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(Posted 2011-03-15)
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Raptor Resources

This brief guide is designed to help you identify the resources on hawks that might be best for you, especially on identification and migration. Many good books and other resources are not listed here, but are referenced in the materials we list.

All books except A Field Guide to Hawks may be difficult to find in regular bookstores. Some books are out of print but are in many libraries and are available inexpensively through used book dealers, many of whom are online.


Free Hawk Identification Materials Online from HMANA

The best time to see the most hawks is when they are migrating. The greatest numbers are typically seen in the fall at most locations. A smaller number of sites are primarily spring watches. Looking at hawks in flight quickly reveals the limitations of standard birding field guides. Often you will see little more than a dark silhouette moving against a lighter sky. Colors, and frequently even patterns of contrast, might not visible. What you can see are relative size, shape, and behavior. This has led to the development of introductory silhouette guides and the special flight identification guides that are very helpful in the field.

The general recommendation for a beginner is to first purchase Clark & Wheeler’s A Field Guide to Hawks of North America (see below) and obtain one or more silhouette guides. After hawk watching a time or two, select one or more flight identification guides. Each has different strengths.

Several good resources on hawk identification are available free from HMANA online.

  • A Guide to Hawks Seen in North America by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (2009). An expanded version of the Northeast guide (below), this new two–page guide shows soaring silhouettes and key field marks for 21 migratory hawks regularly seen in most of North America. You can download and print the guide free for personal, noncommercial use at www.hmana.org. You can also purchase a special laminated edition designed for heavy use in the field. Individual and bulk ordering information is available HERE.

  • A Guide to Hawks Seen in the Northeast by the NorthEast Hawk Watch, a chapter of HMANA (2008). This two-page guide shows soaring silhouettes and key field marks for the migratory hawks regularly seen in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. You can download and print the guide free for personal, noncommercial use at www.hmana.org. You can also order inexpensive printed editions of the guide: a standard edition printed on heavy, glossy card stock or a special laminated edition designed for heavy use in the field. Individual and bulk ordering information is available HERE.

  • Identification of Raptors of the Northeast by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (2008). This PowerPoint presentation combines photographs of flying raptors, silhouettes, and in-flight identification tips to help you improve your hawk-watching skills. For more information on the presentation and to download a free copy for personal, noncommercial use, click HERE.

  • Eastern Raptor Migrant Guide by Bob Pettit for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (c. 2000). A two-page crib sheet that describes each migrant species seen in the northeastern quadrant of North America by body, tail, wing, head, under parts, flight, and behavior. To download free of charge, click HERE.

  • Hawkwatching FAQs by The Hawk Migration Association of North America. If you are new to hawk watching or have basic questions, click HERE for answers to commonly asked questions.



HMANA Hawk Resources

  • Hawk Migration Studies- 
The Journal of the Hawk Migration Association of North America Hawk Migration Studies is published twice a year. This journal provides regional reports on the migration from across North America, as well as articles on hawks, hawk identification, hawk watching, and more. Hawk Migration Studies is available to individuals as a part of their annual membership benefits. To join HMANA and receive Hawk Migration Studies, click here [www.hmana.org]. Institutional rates are available here [www.hmana.org]. To see samples of several issues and one complete back issue, click HERE.

  • HawkCount
    A free guide to hawk-watching sites across North America and a large database on the timing, magnitude, and composition of spring and/or fall migration at each site. The website provides daily reports along with monthly and seasonal summaries for many hawk-watch sites across the continent.

  • Hawk Migration Notes Blog
    A new blog on what else, hawk migration!

  • Hawkwatching in the Americas, edited by Keith Bildstein and Daniel Klem Jr. (Kempton, PA: Hawk Migration Association of North America, 2001, 277 pp.). This book consists of 24 peer-reviewed papers presented at the 25th anniversary meeting of the Hawk Migration Association North America (HMANA) in June 2000. Intended primarily for the experienced hawk watcher, it should be of interest to anyone with an interest in bird migration per se, with major papers on full-season hawk watches in coastal Texas, raptor migration through Mesoamerica (Veracruz), ageing eagles at hawk watches, and using Doppler weather radar to study hawk migration. (Ordering link coming soon.)

