GPS Tracking of Rough-legged Hawks

16 December 2016

Rough-legged Hawks spend the winter throughout southern Canada and the United States, and yet scientists still know surprisingly little about the basic movement patterns of this relatively common arctic-breeding raptor.

One reason we know so little is that Rough-legged Hawks are thought to be “broad front” migrants, meaning they are not typically counted in large numbers along ridges that concentrate many other North American raptor species during fall and spring migration. Recent advancements in GPS-tracking technology have allowed increased understanding of avian movements, and Jeff Kidd of Kidd Biological, Inc. in California has been leading a collaborative effort to increase our knowledge of Rough-legged Hawk movement behavior.

Since 2014, Kidd’s group has deployed 55 GPS transmitters on Rough-legged Hawks in western North America, collecting more than 100,000 GPS locations along the way. HawkWatch International is partnering with Kidd to deploy GPS transmitters on wintering Rough-legged Hawks in Utah to gather movement information from a broadening western landscape.

To date, 4 GPS transmitters have been deployed on Utah Rough-legs during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 winters. GPS location data from Utah will be combined with data from birds wintering across western North America to provide the first comprehensive study of Rough-legged Hawk movement ecology. An exciting effort and one HWI is thrilled to be a part of!

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