Tagging Along with Broad-winged Hawks

July 14, 2021

An Exciting New Research Initiative Takes Flight

In late June, the Harris Center hosted raptor researchers Dr. Laurie Goodrich and Rebecca McCabe as part of an exciting new 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. In partnership with Eric Masterson and Phil Brown of the Harris Center, 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! The data from these transmitters will shed new light on the lives of “our” hawks, and help determine habitat conservation priorities along their migration routes.

"Monadnock" shows off her new satelitte transmitter. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Rebecca McCabe and Dr. Laurie Goodrich of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary carefully affix a satellite transmitter to a Broad-winged Hawk. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Rebecca McCabe and Dr. Laurie Goodrich of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary carefully affix a satellite transmitter to a Broad-winged Hawk. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

The 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. Where possible, these data will be used to inform conservation and management decisions, such as the protection of significant migration stopover sites.

In preparation for the tagging, Harris Center staff and volunteers spent the last few months searching for and monitoring Broad-winged Hawk nests, which is where the tagging takes place. Although Broad-winged Hawks are quite likely the most common breeding raptor in New Hampshire, their nests can be tricky to find! The 2020 pilot season (when no transmitters were set out due to COVID travel restrictions) proved to be a good opportunity to practice, and the Harris Center team hit the ground running in the spring of 2021 — finding seven nests in and near the SuperSanctuary, including several on Harris Center-conserved lands.

Three days of trapping adult birds led to excellent results, and two Broad-wingeds — which were named “Harris” (a male) and “Monadnock” (a female) — were outfitted with satellite transmitters. Another female (named “Thelma,” after longtime local conservation hero Thelma Babbitt) was outfitted with a new cellular transmitter. Each of these birds stands to generate considerable information about the life histories of Broad-winged Hawks in New England and how they travel across the continent to their wintering areas in South America. We’re excited to share these stories with you in the coming months, so stay tuned for more discoveries!

This innovative project was made possible with support from our 50th Anniversary Fund.

Contact Us

For more information on the Harris Center’s work with the Broad-winged Hawk Project, please contact Phil Brown by email.