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Swainson’s Hawks Migrate at Night?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, January 17, 2011 

This may sound strange, but every fall I see Swainson’s Hawks (and some Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks) migrating after sunset along the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and Goshute Mountains in Nevada. I’m not the only one, previous observers at the Goshutes are aware of this, and others who have visited ridge sites in the West have witnessed it. Buteos are generally thought to migrate during peak thermal times (late morning to late afternoon), but this is not the case along ridges, as it is quite common to see them moving in the darkness in late September through early October. I assume they feed early morning, and fly all day including after sundown if the updrafts are still sufficient.

I do see many Swainson’s flying after dark that settle in the Pines before it is pitch-black though. One night (after sundown) at the Goshutes, a kettle of 10 Broad-winged Hawks settled into a group of trees off the east side of the ridge. The next day at sunrise, the same group of 10 took flight from the trees. I know it was the same group because it included 2 DARK BIRDS (an adult and a juvenile), a neat sighting anywhere!

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Blogger Tim Avery said...

Craziest thing I have ever seen was an Osprey at like 8pm as the sun had pretty much faded cruising over Sugarhouse in 40 mph winds in April. I thought for sure I was seeing things, but it was an Osprey, and it was dark out.

I know that's not quite migration along a migratory route, but still something else to see, when all convention tells you this is not normal.

January 18, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Ospreys are known to sometimes migrate at or past sundown, so are Harriers, Peregrines, and Merlins. I would say if your bird was headed north than it was likely a migrant, and a great sighting! Funny thing is, I guarantee anyone else would not have seen it, only a crazy birder would be looking for that at that time of day. I was sitting at 9th & 9th one day in spring....you know what, I'll write a blog entry about it.


January 18, 2011 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

I am looking forward to it!

January 19, 2011 at 5:50 PM  

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