Best Flight of Raptors over South Florida!!!
By Rafael A. Gálvez
3,423 migrating raptors were seen today at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.
Never before in the 12-year history of full-season hawkwatches at Curry Hammock State Park – or to our knowledge anywhere else in the state of Florida – have more raptors been tallied in a single day (9 hours).
Additionally, we experienced the highest daily count for Sharp-shinned Hawks today than ever in the history of this project, with 1,525 – the previous single-day high for this species was 1,472 in 2008.
We also broke the daily high count for Northern Harriers at this site, with 238 – the previous high was 150 in 1999.
We also broke the daily high count for Short-tailed Hawks at this site with 7 – the previous high was 4 in 2007/2010.
Our numbers for Peregrines, Broad-wings (3rd highest for this site), Kestrels and Cooper’s Hawks were also excellent. Great diversity and numbers – Our total of 3,423 included:
Osprey – 28
Northern Harrier – 238 (new FKH daily high count)
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1,525 ( new FKH daily high count)
Cooper’s Hawk – 71
Short-tailed Hawk – 7 (new FKH daily high count)
Broad-winged Hawk – 899 (3rd FKH daily count)
Red-shouldered Hawk – 2
Swainson’s Hawk – 10
American Kestrel – 368
Merlin – 8
Peregrine Falcon – 267
2 young Bald Eagles in localized movement
Turkey Vultures – the first substantial flights for this species this fall, with a couple hundred estimated.
With the intense amount of rain over the past days pushing violently up the Keys into the mainland, birds were backed up north of this tropical system. This combined with a sudden shift to perfect tailwinds out of the NW, to make the “perfect storm” of raptors over the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.
I must commend the excellent eyes we had on deck today. Jim and I were joined by two excellent couples, Colleen and Charles Caudill – who have been with us now for nearly a week, and Sue and Darrell Hartman from Gainesville, who just joined the project and will remain with us for a few more days. We managed to run the watch like a well-oiled machine. Compared to some of the previous days of extreme distance hawkwatching, today’s birds were brought primarily overhead. Some necks might be sore tonight.
We are all very excited; the following days promise to bring more of the birds backed up by the storm. No doubt, it was a great day for raptors in the Florida Keys!