Where To See Migrating Hawks in Florida


See Migrating Hawks
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Where to See
Migrating Hawks in Florida

The best hawk watching is on Florida's Gulf Coast, sometimes on the mainland but typically more on the offshore barrier islands that parallel the coast.

An important exception is Guana River Wildlife Management Area and State Park just north of St. Augustine, the best place for peregrine falcons in Northeast Florida. Both falcons and hawks should be present along the dune lines in October if there is a west wind or if a cold front has just gone through.

St. George Island near Apalachicola is another prime area for fall migrants, but perhaps the best place in all Florida to witness the fall hawk migration is nearby St. Joseph Peninsula, where 200 to 300 birds may be seen in a single day.

The peninsula is Northwest Florida's most reliable place for peregrine falcon. At least one or more of these birds appears on the peninsula every fall.

What makes St. Joseph Peninsula such a hotspot is its narrow size, which averages only a third of a mile wide, which concentrates the birds together along a narrow funnel. Four places in particular are especially good. The elbow, while not attracting a huge number of birds, is the best place to see the peregrines.

On the peninsula, hawks in large numbers can be sighted a half-mile north of the Sunland Center since the birds tend to stay over land and not wander over the bay as much. Eagle Harbor is good in early morning before the birds begin flying out over the water, which puts them farther away.

The single best place is the tip of the peninsula where the hawks gather before flying to the mainland several miles away. Keep in mind the hawks will be flying north--the exact opposite direction of their intended migration--because the peninsula runs north and south, with the southern end connected by a land bridge to the mainland.

St. Vincent NWR is also good for watching migrating hawks, and because it can be reached only by boat, it attracts only the most dedicated birders.

Paynes Prairie Preserve near Gainesville is a December hotspot for red-tails, marsh hawks and kestrels. The place to visit is the La Chua Trail on the north rim, at the observation platform about three miles in.

Miami's Cape Florida SRA is also a good spot in late September and early October at the old lighthouse. Sharp-shinned hawks are the most numerous, but merlins and peregrines can usually be seen every day, too.

For those near Alabama, mid- to late October is Alabama 's peak migration period. It's possible to see as many as 50 or 60 different hawks in a day almost anywhere that's forested along the Alabama Coast.

Kettles of hawks are usually seen after the weather straightens after a cold front. The main hawks seen in these kettles are the red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, broad-wing hawk, sharp shinned hawk, kestrels, some Cooper's hawk and a fair number of peregrine falcons. The best places are at the Bon Secour NWR and Dauphin Island.

Florida Fall Hawk Migrations

What Is A Kettle of Hawks?

The Peregrine Falcon

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