Hawk- Spring Migration



Monitoring of the 2023 spring hawk migration is once again underway as members of the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch (NPH) visit Beamer Memorial Conservation Area (Beamer) daily to count raptor sightings.

Beamer Memorial Conservation Area is known as the best vantage point in the Niagara Peninsula, with sightings of more than 14,000 hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures on average each spring. A variety of birds of prey are seen at the site each spring, as they migrate from South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States to their nesting territories in Canada.

Since 1975, dedicated and trained spotters and counters have counted migrating raptors annually at Beamer from March 1 to May 15. Visitors can join other hawkwatchers throughout the season to learn how to identify birds of prey such as Golden Eagles or Red-Tailed Hawks, which are a few of the first species to be seen in early spring.

“Visitors and aspiring counters do not have to pay any fee to participate, nor should they be intimidated by inexperience,” says Keith Dieroff, President of NPH. “Every birder and hawk-watcher starts somewhere and can learn by observing in the field alongside experienced counters. The NPH is working to improve diversity in our membership and create a more inclusive and accessible site for all to appreciate the raptor migration. We hope more people will join us this year.”

Observations from the 2023 spring migration:

  • This year’s count was off to a slow start due to the snowy and wet weather in March, but some large flights in the last week of the month made up for this.
  • The total number of migrants by March 31 was 4,655, slightly lower than the 4,860 from 2022, but higher than the pre-pandemic number in 2019.
  • As usual, Turkey Vultures dominated with 3,565, followed by 575 Red-tailed Hawks.
  • The 321 Red-shouldered Hawks, which migrate early in the season, is low, however April may bring higher numbers.
  • Bald Eagles are ahead of previous years with 50 counted, and 5 Golden Eagles have been seen.
  • The highest daily counts so far were 800 on March 28, 715 on March 30 and 593 on March 24.

“As the weather warms up in April, the numbers will increase and later migrants like Ospreys and Broad-winged Hawks will move into the province,” adds Keith.

Trends in migrating bird populations serve as valuable biological indicators for ecosystem health, as raptors are top-level predators, occupying large home ranges, inhabiting most ecosystems, and being sensitive to environmental contamination and other human disturbances.

In more than 48 years of counting, there have been significant changes in migration patterns.

  • Turkey Vultures have expanded their range northward and counts have increased from under 100 in 1975 and 1976 to over 8,000 for the first time in 2022.
  • Populations of Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcon have rebounded from past impact of pesticide D.D.T.
  • Fewer Rough-legged Hawks are counted now than in earlier years.

As the only spring raptor count in Ontario, NPH provides one of the longest time-series datasets for spring raptor migration in North America and the longest in Canada. These data have been used in past reports by Birds Canada, the Hawk Migration Association of North America and other raptor conservation groups due to the standardized methods used and length of the time series.

The NPH, in partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, traditionally hosts the Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch Open House on Good Friday each year, welcoming hundreds of community members to the site to learn about the migration taking place right over their heads. This event, which last took place in 2019, will not be held this year due to limited capacity and access to the site, but is scheduled to make a come-back in future years.

For more information on the raptor spring migration count and Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch, visit https://nphawkwatch.ca/. NPH counters are on-site daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please note capacity of the viewing tower is limited, visitors are asked to be mindful of the research and work in progress.

Learn more about Beamer Memorial Conservation Area and the NPCA at www.npca.ca. Follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more updates


About NPCA:

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a community-based natural resource management agency that works to protect, enhance, and sustain healthy watersheds. With more than 63 years of experience, the NPCA offers watershed programs and services that focus on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. 

The NPCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario and manages 41 Conservation Areas within the Niagara Peninsula watershed held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. These natural and shared greenspaces marry nature, culture, and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery.

Questions related to the above release should be directed to:
Erika Navarro
Communications and Marketing Specialist
Mobile: 905-650-4027