Dinosaur Ridge Hawkwatch

Red-tailed Hawk © Jim Esten

Counting our migrating raptors

Denver Field Ornithologists supports and cooperates with HawkWatch, a national volunteer effort to count migrating hawks, eagles, falcons and other raptors each spring.

This vital citizen-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.

Our HawkWatch site is Dinosaur Ridge, an iconic segment of the Dakota Hogback geological formation west of Denver along the base of the Rocky Mountains. Renowned for its 19th and 20th-century fossil discoveries, the ridge also is an open window on the seasonal movement of raptors through Colorado. The birds migrate along the Front Range of the Rockies in part because mountain updrafts assist in their long journeys.

HawkWatch typically begins March 1 and runs through the first week of May, with daily observation periods from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Peak migration usually falls in mid-April.

Unlike typical birding outings where people walk, hike or drive to the birds, HawkWatch volunteers scan the sky from this stationary location. Binoculars are a must, and cameras and spotting scopes are also helpful. Each HawkWatch day, one volunteer is designated as the official counter. The other volunteers help spot the birds and work with the counter to identify them.

American Kestrel © Jim Esten

The daily effort can be challenging. The watch site is a steep half-mile hike from the parking lot, and the weather and wind can quickly and constantly change. On occasion, the team may be “snowed out.” But the rewards of identifying and recording the passage of migrant raptors are rich.

Access to the HawkWatch 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. Take the trail leading upslope from the southeast corner of the parking lot, then proceed south along Dinosaur Ridge to the ridge top. The HawkWatch site is to the left of the trail.

View From Dinosaur Ridge

Click photo to enlarge

Hawkwatch Counter Application

Hawkwatch Partners

Denver Field Ornithologists
Colorado Field Ornithologists
Denver Audubon