Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Counting Raptors

Immature golden eagle

Immature golden eagle

Raptors, or birds of prey, are among the most popular species for bird watchers. For the ‘hawk watchers’, it’s a joy to read the reports of returning raptors each spring.

Across North America, there are many hawkwatch sites set up, where observations are carried out on a regularly repeated basis from a single monitoring site. A hawkwatch is an organized effort to collect migration count data on diurnal raptors (eagles, hawks and falcons). Records include species identities, quantities, and behaviors of seasonal migrant hawks; data on weather conditions; and number of observers and hours of observation.

The Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation has watching sites set up in the Rocky Mountains of western Canada. Manned by volunteers each spring and fall, thousands of migrating bald eagles, golden eagles, and many species of hawks and falcons are counted. Twice a year they set up a blog to report on their sightings. You can follow the results of the Spring 2009 Migration on their blog.

They are also counting returning raptors across Canada, and you can check the locations and daily counts on the Hawk Migration Association of North America website. Or go directly to individual provinces:

Manitoba

British Columbia

Ontario

Quebec

I participated in an autumn raptor watch one year. It was a beautiful sunny day in the Rocky Mountains, and I have to say, laying on my back on the side of a mountain, watching hundreds of raptors float overhead was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. If you live near any of the hawkwatch sites, you should really look into volunteering. It is a spectacular bird watching experience.

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