Counting our migrating raptors
DFO works with Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), a non-profit organization, to count migrating hawks, eagles, falcons and other raptors each spring. This vital community science project not only tallies bird numbers — it also teaches participants how to identify these magnificent birds of prey and note their behavioral traits. Birders of all skill levels are welcome to participate.
The Dinosaur Ridge Hawk Watch begins March 1 and runs through May 10, with daily observation periods from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m March 1-9 and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. March 10 to May 10. Peak migration usually occurs in mid-April. Hawk Watch volunteers scan the sky from this stationary location. Each Hawk Watch day there is one person designated as the counter. Their bios appear below. Volunteer observers help spot the birds and work with the counter to identify them.
Contact the Volunteer Coordinator (scroll down and click the button) if interested. 2024 Volunteer Training will be held via ZOOM on Wednesday, February 21 at 7:00 pm followed by on-site orientation on Saturday, February 24, 10 am - 12:30 pm. Training sessions are highly encouraged but not required to participate in the count.
Our Hawk Watch site is Dinosaur Ridge, an iconic segment of the Dakota Hogback geological formation west of Denver along the base of the Rocky Mountains. Named for its world-renowned fossil beds, the ridge is also a window to the seasonal movement of raptors through Colorado. The birds migrate along the Front Range of the Rockies in part because mountain updrafts enable them to soar, which conserves energy during their long journeys.
Access to the Hawk Watch site atop Dinosaur Ridge begins at the Stegosaurus parking lot off Interstate 70 and Jefferson County Road 93. The lot is at the southeast corner of Exit 259 from the freeway. A steep (260 ft elevation gain) and moderately challenging half-mile trail leads from the southeast corner of the parking lot and along Dinosaur Ridge to the ridge top. The Hawk Watch site is to the left of the trail.
Unpredictable weather conditions do occasionally cancel observation days. Despite these challenges, the experience of identifying and recording the passage of migrant raptors is rewarding. The data collected contributes to our understanding of raptor populations and informs conservation efforts.