Raptor Research in the SuperSanctuary & (Well) Beyond…
In late June, the Harris Center hosted raptor researchers Dr. Laurie Goodrich and Rebecca McCabe as part of an ongoing research collaboration with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. The goal? To better understand Broad-winged Hawk ecology by tracking the migration of hawks breeding in New Hampshire to their wintering grounds in Central and South America and back. Last year, the Hawk Mountain team affixed lightweight satellite and cellular transmitters to three adult Broad-winged Hawks in and around our SuperSanctuary of protected lands — the first of this species to ever be satellite-tagged in the Granite State.
This summer, we successfully affixed transmitters to two additional female Broad-winged Hawks — one on Dublin School land and another on Harris Center-conserved land near Willard Pond Road. The Dublin bird was named “Skatutakee,” an Abenaki word meaning “of land and fire.” The Willard hawk was named “Nubanusit,” meaning “wing-shaped.” Both names also pay tribute to special places in the SuperSanctuary: Lake Nubanusit in Hancock and Nelson, and Skatutakee Mountain in Hancock.
Bird Conservation Director Phil Brown holds "Nubanusit" while Hawk Mountain biologists prepare to attach her transmitter. All researchers handling wild birds wore masks to help reduce the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
Nubanusit, sporting her new satellite transmitter. Transmitters were only attached to female birds, who are larger than males and therefore can safely support the added weight. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
We now have four local hawks sporting active geolocating devices. (One transmitter that was affixed last year seems to have failed or been removed.) Our hope is that these transmitters will provide detailed information about habitat selection and geographic preferences of these birds in their breeding habitat, along their migration routes and, especially, on their wintering grounds, where much less is known. Following the movements of these birds will also help researchers compare migration and overwintering patterns between hawks breeding in Pennsylvania and hawks breeding in New England and eastern Canada.
In the time between the tagging and when the birds depart for their fall migration, Bird Conservation Director Phil Brown will be working with volunteers to monitor seven active Broad-winged Hawk nests in Hancock and surrounding towns, in order to assess productivity, determine time frames for nesting, and inventory forest characteristics in the territory surrounding each nest.
Though Broad-winged Hawks are a common raptor in the Monadnock Region, finding a nest requires a great deal of time, effort, and sometimes a little bit of luck! In return for this investment, however, we’re rewarded with a rare glimpse into the secretive breeding habits of this iconic species, along with a detailed picture of how they travel across multiple continents. Over the past two years, our efforts have contributed to a greater understanding of Broad-winged Hawk migration and winter ecology — and there is still so much to learn from these birds.
Broad-winged Hawk nests are surprisingly cryptic, and can be difficult to find amid a sea of green! (photo © Tom Momeyer)
A Broad-winged Hawk chick stands up in its nest. (photo © Tom Momeyer)
THANK YOU to all of the generous partners, donors, landowners, and volunteers who have contributed their time, resources, and goodwill throughout the season and have helped make this project such a success!
This ground-breaking research was made possible with support from the Davis Conservation Foundation, the Putnam Foundation, the Bailey Charitable Foundation, and the Harris Center’s 50th Anniversary Fund.