Red-tailed Hawk Fall Migration 2022: The Race to the Straits

The long wait is over! After patiently waiting and wondering where our Red-tailed Hawks went, we finally are starting to get some birds coming back online as Red-tail migration begins to pick up here in Michigan.

Four of the new birds we tagged this past spring have initiated their migration  — Hallowee, Ginger, Bucatini, and Angell. Currently three of these four are stopped over at varying locations across Northern Ontario, but all four appear to be coming back to the Straits. Hallowee is near Rudyard, Michigan and will likely cross the Straits in the coming days. Angell had the most interesting breeding location so far from the 2022 class. She is one of our largest birds, and based on summer data/morphometrics, we are confident she is a female. Also, her data suggest she spent a lot of time incubating at the nest site. Angell nested near James Bay in Quebec and is so far the furthest eastern breeder we have documented that uses the Straits during migration.

Spring and Fall migration route for Angell. She was tagged this past April

As for the birds from 2021, we have three that have initiated migration — Rip, Morpheus and Sam. What’s exciting is that it all three birds went back to their same respective territories this summer to breed and either used the same nest site or another nest in close proximity.

Rip was our only bird last year to migrate through Ontario, and it appears he is using the same route this fall. Now some news on Sam: this summer her nest site was ~1.4 km from her nest site in 2021. She started migrating in Fall of 2021 on October 16th and crossed the Straits on October 20th. This year she departed her summer grounds on October 6th and crossed the Straits on October 9th. Sam wintered last year in a rural area near Lexington, Kentucky, and we would not be surprised if she heads back to that same general location. Last year, she arrived to her wintering grounds on October 31st. Her last GPS point as of October 10th showed her near Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

Full Migratory for Cycle for Sam. She was tagged in April of 2021 and has used the Straits during every migration

It has been really interesting so far in this project to see the high fidelity these birds show to the Straits during fall migration. When we began this project, we expected there to be more route variability with regards to migration around the Great Lakes. However, this information further supports the importance of the Straits for their full migratory cycles. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I provide more updates as more birds check back in.

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