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 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. 

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 (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. 

Meet This Year's Hawk Watch Counters

  • Emma RileyEmma Riley, raptor biologist with a degree from Colorado State University in Wildlife Biology, returns in 2024 for her third year counting migrating raptors on Dinosaur Ridge. She has studied Ferruginous Hawks and breeding passerines across Wyoming and Idaho. Emma 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 passionate about working at the country's best spot for migrating Ferruginous Hawks, one of her "spark birds". Look for Emma on the ridge beginning April 1st.
  • Ajit AntonyAjit returns this year as our official Tuesday counter. He and his wife Liza, also a Dino Ridge volunteer, bring decades of experience with them including counting at the Mount Peter, Hook Mountain, and the I-84 Overlook Hawk Watches. Together they achieved records along the Eastern Flyway for Broad-winged Hawks, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Black Vultures, and Golden Eagles. Ajit is a wonderful volunteer trainer and is excited to share his skills with you for identifying the raptors that migrate along the Central Flyway.
  • Zachary HaagZachary Haag is pursuing a BS in Biology at the University of Denver. Zach has been an avid birder his entire life and is eager to help add to our understanding of migrating raptors. This will be his first year on the Hawk Watch team, and he is excited to spot raptors at Dinosaur Ridge. Look for Zach on Saturdays beginning in mid-March when he will be working as official observer.
  • Audrey AndersonAudrey Anderson is an undergraduate in her final semester at the University of Colorado Boulder, studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A Colorado native and outdoor enthusiast, she is ecstatic to pursue a career in ornithology and conservation. Raptors hold a special place in her heart and are one of the driving factors of her passion. Her most recent experience includes designing and implementing a project involving avian cavity dwellers, addressing urban conflict with the City of Littleton. She can't wait to apply her skills as a member of the 2024 Dinosaur Ridge Hawk Watch team! Look for Audrey on Sundays beginning in mid-March when she will be working as official observer.
  • Dustin KohlerDustin Kohler holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology from Missouri State University and will be joining the 2024 Dinosaur Ridge Hawk Watch as Lead Counter. He has lived a life immersed in nature learning about anything and everything. Dustin's ornithology experience includes laboratory research and banding birds since he was three years old; he has helped band over 130 birds most of them raptors. Welcome Dustin to the ridge!

DFO's Hawk Watch Partners