Hitchcock Hawk Watch

migration on the Missouri

Hitchcock Banding Station

Northern Harrier
A Northern Harrier flies near the Hitchcock Banding Station
Migration Path
View toward the source of migration with banding blind in photo
Mist Nets
View from the banding blind looking toward source of migrants (north). Both bow and mist nets are used in the banding operation. The hawks fly into the nets - we hope!
Banding Blind
The blind where, after a bird is captured, it is taken for weighing, measuring, and banding before release.
Sharp-shinned Hawk
A Sharp-shinned Hawk blasts by the banding station
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Removing a Sharp-shinned Hawk from the mist net
Ready for Banding
The Sharp-shinned has been safely removed from net and is ready for banding process
Sharp-shinned Hawk
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is placed in a can to keep it calm and safe while banding
Tail Measurement
Measuring length of tail
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Jerry looks for molt pattern of flight feathers
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk acting feisty and ready to go
Red-tailed Hawk
Removing juvenile redtail from bow net after capture
Red-tailed Hawk
Banding the leg of a juvenile redtail and recording all the data
Red-tailed Hawk
Pulling banded redtail from can used to confine during banding process. These cans are ventilated to allow the birds to breathe, but the inability to see the surrounding activity keeps them calm and avoids injury
Red-tailed Hawk
Jerry measures the wing chord on juvenile redtail
Red-tailed Hawk
Denise releasing a juvenile redtail
Red-tailed Hawk
Released and flying free again
Banding at Hitchcock © Janis Paseka

Red-tailed Hawk by Allen KurthThe Hitchcock Nature Center Hawkwatch began in 1992, when Loren and Babs Padelford founded the fall hawkwatch, counting migrating hawks from the deck of the HNC Lodge.  In recent years, the hawkwatch has developed a larger volunteer pool, employed a weekday counter, and now uses a new 50-foot  tower adjacent to the lodge to conduct counts. Hitchcock Nature Area was the first designated Iowa Important Bird Area.

Hitchcock Nature Center is only 20 minutes from Omaha, just south of Honey Creek, Iowa.  Although located in Iowa rather than Nebraska, many of the hawkwatch volunteers are from Nebraska. Counting is part-time between 15 August and the beginning of September, but is full-time (daily) between 1 September and 20 December. Flights generally begin around 10 am and end around 6 pm during the peak of the fall season in late September and in October, but weather conditions can alter this daily timetable dramatically. Hawkwatch festivals are held at HNC in October and November annually.

Starting in 2007, during September and October, a raptor banding station also began collecting information on migrating raptors not available through hawkwatching.  Primarily Red-tailed, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks are captured, banded, and released.  In October of 2009, banding of nocturnal migrating Saw-whet Owls was initiated. See the slides of the banding operation below.

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