When fall arrives, it signals the time for some bird species to migrate to warmer climes. We have all seen and heard large skeins of Canada geese flying southbound during this time of year. Other …
When fall arrives, it signals the time for some bird species to migrate to warmer climes. We have all seen and heard large skeins of Canada geese flying southbound during this time of year. Other species of birds are departing our region and still others are making their winter appearance as they arrive from the north.
Other migrants that can be seen are eagles, falcons, hawks and even owls. These birds of prey, or raptors, travel through our region starting in late summer into late fall. There are over a dozen species of raptors that can be seen at various times during the course of the fall migration. The season is kicked off by the broad-winged hawks in early September; they peak in the middle of the month with huge numbers seen at some hawk-counting sites, sometimes peaking in the thousands during a single day.
Other species follow in October. Many hawk species, such as sharp-shinned hawks, Coopers hawks and red-shouldered hawks can be seen during this month. Migrating bald and golden eagles are frequently seen, though a lot more bald eagles are spotted than the golden eagles. Falcons, such as the peregrine falcon make their appearance. In November, many red-tailed hawks are seen, as well as migrating turkey vultures. It should be noted that not all raptors migrate. There are red-tailed hawks and bald eagles that stay year-round in our area, as an example.
Migrating raptors can cover long distances; species such as the broad-winged hawk migrate all the way to South America. To cover these long distances, raptors fly along mountain ridges and utilize the orographic lift generated by the wind blowing against these ridges to stay aloft while expending minimum energy. A northwest wind is a double bonus as it provides a nice tail wind as well as lift.
In our area, most of the hawk-counting sites are located on the ridges that are in favorable locations to generate lift. One of the well-known sites is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA. The mountain is large and offers several viewing sites. More local sites include the Sunrise Mountain site located in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, NJ. If you go, dress warmly because a good day to see hawks is usually a windy day.