Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Broadwing

Today at the hawk migration monitoring station at which I assist each fall, my son, Nathan, and I had a new life experience. We captured and banded a Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus). In fifteen years of fall migration trapping at Bonney Butte (just southeast of Mt. Hood), this is only the second individual of this species ever captured.

In the eastern United States, broad-wings are a common enough bird. In fact, they tend to form large flocks in which to carry out their long southbound migration, and single-day counts at eastern hawk-watching sites (like Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania or Hawk Ridge near Duluth, Minnesota) can reach the tens of rhousands of them.

But where we trap is in the Cascades Range of western Oregon, and so sightings (much less captures) are extremely rare. It seems, though, that individuals of the species are extending its breeding range westward slightly or, at the very least, are willing to take a more westerly migration route to the wintering grounds.

The young bird we caught looked like a very small version of a young Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I'd show you a picture, but (in one of the corollary's of Murphy's law, no doubt) the reason we caught the bird in the first place was that today was the first day we neglected to pack the camera for the hike to the ridge.

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