October 6, 2011 —
When we think of migration, we usually think of ducks, or the many geese we hear overhead during the fall, but many species of hawks migrate as well. In this region, the migration becomes very evident around mid September with large numbers of broad-winged hawks.
Broad-winged hawks can be spotted in huge numbers, usually streaming past high ridgelines such as the Kittatinny Mountains in New Jersey. The best sightings usually occur after a cold front with a northwest wind; a northwest wind creates ridge lift, and the hawks can travel south using very little energy. Sometimes, a huge number of broad-winged hawks can be seen flying in a circular path trying to catch a thermal. This is called a “kettle.” A kettle of broad-winged hawks can number in the hundreds.
According to count data compiled by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), this year has turned out to be a banner year for broad-winged hawk migration. Raccoon Ridge, near Blairstown, NJ, has a count of 14,001 broad-winged hawks so far vs. 4,623 tallied in 2010.
Hawk Mountain, in Kempton, PA, has a count of 12,959 for this year vs. 6,710 for 2010 (count data as of September 29). Study methods such as telemetry can give valuable information such as breeding and migration range (this species migrates well into South America), but count data gives researchers a good snapshot on how well a species is doing.
For the latest counts and where to watch migrating hawks and other raptors, visit HMANA’s HawkCount site at hawkcount.org.