Great Lakes Movement

After deploying all of our Michigan units this past April we have been patiently waiting for our birds to check back in and provide us with breeding locations. Luckily, fall migration has begun for adult Red-tails here in the East, and because of that we now have information on 2 more of our birds. Normally the peak movement of adult Red-tails here in the East is mid-October so more birds should be on the move soon.

Our first MI bird to provide us with information is Rowan. This bird bred on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Ontario about 12 miles Northeast from the town of Marathon. Rowan departed his breeding grounds on September 23rd to begin his migration. He crossed the straits area at almost the exact same spot from spring which is amazing to see (See map below). He is currently stopped over in Roscommon Red Pine Natural Preserve in Michigan. We can’t wait to see where he spends the Winter.

Our second bird to check in was Patagium a gorgeous adult Red-tailed hawk of the abieticola subspecies. This subspecies is also known as the Northern Red-tail. Patagium also bred in Ontario but this bird decided to settle on a patch of boreal forest North of Lake Abitibi close to the border with Quebec. She currently is outside of a town called Villebois in Quebec about 12-15 miles Southeast of her summer breeding territory.

Be sure to stay tuned as migration picks up, and we continue to get more data from our other tagged Red-tails.

Fall migration has started, as told by our harlani moving south!

The first three birds to check in after a summer off-grid are three of our harlani that we tagged last winter in Kansas and Nebraska. Fortunately, all three transmitters worked great and we now have nesting locations and some fine scale movement data! Here are their tracks to date:

There are still a lot of birds that have yet to send in their summer data, so we will soon have more to report. For now, enjoy these tracks!

Osborne is carrying a transmitter purchased by Luke Klicka and Peru State College in Nebraska. We really appreciate Luke’s willingness to collaborate on this work!

Bryce’s 2021 breeding captures

From Bryce: This photo sums up my summer in a very simple way. 40 birds – the result of countless hours, over 20,000 miles of driving to trap in 7 states, and sample 5 of the 14 recognized Red-tailed Hawk subspecies. When I set out from New York in late April, I had no idea how successful I’d be as I tried to trap birds during the breeding season. Fortunately, as I head back east in two weeks I’ll reflect on my success, and that I learned a great deal about this species in some very special parts of North America.

Next time you read a paper, or more simply hear or read a fact about a bird, consider the amount of time and effort it takes for us to learn these seemingly simple facts. Scientific research and the pursuit of knowledge is costly, and every time I learn something new from reading a paper, or even a google search, I take a moment to appreciate that cost.

More birds added to our project thanks to the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch

Bryce recently spent a week at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch in Mackinaw City, Michigan, where he and Nick Alioto deployed eleven units on migrant Red-tailed Hawks. Nick will be conducting a movement ecology study focused on migrants in the great lakes region, and we’re excited to see what insights he gains from these tagged birds. Take a look below at the excellent new birds, and stay tuned to learn where these birds breed.


Trap location: Cheboygan, Michigan

Trap date: 3 April 2021


Trap location: 2 April 2021

Trap date: 2 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 2 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 4 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 4 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 4 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 5 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 5 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 5 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 5 April 2021


Trap location: Mackinaw, Michigan

Trap date: 5 April 2021

Thanks to Nick Alioto and Ed Pike, and the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch for their willingness to collaborate, and to Leah Rudge for her help! To learn more about their work, visit

More birds join the project in the eastern Great Plains

We’ve been busy! Over the past two weeks, we’ve been putting transmitters out on the eastern Great Plains, primarily in Kansas. We added 8 new transmitters and an additional 8 birds that are marked with color bands. Take a look at the new birds!

Apart from the generous contributions from the Kansas Ornithological Society and the Burroughs Audubon Society, these transmitters are those purchased from our fundraising efforts. Thanks again to everyone who contributed!

New birds carrying transmitters



Plo Koon






Other birds sampled and tagged with color bands

Blue – 0Y

Blue – 3F

Blue – 3A

Blue – 2A

Blue – 2B

Blue – 2T

Blue 2H

Blue – 4D

Special thanks to everyone that offered their COVID conscious help during the effort, including John Bollin, Dave Rintoul, Rene Martin, Fernando Machado, and Paul Mackenzie.

