Birds of prey are among the most spectacular animals on the planet. They have been idolized and persecuted by man for centuries. They amaze us with their power, their speed, and their beauty. They are one of today’s “canary in the coal mine” – their health, their populations, and their presence are signals of the well-being of the world we share with them. Think DDT – declining raptor populations due to DDT and egg-shell thinning were critical to society’s re-thinking its policies on pesticide use. Because of this, many raptor species have recovered like Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, but others are declining like American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks. We know this because our counting or banding of raptors at places like Hawk Ridge provide the data to document their trends.
The research at Hawk Ridge is fundamental to understanding the health of raptor populations. Counting of raptors at Hawk Ridge contributes to our knowledge on whether they are increasing or in decline. Banding raptors aids in understanding where these raptors go in winter or where they nest in summer. All of which is critical information to keep their populations healthy and serve as an early-warning system on the status of our planet.
Hawk Ridge has one of the longest annual records of counting and banding of raptors in North America – over 50 years starting in 1972. Hawk Ridge has one of the highest raptor counts and banding numbers in North America – on average over 60,000 raptors counted per year and over 2,500 raptors banded per year. This 50-year plus record is rare and of exceptional value for research. Hawk Ridge engages in programs to improve our understanding of migration, breeding, and wintering of raptors and other birds in the western Great Lakes region. These programs are usually completed with universities or government agencies responsible for advancing knowledge of birds and implementing effective conservation and management actions.
Image Credits: Michael Furtman