Florida Birds Fall Hawk Migration


Fall Hawk Migrations
in Florida

 

 

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Fall Hawk Migrations in Florida

Seeing a hawk in the wild is always a treat, but viewing a hundred or more in a single morning is one of the fall's greatest spectacles.

September marks the beginning of the annual migration of hawks and falcons, a journey that from some species begins in Canada and ends as far south as Peru.

The best time to view hawks is right after a cold front up north. In general, the birds follow the Gulf coastline toward Mexico and South America.

Different birds will often fly at different times of day. For instance, falcons and acceptors are most active from early morning to late afternoon, while buteos such as the broad wing hawk fly mostly between 10am and 2pm.

The most common hawk passing through Florida skies is the sharp-shinned hawk, whose large numbers make it possible to spot between 200 and 1,500 birds in a single day following a cold front.

Sharp shinned hawks are often in the company of the Cooper's hawk, which is larger but similar in appearance. Both hawks, birds of the woods, have a gray-black head, a slate gray back, a gray and black banded tail, and bands of light tan and bright rust on the chest and under parts. The two birds are also similar in their flight patterns: fast and erratic.

The broad-winged hawk, heavier than the Cooper's but around the same size, winter anywhere from Florida to Peru. The slower flying broad-wing has a very obvious migratory characteristic that other hawks also adapt: they sometimes form kettles, or groups, that will swirl in small flocks overhead rather than fly on a direct course as the sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks do.

Other hawks to look for include the marsh hawk, Mississippi kite, osprey, red-tailed hawk and the red-shouldered hawk, all in fairly small numbers.

One of the rarest and most sought-after migratory species is the endangered peregrine falcon, the great aerial performer which was used in the sport of falconry for thousands of years.

Peregrines may be everyone's favorite, but the American kestrel, followed by the merlin, are the most commonly seen falcons during the hawk migration.

Where To See Migrating Hawks in Florida

What Is A Kettle of Hawks?

Peregrine Falcon Characteristics

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