Dinosaur Ridge Hawk Watch

Red-tailed Hawk © Jim Esten

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 14, with daily observation periods from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m March 1-11 and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 12 to May 14. 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. Details on three training events can be found here.

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.

American Kestrel © Jim Esten

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 and moderately challenging half-mile long 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. But 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. 

Meet This Year's Hawk Watch Counters

  • Emma RileyEmma Riley, raptor biologist with a degree from Colorado State University in Wildlife Biology, returns in 2023 for her second year counting migrating raptor on Dinosaur Ridge. She has studied Ferruginous Hawks and breeding passerines across Wyoming and Idaho. Emma recently worked at Hawkwatch International's Manzanos Mountains fall migration site trapping and counting raptors. Her focus is raptor biology, especially migration and movement ecology. Emma is most excited about working at the country's best spot for migrating Ferruginous Hawks, one of her "spark birds". Look for Emma on the ridge Wednesday through Sunday.
  • Aarohi BarmanAarohi "Ro" Barman is a recent graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She is excited to be joining fellow alum Emma Riley and the volunteer team on the ridge this year. While her favorite birds are those in the corvid family, she is excited to hone her skills in raptor identification this spring. Look for Ro on the ridge on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Ajit AnthonyAjit Anthony began hawk watching at the Mount Peter Hawk Watch in New York in 1986. Since then, he has counted hawks at Hook Mountain and the I-84 Overlook Hawk Watch, both of which are along the Eastern Flyway. Over the years he has trained many volunteers and looks forward to teaching about hawk identification on the ridge this spring. He is enjoying the experience of hawk watching along the Central Flyway now that he and his wife, Liza, have moved to Colorado. Look for Ajit on the ridge on Mondays.
  • Carol CwiklinskiCarol Cwiklinski has counted hawks in migration for 32 years, starting at the Goshute Raptor Project in Nevada, then at Dutchman's Peak in Oregon, and at other sites across the country. She is fond of all raptor species, but the Ferruginous Hawks and Prairie Falcons are her favorites from among the migrants in Colorado. Carol is a member of DFOs Hawk Watch Committee and will serve as the project lead for this year's count. Look for Carol on the ridge on Tuesdays.

Hawk Watch Partners