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Annual "Hawk Watch" collects information during birds' vulernable life period

Photo courtesy: Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research

Thousands of migrating raptors can be seen flying over the First State over the next couple months and Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife is trying to tally them as best as it can.


Delaware's Division of Fish & Wildlife has partnered with Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Center and Delaware’s Division of Parks and Recreation to monitor coastal and hill migrations of hawks, falcons, eagles and many other species.

Wildlife Biologist Kate Fleming said they’re collecting baseline information about timing, species abundance and flight height, to feed into a baseline data set.


"And we’re collecting information during a time in the raptors' life history where they’re actually particularly vulnerable to threats because they’re leaving familiar habitats to travel great distances over less familiar habitats," Fleming said.

The data can help inform environmental conservation decisions in the future, particularly during the time when raptors are most vulnerable to their surroundings, illnesses and environmental hazards, Fleming said.


"They're leaving familiar habitats to travel great distances over less familiar habitats," she said.


Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife asks experienced staff and skilled volunteers to tally the raptors to ensure an accurate count. Fleming said they are also looking for inexperienced volunteers to help the professionals.


"Of course it’s helpful to have skilled volunteers that know what to look for, but really for a hawk watch it can be helpful just to have eyes in the sky," Fleming said.


Hawk watchers are responsible for scanning the sky throughout the day each day — trying to identify every single raptor that passes through the area.


Since 2010, 18 species of raptors including hawks, falcons and ospreys have been spotted during the annual “Hawk Watch” at both Cape Henlopen State Park and Ashland Nature Center. Last year, over 15,000 raptors were documented between Hockessin and Lewes.


The raptor watch started mid-September  and will continue through Nov. 30.


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