Hawk Migration Banding – Sept. 5-6

Written by PSBO Board Member and Apprentice, Ben Vang-Johnson:

Adult Male Northern Harrier

Adult Male Northern Harrier. Photo by Ben Vang-Johnson.

I was fortunate enough to visit HawkWatch International’s raptor migration project near Lake Chelan, WA, in the Okanogan National Forest. Having previously worked as an official crew member for some of HawkWatch’s raptor migration projects, I already had the prerequisite training and experience for banding raptors (HawkWatch’s banding operations are generally not open to the public, but they do welcome visitors at their count stations). HawkWatch monitors the fall migration of raptors through standardized counts and banding.

Adult Male Northern Harrier Tail

Adult Male Northern Harrier Tail. Photo by Ben Vang-Johnson.

We banded numerous sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks, a couple red-tailed hawks, and an adult male Northern harrier, which was the highlight. An adult male harrier is a rare catch. I aged this one ASY, due to rectrix #2, on the left side. This bird was undergoing a prebasic molt, with some of the rectrices actively growing. Rectrix #2 had not yet been dropped, and it was obviously an adult feather from the previous basic plumage. Since rectrix #2 was not from the first basic plumage (juvenal plumage), which are brown-not gray, I knew this bird had to be in at least its third calendar year of life. In fact, the description in the Pyle guide indicates that rectrix #2 may actually be from the second prebasic molt (due to more bars) which would make the bird a TY, but there is much variation in this characteristic and I was most comfortable calling it ASY.

Comments are closed.