Birds of Prey- American Kestrel- Beamer Hawkwatch Annual Count



Monitoring of the 2022 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.

Since 1975, dedicated hawk-watchers from NPH 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.”

This year’s count was off to a good start in March, with a total count of 4,860 birds— the highest total since 2012, spread over 12 species. As usual, Turkey Vultures dominated with 3,646, followed by 584 Red-tailed Hawks, and 388 Red-shouldered Hawks, which migrate early in the season. Bald Eagles numbered 29 and Golden Eagles 5. The highest daily counts so far were 826 on March 17 and 472 on March 31. “As the weather warms up this month, 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 47 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 7,000 per season currently.
  • 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.
  • The counts of Sharp-shinned Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks have dropped from over 4,000 and over 3,000 respectively in the 1980s and 1990s to 1,332 and 1,532 between 2010-19.
  • The 2010-19 average count of Broad-winged Hawks is comparable to the long-term average, although annual counts are highly variable.

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. This data has 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.

Beamer is known as the best vantage point in the Niagara Peninsula, with sightings of more than 15,000 hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures on average each spring. At this site, members of the public can see a variety of birds of prey, as they migrate from South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States to their nesting territories in Canada.

The NPH, in partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, hosts the Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch Open House on Good Friday every 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 COVID-19, but is scheduled to make a come-back in April 2023.

For more information on the raptor spring migration count and Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch, visit NPH counters are on-site daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please note access to the viewing tower is limited due to COVID-19.

Learn more about Beamer Memorial Conservation Area and the NPCA at Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more updates.


About NPH:

Since 1975, birdwatchers have been monitoring the annual spring migration of hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures over the Niagara Peninsula.

The Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch was organized in March of 1990 to promote the enjoyment of hawk watching, educate people about hawks and hawk migration, conduct systematic counts of hawks migrating over the Niagara Peninsula, and work for the preservation of raptors in Ontario.

About NPCA:

The NPCA manages the impact of human activities, urban growth, and rural activities on the Niagara Peninsula watershed with programs and services that help keep people and their property safe from flooding and erosion, while retaining the safety of our drinking water.

NPCA manages 41 Conservation Areas, including Ball’s Falls, Binbrook, Long Beach and Chippawa Creek. These lands are held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. NPCA’s Conservation Areas marry nature, culture and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery.

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