The Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth held their annual Hawk Weekend Festival last weekend, and the results of their daily bird counts are coming in. The migration begins in mid-August with American kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks and broad-winged hawks, and continues into December with red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, northern goshawks and eagles. Peak migration at Hawk Ridge occurs from mid-September to late October.
Why do so many raptors migrate down the shore? From the Hawk Ridge web site: “Migrating birds, including raptors and passerines, concentrate in impressive numbers at the western tip of Lake Superior. Some travel from as far away as the Arctic and pass through Duluth on their way to their wintering areas to the south. Migrants funnel down the North Shore along the ridges that overlook the city. On a good day, visitors may see hundreds—even thousands—of birds flying by!”
“Most raptors are reluctant to cross large bodies of water. When they migrate south and encounter Lake Superior, the birds naturally veer southwest along the lakeshore. They concentrate in impressive numbers on the bluffs overlooking East Duluth and can be easily seen from the overlook at Hawk Ridge. Of the 20 species of raptors and vultures that have been seen at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, the peregrine falcon and gyrfalcon are among the rarest. Whether species are common or rare, they are all thrilling to watch as they traverse the ridge, often at or below eye level.”