Meet Ahsoka – a light-morph harlani carrying a transmitter in Kansas

Meet Ahsoka, an after fourth-cycle harlani that wears the color band blue – 3Z!

Luke added this excellent light harlani to our growing group of birds carrying transmitters. We first found this individual last year on its wintering territory just outside of Lawrence, Kansas. We checked regularly during our trapping efforts last winter to see if it was trappable, and continued doing so this winter. It usually perches in trees that are either not accessible or are in areas that are difficult to trap, so our efforts were always thwarted. But, luck and opportunity finally came together and Luke was able to pull it over to a trap and capture it. Nice work Luke!

Meet Obi-Wan – a new bird carrying a transmitter in Vermont

Meet Obi-Wan, an after second-cycle that wears the color band blue OB. Over the weekend we were able to trap and transmitter this bird in collaboration with the Vermont Institute of Natural Science.

We also caught and color banded a few other birds. If you live in the New England or eastern Canada, keep an eye out for birds with blue color bands!

Blue OS

Blue OR

Blue OH

Meet our two new birds – a harlani from Utah, and an abieticola from Vermont


Grogu is a fourth-cycle dark morph harlani captured in Salt Lake City, Utah on 18 December 2020. The primary molt limits on this individual indicate an after third-cycle, but we actually know the age of Grogu because the bird was caught and banded at the Salt Lake International airport in 2018, when it was in second-cycle plumage. So, Grogu is in its fourth-cycle this winter.

The folks at Salt Lake International Airport capture and relocate birds in an effort to eliminate bird-airplane collisions. A collaborator at HawkWatch International, Jesse Watson, reached out to them this winter to ask them if they would be willing to cooperate to get transmitters on harlani or any other birds of interest. They agreed, and Grogu is the first from that cooperation!

Grogu was released in the desert west of Salt Lake City, and we are getting location data already! We’re excited to see where the bird ends up over the next year, and will share as we go along.


Goodrich is an after third-cycle, relatively lightly marked abieticola (or perhaps intermediate between abieticola and borealis) captured in Addison County, Vermont on 20 December 2020. We’re not exactly sure what to expect out of this bird, so in this way this individual will help us understand the connection between the more heavily marked abieticola, and these lighter, or more intermediate birds. This bird could breed quite far north, or it simply could breed more locally in northern Vermont, or southern Quebec. We will see!

Bryce had the privilege of spending a few days in western Vermont, working with folks from the Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences (VINS) to get out a transmitter for a collaboration with the Red-tailed Hawk Project on a winter home range study they are conducting. We’re excited to see where Goodrich ends up to breed, and will share as the data comes in.

Blue 1W is our First color banded bird of the project – A gorgeous juvenile Krider’s in eastern Kansas!

Yesterday, 10 November 2020, Luke caught this stunning juvenile near Lawrence, Kansas (nice work Luke!). Unfortunately, we are not putting out telemetry units on juveniles, but Luke still took the necessary samples, and put a color band on the bird. This bird is now carrying a blue 1W on its left leg, so keep an eye out for it!

We tentatively identify this individual as the subspecies kriderii, given the overall paleness of the bird as well as the rusty tones throughout the body plumage, especially the primary coverts. We also expect a juvenile harlani to lack these warm tones and have more globular streaking in the belly, patagials, etc. The regularity of the barring in the tail, and the fineness in the wings, also supports kriderii. Juvenile harlani and kriderii can be quite difficult to distinguish, which is why this bird carrying a color band is so exciting. Even more, it’s important to note that these two subspecies come into contact, so the characteristics of some individuals may blend together and we may be ‘splitting hairs’ if we try to name it one or the other. If we can resight this bird in its definitive plumage, we’ll have a direct comparison between juvenile and adult plumage, which will strengthen our ability to identify it. We also now have the ability to genetically assess where this individual may group with others, further strengthening our understanding of how to name these odd plumages.

We need your help to resight our color banded birds! We hope to put out a large number of color bands this winter. The coming breeding season, we hope our efforts pay off and we get some breeding locations from relighting color bands at nest sites. Please pay attention to your local Red-tailed Hawks this summer, and see if you can find a color band! If you do, take a photo and let us know!