Posts Tagged ‘HMANA’

HMANA Press release – October 14, 2014

Over One Million Migrating Hawks Counted during International Hawk Migration Week

Hancock, NH – The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) celebrated its first annual International Hawk Migration Week (IHMW) September 20-28, 2014 by tallying over 1.2 million migrating hawks, eagles and vultures at 100 sites throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Each year hundreds of thousands of hawks, eagles and vultures make their journey from Canada and the United States through Mexico to wintering areas as far as South America. Dedicated counters at hawk watch sites document this movement starting as early as 1 August and continuing daily into December. Their daily numbers are reported to HMANA’s online database, HawkCount.org. This particular week in late September was chosen due to the sheer number of hawks that are counted across North America.

One hundred watch sites from 33 states and provinces across the continent counted an astounding 1,203,067 raptors during September 20-28. Twenty-nine species were tallied, the vast majority being broad-winged hawks (1,125,597) – since IHMW took place during their peak migration. Other high counts included 24,899 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 8,909 Mississippi Kites, 8,724 Turkey Vultures and 7,192 American Kestrels.

Raptors tend to follow topographic features during fall migration such as north to south running ridgelines, coastlines, and river valleys. As they move further south, there’s a funneling effect as they approach the southern US. The majority of hawks choose to avoid long water crossings so are then squeezed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and on through Mexico. This is why the Veracruz, Mexico watch sites counted more than any other at 812,949 during IHMW. Corpus Christi, Texas located on the US Gulf coast tallied 226,224 raptors. Other counts across the continent included 15,862 at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, MN; 4,151 Holiday Beach Conservation Area, ON; 4,811 at the Goshute Mountains, NM and 2,777 at the Florida Keys Hawk Watch, FL.

In addition to submitting their daily migration counts to HMANA’s HawkCount.org database, sites celebrated across the map with hawk watching festivals, identification workshops and live bird of prey events. Dr. Laurie Goodrich of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, PA (the oldest hawk watch site in the western hemisphere) said: “IHMW is a fantastic demonstration of the popularity of hawk watching and the value of raptors in the environment.”


HMANA (www.hmana.org) is a non-profit organization with a mission to advance scientific knowledge and promote conservation of raptor populations through the study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration. It oversees the online database, Hawkcount.org, an archive of count data with a wealth of information for birdwatchers and general public alike, including maps and directions to sites, average counts, population status and migration timing by species.
HMANA partners with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary PA (www.hawkmountain.org), Hawk Watch International (based in Utah: http://www.hawkwatch.org), and Bird Studies Canada (in Ontario: http://www.bsc-eoc.org) in the Raptor Population Index program, which aims to track changes in hawk populations for conservation purposes.
For directions and contact information for hawk watch sites near you, visit http://www.hawkcount.org.

Read Full Post »

This month marks the end of my first year serving on the board of directors of The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA).  HMANA is an organization that is serving as a central clearing house of raptor migration data across the continent.  Member sites upload the count data they have collected, and HMANA sorts it and makes it open and searchable to anyone who is interested.  HMANA also analyses and presents much of the data it collects in their journal, Raptor Migration Studies.  Other than migration counts, HMANA has also been working on a project called the Raptor Population Index which is attempting to track the population status of all of North America’s raptor species.  Yet another HMANA project, and one that I have been helping with a fair bit, is the Winter Raptor Survey.  What we want to set up is a network of survey routes that are run each year and that will allow us to monitor the wintering population of birds of prey in North America.

Winter marks a poorly studied part of the annual cycle in the lives of birds of prey.  Where raptors spend the winter, how many there are, and what they are doing are all questions that have, at best, only general answers.  The studies that have been done have given some very interesting and important results.  In Argentina in the mid-1990s, there were reports large numbers of  Swainson’s Hawks being found dead at their communal roost sties.  In 1995 and 1996 some 6,000 Swainson’s Hawks were found dead at such roosts.  The cause was determined to acute pesticide toxicity.  Since Swainson’s Hawks feed largely on insects during the winter, they were being poisoned when they eat insects that had been sprayed with highly toxic chemicals, or were being sprayed directly when they were perched on the ground in crop fields being sprayed.  Specifically, an organophosphate called monocrotophos proved to be especially deadly to raptors.  This chemical had already been banned in the USA, and the deaths of the an estimated 20,000 Swainson’s Hawks led to the banning of this chemical in Argentina in 1999.  A different study on the winter ecology of raptors that was conducted here in central California found that male and female American Kestrels use different habitats to hunt.  Females generally use the more productive open grassy territories, while males are generally relegated (probably due to their smaller size) to less productive mixed shrub habitats.  Such habitat partitioning is vital to know if conservation is gong to be effective.  If a declining species displayed a similar habitat partitioning, and only one habitat type were known and conserved, the population would still decline.

So, how is the HMANA Winter Raptor Survey hoping to monitor the winter populations of birds of prey in North American?  The goal is to establish survey routes that are run once a month for the four months (November, December, January, and February).  This span of time covers the ‘winter’ months of most raptor species.  Along the routes, which are between 30 and 100 miles long, the habitat is described according to one of the categories we have established and the position and identification of all raptor species seen along the route are recorded.  This survey data is then uploaded to the WRS website.  This data can then be used to track habitat use, landscape and habitat change, raptor numbers and densities, and the interactions between any and all of the above.  So, to all the raptor-philes out there, we need your help!  Now that the fall migration is over, please lend a hand in monitoring raptors in the winter.  Set up a route!

HMANA is largely volunteer run.  Check out the HMANA webpage at http://www.hmana.org/ for general HMANA information and news, and the HMANA WRS webpage at http://wrs.hmana.org for specific details on how to set up and run routes.  While you are at these websites become a member of HMANA!  It is a great organization that is showing what citizen scientists can do on continent-wide scale.

Read Full Post »