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immature red-tailed hawk                 photo by www.michaelfurtman.com

About the Migration

One of nature's remarkable spectacles can be witnessed each fall at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Migrating raptors, originating from summer breeding areas as far north as the Arctic and with wintering destinations as far south as points in South America, concentrate in impressive numbers at the western tip of Lake Superior.

Most raptors are reluctant to cross large bodies of water. When they migrate south and encounter Lake Superior, the birds naturally veer southwest along the lakeshore. They concentrate in impressive numbers on the bluffs overlooking East Duluth and can be easily seen from the overlook at Hawk Ridge. Of the 20 species of raptors and vultures that have been seen at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, the peregrine falcon and gyrfalcon are among the rarest. Whether species are common or rare, they are all thrilling to watch as they traverse the ridge, often at or below eye level.

Good Flight vs. Poor Flight Days

On days with northwest winds, hundred to thousands of birds can be seen migrating past the Ridge. Most winds with a westerly component will produce large numbers of migrating hawks. Southerly or easterly breezes do not generally produce as large flights of raptors but often the birds are lower and easier to see.

Species Timing

Beginning in mid-August with American kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks and broad-winged hawks, migration continues into December with the last of the red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, northern goshawks and eagles. Peak migration at Hawk Ridge occurs from mid-September to late October.

Click here for the statistics of common raptors recorded every year, showing earliest and latest recorded dates, single day and season record counts, and approximate migration dates.