  • HMANA Newsletter
    A bimonthly email newsletter for HMANA members on hawk migration, hawk watching, and HMANA with brief stories on upcoming events and opportunities, and a variety of short news items, on hawks, hawk watch sites, and hawk watchers..

  • The State of North America's Birds of Prey by the Raptor Population Index (2008) is the first continental report on the population status of North America's migratory birds of prey. Written by 22 of the hemisphere's best-known raptor migration specialists, the 426-page book includes a brief history of raptor conservation in North America, the principles and methods for the use of migration counts to determine population trends, regional overviews of trends in migration counts, a report on the conservation status of 20 species of birds of prey, and more. For more information and to order, click HERE.




Books on Hawk Identification

  • A Field Guide to Hawks of North America by William S. Clark and Brian K. Wheeler, Houghton Mifflin, Second Edition (2001). The only true field guide to North American hawks. The text by Bill Clark and Brian Wheeler is comprehensive and the detailed illustrations by Brian Wheeler show how the hawks look when seen close up, perched, and in flight.

  • Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight by Jerry Liguori, Princeton University Press (2005). A superb guide with 339 color photos of hawks in flight. This book emphasizes key characteristics for identification and discusses confusing species. Quite helpful for anyone planning to do much hawk watching.

  • Hawks in Flight by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton, Houghton Mifflin (1988). Pete Dunne's prose evokes vivid images of the hawks as you usually see them in the field. Excellent line drawings by Sibley and black-and-white photographs by Sutton make this book very helpful. A follow-on to Hawk Watch: A Guide for Beginners (see below), it covers many more species (23) seen in North America and provides more detailed discussions of subtle differences in shape and behavior. However, it lacks the information on hawk-watching equipment, procedures, reporting, etc., contained in Hawk Watch.

  • Hawk Watch: A Guide for Beginners by Pete Dunne, Debbie Keller, and Rene Kochenberger, Cape May Bird Observatory (2002). An outstanding, inexpensive guide for beginners, developed for high school science programs, with chapters on hawk watching, diurnal raptors, equipment, how to observe hawks, interpreting data, and submitting reports on your observations. Excellent line drawings by David Sibley and clear text describing key field marks of each species make the book easy to use. Covering 16 species seen in the northeast, the book is not generally available commercially, but can be obtained at some Audubon shops, ordered directly from Cape May Bird Observatory, or ordered online.

  • A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors by Brian K. Wheeler and William S. Clark, Academic Press (1995). This spectacular book contains several hundred gorgeous full-color photographs of 43 species of North American hawks. Complementing their Field Guide to Hawks, it provides superb photographs of the various plumages of each species, including 46 photographs of Red-tailed Hawk alone! The brief text supplements that of the Field Guide.




CDs and DVDs on Hawk Identification & Migration

  • Hawk Watch: A Video Guide to Eastern Raptors by Dick Walton and Greg Dodge, Brownbag Productions (1998). This 45-minute DVD includes in-the-fiel d video footage of 19 species of hawks likely to be seen from eastern hawk watches with narration based on the principles of hawk identification in Dunne and Sibley's Hawks in Flight (see above).

  • Identification of Raptors of the Northeast by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (2008). This PowerPoint presentation combines photographs of flying raptors, silhouettes, and in-flight identification tips to help you improve your hawk-watching skills. For more information on the presentation and to download a free copy for personal, noncommercial use, click HERE.

  • “Looking Skyward” A Passion for Hawkwatching by Migration Productions (2006). Hawk watchers are a different breed of birders, gathering in large numbers on mountaintops and rocky outcrops to observe the annual migration. “Looking Skyward” examines this tribal community and its fascination with birds of prey. Video footage of a wide range of raptors in flight is included along with information on some of the prime locations for viewing in the northeast.




