Florida Hawk Migrations: What is a Kettle of Hawks?

What is
a Kettle of Hawks?






Florida Everglades

How Migrating Hawks
Use Air Thermals

Migrating hawks sometimes form a kettle of hawks, or groups, that will swirl in small flocks overhead.  

Hawks swirling in a kettle are actually circling tightly in an air thermal.

When a kettle of birds is tightly circling in a thermal, they look from a distance like something boiling in a cauldron, which may explain the origin of the word kettle to describe a thermaling flock.

Thermals are what the hawks rely on to assist them on their traditional migratory pathways, which are determined by both geography and weather patterns.

The geographic features, known as leading lines, include mountain ridges, coastlines or lake shores. For instance, in parts of the Appalachians, the mountain ridges form nearly parallel lines. Wind following a cold front blows from the northwest, and it strikes these ridges at about a 90 degree angle.   

That deflects the breeze upward, creating a lift along the ridges which the hawks ride just like sailplane pilots. The birds also ride air thermals created by sunlight on roads, and over fields and lakes.

In essence, they repeatedly fly from one hot air bubble to the next. How the birds are able to find these thermals is still uncertain.

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