September 7, 2023—Raptor biologists had an unexpectedly busy day last week when 28,103 Mississippi Kites migrated past the Corpus Christi HawkWatch. In total, the biologists have now counted over 57,000 of the species—over 3x as many as are typically seen at the site each fall.
Crew member Daniel Horton, who is working his 6th season at the HawkWatch, said it was simply unfathomable for the site. “It’s very difficult to define just exactly what happened that day but to put it simply, there were birds in the sky everywhere you looked,” he shared.
The migration was also unusual due to its timing, according to Dr. Dave Oleyar, Director of Long-term Monitoring & Community Science for HawkWatch International.
“Since HawkWatch International began conducting standardized raptor migration research at the site in 1997, we’ve never seen this many birds migrate in August,” he reflected. That’s why this type of long-term migration research is so important, he shared.
“Having decades of data allows us to better understand if this is a blip or a long-term trend,” Oleyar said.
Although the number of raptors seen at the HawkWatch was unusual for August, it isn’t unusual for the site itself, which counts the most migrating raptors in the United States. On average, over half a million raptors migrate past the site each year, with the majority being Broad-winged Hawks that migrate in large numbers in late September.
This peak of the migration season is celebrated during the annual Celebration of Flight festival, which will take place September 29-October 1 at Hazel Bazemore Park this year. The festival will feature activities for the whole family, including guest lectures from raptor experts, opportunities to learn how to identify raptors and hands-on activities for children.
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