Advanced Reading on Hawks & Migration

  • Birds of Prey by Ian Newton (ed.), Facts on File (1990). A superb introduction to birds of prey (excluding owls), focusing on what makes each hawk family unique, followed by seven chapters on raptor biology and three on hawks' relations with humans. Top experts wrote each chapter and numerous fascinating sidebars in very readable prose. Global in scope, the book is filled with spectacular color photographs. No other single book conveys a better understanding or appreciation of hawks. Out of print but available from many libraries and online from used book dealers.

  • Falcons of North America by Kate Davis, Mountain Press (2008). A superb introduction to the six North American Falcons in a beautifully produced, inexpensive paperback. The book includes some of the most stunning raptor photography available today, complemented by some of the best prose.

  • Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks by Paul Kerlinger, University of Chicago Press (1989). This examines how hawks migrate, with most examples taken from North American species. The book is not written for the beginner, but for people who are professionals in the field or have spent some time hawk watching and would like to better comprehend how hawks migrate. It is jammed with information, e.g., how high do hawks fly, how fast, how far, and how they determine where they are going, but it is not a quick or easy read. Out of print but available from many libraries and can be purchased online.

  • Handbook of North American Birds (Volumes 4 & 5), Diurnal Raptors (Parts 1 & 2) by Ralph Palmer (ed.), Yale University Press (1988). If you want to learn more about the life history of a particular hawk species, there is no better place to start. These encyclopedic volumes provide the best, most complete and most recent "natural histories" or species accounts of North American hawks generally available. There are few illustrations.

  • Migrating Raptors of the World: Their Ecology and Conservation by Keith Bildstein, Cornell University Press (2006). A synthesis of raptor migration ecology around the world, including chapters on migration geography, migrant life histories of eight species, and an introduction to some of the major hawk watch sites of the world. The best general overview on the nature and structure of hawk migration worldwide.

  • Population Ecology of Raptors by Ian Newton, Harrell Books (1979). A masterpiece by one of the world's leading authorities on hawks and one of the best writers in the field. Global in application, the topics of breeding, migration, wintering, mortality, persecution, and conservation are discussed in much greater depth than in Birds of Prey. Available in libraries and from used book stores online.

  • Raptors of Eastern North America by Brian K. Wheeler, Princeton University Press (2003), Raptors of Western North America by Brian K. Wheeler, Princeton University Press (2003). Two excellent volumes that are not really field guides. They are rich with numerous superb color photographs of each species, the most up-to-date range maps, and extensively detailed descriptions of the known plumages for each species. The eastern volume is 437 pp. and the western 544 pp. Both are written for the advanced hawk watcher, not the beginner.

  • Raptor Migration Watch-site Manual, edited by Keith Bildstein and J. I. Zalles, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association (1995, 177 pp.) This all-text guide to establishing a hawk watch site was developed to help biologists and hawk enthusiasts, particularly outside the U.S., study hawk migration. The guide includes chapters on raptor migration and conservation biology, monitoring the abundance and distribution of migrating raptors, managing data, establishing membership programs, and managing volunteer resources.

  • Raptor Watch: A Global Directory of Raptor Migration Sites (Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, 2000, 419 pp.) provides overviews of what is known about hawk migration, country by country, across six continents. Over 380 known migration sites around the world are then described in terms of biogeography, description, land tenure, and protected status, with information on the migration periods, raptor species seen (with peak counts and dates), and other migrants seen.

  • Raptors of the World by James Ferguson-Lees and David A. Christie, Houghton Mifflin (2001, 997 pp.) A comprehensive guide to all 313 of the world’s diurnal raptors, including 2,115 color illustrations and describing identification, distribution habitat, voice, food, and breeding biology.

  • The State of North America's Birds of Prey by the Raptor Population Index (2008) is the first continental report on the population status of North America's migratory birds of prey. Written by 22 of the hemisphere's best-known raptor migration specialists, the book includes a brief history of raptor conservation in North America, the principles and methods for the use of migration counts to determine population trends, regional overviews of trends in migration counts, a report on the conservation status of 20 species of birds of prey, and more. To order, click HERE.




Additional Online Resources on Hawks

Some of the best materials on hawk identification and migration are not available on the web, but many very helpful resources are available online.