Grand Canyon: Accipiters Abound!

10 October 2016
There have been over one thousand Sharp-shinned Hawks recorded at the  Grand Canyon site this season. Photo by Kumara MacLeod There have been over one thousand Sharp-shinned Hawks recorded at the Grand Canyon site this season. Photo by Kumara MacLeod

Text by Ben West

We just finished up our sixth week of counts at the Grand Canyon HawkWatch. As of Sunday, October 9, we’ve counted 4,142 migrating raptors so far this season, meaning we need less than 900 raptors to surpass the average season total of 4980! As is typical, the hawk genus Accipiter has dominated our counts this past week. As of October 9, we’ve seen 1,180 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 1040 Cooper’s Hawks, passing a season total of one thousand for each species this week. We had our first Northern Goshawk of the season on Wednesday, October 5, which was quite the exciting sighting!

As for other raptors, we identified 28 out of 236 Red-tailed Hawks this past week as dark or rufous morphs, a higher count for these uncommon morphs than past weeks. (See our 9/26 blog post for dark morph Red-tailed Hawk photos.) Our Northern Harrier count continues to climb, with a count of 50 as of October 9, surpassing the average season total of 41 and approaching the Yaki Point season record of 56.

Our visitor count is also climbing; we’ve had 1,740 visitors. We’ve had birders from the Arizona cities of Flagstaff and Tucson and the country of Norway stick around our site, keeping us company and helping with our count. Our local Peregrine Falcon wowed both the crew and the visitors this week; one day we saw it catch and eat three birds!

We were also treated to a few surprise sightings. A flock of 65 American White Pelicans passed over the Grand Canyon on Thursday, October 7. It’s not every day you see a large flock of water birds fly over the Grand Canyon! We also had some late migrating Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks. Prior to this past Sunday, our last Swainson’s Hawk sighting was over a week ago on September 30, and our last Broad-winged Hawk was on October 5. However, we counted two Swainson’s Hawks and a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk this past Sunday. Hopefully the exciting surprises continue next week!

It's not too late to come visit this season and witness the raptor migration!

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