Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Waves of Hawks & Vultures Migrating North

As Turkey Vultures are surging in numbers as they migrate north, follow the surges in numbers of Swainson’s Hawks migrating from Colombia to Texas in coming days and weeks (photos by Paul Konrad).

While some northern raptor counting sites are still tallying significant numbers of Bald Eagles, last week Turkey Vultures dominated many northern count sites. But hawks that wintered in South America are starting to cross the southern border and these Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks are still surging forward by the tens of thousands almost daily from a count site in Colombia. The excitement is building, while at the same time it’s here – a time to witness the migration of a variety of raptors across North America.

You can monitor the numbers of raptors observed daily by checking on the migration progress of hawks, eagles, falcons, kites, and more at HawkCount operated by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. Also, consider making plans to visit a Hawkwatch location near you this spring to better appreciate the excitement of raptor migration.

Some highlights gleaned from a few of the more active raptor count sites during the past week included some remarkable numbers of hawks and vultures along the southern border of Texas, at the Bentsen Rio Grande HawkCount. Last Saturday, March 30th, a total of 7,690 Broad-winged Hawks and 15 Swainson’s Hawks were sighted, along with 633 Turkey Vultures! The following day, on Easter Sunday, counters observed 676 Broad-winged Hawks and 17 Swainson’s Hawks with 434 Turkey Vultures.

For comparison to show how Broad-wings have surged north first with Swainson’s soon to follow in even greater numbers, note that counts at Tolima, Colombia on March 30th included 10,492 Swainson’s Hawks with 111 Broad-winged Hawks still migrating north. But just a few days earlier, on March 15th, a total of 6,259 Swainson’s Hawks were reported with 12,960 Broad-winged Hawks! Were some of the Broad-winged Hawks counted in Colombia March 15th passing through south Texas on March 30th?

Farther north, we noticed there were still 407 Bald Eagles winging north at Duluth, Minnesota’s West Skyline Hawk Count on Easter Sunday, which was actually a season high; as was the total of 72 Red-tailed Hawks. The previous day at Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula HawkWatch, counters observed 81 Red-tailed Hawks, 36 Red-shouldered Hawks, 22 Sharp-shinned Hawks, along with 312 Turkey Vultures. In neighboring New York, the Hamburg Hawk Watch observers counted 1,837 Turkey Vultures with 52 Red-tailed Hawks, 12 Red-shouldered Hawks, and 11 Sharp-shinned Hawks, last week on Thursday March 28th.

Check out other raptor counts on your own, and when you visit the HawkCount site, click on the name of the site to see a breakdown of the daily species counts. You will also want to click on the word “Monthly” in the left margin of that page to see all daily totals of raptors counted at that site throughout the month. And considering that we just entered April, change the month to March and click “Go” to see last week’s totals along with daily counts throughout the month of March. Raptor numbers and species composition at each count site will change as spring migration progresses, and checking in periodically can be an enjoyable part spring migration.