Raptor Migration Happening Daily Over Hawk Ridge

Duluth News Tribune photographer Clint Austin captured this arresting photo of a sharp-shinned hawk at Hawk Ridge in 2008. It had been captured and banded at the Hawk Ridge banding station.

The annual raptor migration has begun, and counters at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth are documenting it daily. Chief counter Karl Bardon and his crew began counting in mid-August.

As always, sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks are among the most common early migrants. As of Monday, some 187 sharpshins and 165 broadwings had been counted so far this fall. In addition, 153 bald eagles have passed over Hawk Ridge, located one mile east of Glenwood Street on Skyline Parkway.

Best days to observe the migration — meaning the chance of more birds in the air — are days with westerly winds. Those winds push the migrants toward Lake Superior, but hawks don’t like to fly over the lake. So, they follow the shoreline south and west, eventually passing over Duluth. The raptors ride thermals that form along the hillside before continuing their movement south.

Viewing at Hawk Ridge is free. Just bring a pair of binoculars and, if possible, a birding guide to help identify hawks. The broadwing migration peaks in mid-September. Larger hawks and bald eagles continue to migrate through October.

A bander at Hawk Ridge holds a female sharp-shinned hawk before banding it. (News Tribune file photo)