43,000 Raptors Migrate Through The Straits

Jun 10, 2014

A group that counts hawks and eagles as they migrate through the Straits of Mackinac tracked more than 43,000 birds this spring, including more than 800 eagles.

Credit Steve Baker / Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch

“Imagine yourself flying up with them,” says Kathy Bricker of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. “Sometimes there were many hundreds that you could see at a time just moving overhead in vast spirals upward.”

Bald eagle.
Credit Steve Baker / Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch
Hawk watchers in April.
Credit Steve Baker / Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch

  Bricker says Mackinac is one of 270 monitoring sites across the country where volunteers and scientists watch the movements of raptors. Bricker says their numbers and migration patterns can be a good overall indicator of changes in the environment.

The number seen this year doubled the previous record from the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, but the increase is likely due to stepped up monitoring efforts. The group has added more volunteers, and a scientist was observing for a longer period this spring.

Bricker says the group also had an unusual sighting this year.

“We saw a ferruginous hawk for the very first time,” she says. “This is a western species and that could indicated a movement in that species. Perhaps due to conditions that are changing out west.”

The group plans to track the migration of owls this fall.