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by Seth Benz

2021 marked the 27th year of the Hawk Watch atop Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park.  This was also the eighth year of a collaborative partnership between Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park. We documented a total of 2,349 hawks during 225 hours of total observation accrued during 47 days of coverage, a yield of 10.4 hawks per hour. We submitted daily counts, reported in hourly increments, to an online database, which is administered by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA).

The total of 2,349 hawks ranks as the sixth-lowest count in the location’s 27 years of effort. The consistency of the hawk watch is due to a dedicated group of volunteers. As was the practice in 2020, due to Covid-19 restrictions, mask wearing and social distancing was the norm on the lookout. The Lead Volunteer was Carol Thompson. Angi King-Johnston counted as often as she could. Spotters included Jim and Kathy Zeman, Holly and Monty Evans, and Chris and Joe Ferrara.  Acadia National Park interpreters were present on two days per week during the last week of August through September, helping to greet and orient more than 2,000 visitors.

Highlights include new annual high totals for  Turkey Vulture (274) and Bald Eagle (204)!

A single Black Vulture was observed with a group of local, non-migrating Turkey Vultures but could not be officially recorded as a migrating bird on the single day it was seen.  The species has yet to be recorded as an official migrating bird at Cadillac Mountain Hawk Watch.

2021 Hawk Watch Totals

593 Sharp-Shinned Hawk
449 American Kestrel
395 Broad-Winged Hawk
274 Turkey Vulture
204 Bald Eagle
142 Osprey
66 Northern Harrier
49 Merlin
21 Peregrine Falcon
18 Red-Tailed Hawk
13 Cooper’s Hawk
6 Northern Goshawk
119 Unidentified Accipiters, Buteos, Falcons, and Raptors

We did not observe Red-shouldered Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, or Golden Eagle this season.

Cadillac Mountain Trend Graphs that follow were generated by Birds Canada and the Hawk Migration Association of North America.  Turkey Vulture and Bald Eagle are on an upward or increasing population trend. While Sharp-shinned Hawk and American Kestrel, two of Cadillac Mountain’s most numerous annual migrating species, reveal downward population trends, respectively. For both species in decline, researchers suggest a range of possibilities including loss of habitat, less food, fewer nesting spots, exposure to pesticides, climate change, and increased predation by other hawks.

Four charts show numbers of birds on y-axis and years on the x-axis. Turkey vultures increased from 2004 to 2018, bald eagle increased from 1998 to 2018, sharp-shinned hawk decreased from 1997 to 2018, and American kestral decreased from 1997 to 2018.