Straits raptor counters say they are seeing more birds of prey

Bald Eagle sighted in Charlevoix County. Courtesy photo.

Bald Eagle sighted in Charlevoix County. Courtesy photo.

Robins might be the traditional harbinger of spring in Michigan, but officials say birds of prey are also coming through the state right now.

Bird counters are keeping track of how many raptors are going through the Straits area.

Ed Pike is with the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. He said they have seen twice the number of raptors this year compared to last year.

He said they have even seen non-native Black Vultures. These are raptors from the East Coast and Southeast U.S.

“There were a couple of sightings of black vultures at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. They were never observed crossing the Straits. We believe they came up to the straits and then probably went back south. In 2014 we never saw any black vultures. So we don’t know for sure what they’re doing,” Pike said.

Pike said counters have also seen high numbers of Golden Eagles.

A Sharp shinned hawk sighted at Whitefish Point in Chippewa County. Photo courtesy of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.

A Sharp shinned hawk sighted at Whitefish Point in Chippewa County. Photo courtesy of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.

This is one of the biggest raptors they see. Bird counters have spotted more than 250 this year. That’s up from around 60 this time last year.

“A lot of people didn’t used to believe that Golden Eagles even traveled through Michigan,” Pike said, “But that’s one of the reasons we wanted to document some of the numbers that are moving through to show people that they are indeed moving through Michigan in pretty good numbers.”

Pike said so far this spring, the Straits area counters have recorded more than 800 raptors total.

Turkey Vulture courtesy photo.

Turkey Vulture courtesy photo.

He said the data will help to better understand the visiting raptors. Pike said there might be some conflicts with wind turbines and bird safety. He said the bird migrations should be considered before officials decide on placement of wind generation systems.

One reason this year’s raptor numbers may be higher than in the past because counters have put in twice the number of hours watching for birds. He said this year, they have an official bird counter, but previously had volunteer counters.

He said the count is expected to continue into early June.

ON THE WEB
Daily Hawk Count Numbers https://hawkcount.org/month_summary.php?rsite=613

Michigan Hawk Watch Sites http://www.hmana.org/hawk-watch-sites/