The Florida Keys is an exciting location to watch migrating hawks, especially Peregrine Falcons. Large numbers of Merlins, American Kestrels, and Peregrine Falcons pass through the Keys each fall en route to their southern wintering grounds. Seventeen different raptor species migrate through the Keys including incredible numbers of Peregrine Falcons, and other species such as Short-tailed Hawks and Swainson’s Hawks that are rarely seen at other hawk watches in eastern North America.
Starting the fall of 1999, HawkWatch International carried out full-season counts of migratory birds of prey at Curry Hammock State Park. This count site was designated to document long-term trends in Peregrine Falcon populations as well as population trends for the 7 other common diurnal raptor species observed in the Florida Keys (Lott 2006). These systematic counts were organized and coordinated by Casey Lott for HawkWatch International from 1999 to 2008, resulting in the first 10-year raptor migration dataset for the state of Florida, establishing the southernmost long-term monitoring site for birds of prey in the U.S. Several significant findings were championed at this site, primarily regarding the assessment of Peregrine Falcon population trends along the Florida Keys flyway. The 10-year period under HawkWatch International helped establish the Florida Keys Hawkwatch as the highest Peregrine Falcon season in the U. S., (2858 in 2003) and the highest daily Peregrine count in the world, with 638 birds on October 11, 2008. Additionally, from 1998 to 2003, the organization conducted a banding station within the same state park, hoping to shed light on the origins and destinations of the raptors migrating through the Keys. In parallel, an array of environmental education programs were made available to the Keys community from 1999 to 2004. All these components formed part of what was known as the Florida Keys Raptor Migration Project. HawkWatch International ceased involvement with the monitoring of raptors in the Keys at the close of the 2008 fall season.
The hawkwatch fell into a dormant state following 2008, as previous organizing bodies redirected their efforts and funding elsewhere. Unfortunately, no count was conducted in 2009. Under the danger of falling in too great a gap that might have rendered the prior ten-year period ineffective, an effort was commenced by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), with the assistance of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, to reestablish the Florida Keys Hawkwatch as an all-volunteer site starting 2010. To ensure that no future fall migration season goes unmonitored at the Curry Hammock site, the project has been reorganized and redefined as a "locally-owned" operation committed to the long-term sustainability of a raptor migration site, rebranded as the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, under the auspices of Tropical Audubon Society (TAS). A coalition of regional and national organizations has rallied in support of the project, which has been organized by Rafael Gálvez as a representative of TAS since 2011.