valleys making it easy to tally them. Conducting standardized long-term counts of migrating raptors can help us learn about their migration patterns, behaviors and populations.
Throughout the fall, highlights and daily count reports are posted online at the end of each day on www.hawkcount.org, an online database managed by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). Once you have reached the site, select “Daily” or “Monthly” summaries and select the site you wish to see. It is here that you may read about season totals, record counts, and average timing per species. You can also find additional information and photos by clicking on “Site Profiles.” Navigating to different watch sites can also be done by clicking on “Find a Hawkwatch,” where you may choose sites by state.
To volunteer for the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory, contact Phil Brown, Hawk Watch Coordinator, at [email protected].
Photos, from the top: Hawkwatching on Pack Monadnock, by Phil Brown; Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn releases a rehabilitated Broad-winged Hawk, by Rough Legged Photography; a Broad-winged Hawk takes flight into the wild, by Jen Esten.