A woodland preserve in eastern Pennsylvania where thousands of passing hawks are recorded each fall.
By Laurie Goodrich | Published: 8/16/2013
Perched atop the easternmost edge of the Kittatinny Ridge in east-central Pennsylvania is my favorite place, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the spot that started it all for raptor conservation. Rachel Carson, Roger Tory Peterson, Pete Dunne, Scott Weidensaul, and many other greats have walked its hallowed trails, along with the sanctuary’s own legends: Maurice and Irma Broun and founder Rosalie Edge, who laid the groundwork for hawk watching across the continent.
Visitors today won’t be disappointed. September sees a procession of Osprey and Bald Eagles, and by mid-month all eyes are trained for Broad-winged Hawks. The peak flight passes between September 12 and 22. East-southeast winds are ideal for bringing kettles past the mountain. (This isn’t the case for other migrants, which are pushed to the ridge by northwest winds.)
Sometimes, birds pass by at or below eye level. Accipiters and falcons take center stage in October, followed by Red-tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles in November and, in December, by Rough-legged Hawks and a second surge of Bald Eagles. — Laurie Goodrich
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Upland Appalachian oak-maple forest with pockets of eastern hemlock and ravines.
Rocky overlooks and steep slopes. Trails beyond first overlook accessible only by foot. Wheelchair access in visitor center (windows overlook bird feeders) and in adjoining native-plant garden, pond, and viewing deck.
Spring: warblers and other songbirds, migrating raptors. Summer: Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Wood and Hermit Thrushes. September: Osprey, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird. October: Accipiters, falcons, Eastern Bluebird. Early November: Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Loon. Late November and early December: Rough-legged Hawk, Tundra Swan, Pine Siskin, Red and white-winged Crossbills, Common Redpoll.
When to go
Educational programs held on weekends September through Thanksgiving and in April and May. An all-terrain wheelchair that requires a helper is available daily, year-round, at no cost.
Sanctuary owned by private non-profit association. Members admitted free year-round. Non-member trail fees: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 children 6-12. On weekends from September to November, trail fees: $8 adults and seniors, $4 children 6-12. Parking free. Hawk Mountain is accessible by foot from the Appalachian Trail. Visitor center open daily 9-5; 8-5 from September through November. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Dress in layers and bring binoculars, water, snacks, and something soft to sit on.
For more info
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, (610) 756-6961
11 miles west of Hawk Mountain off Rt. 61. More than 200 species, including herons, egrets, rails, Bald Eagle, Osprey, and a colony of Bank Swallows.
10 miles northeast of Hawk Mountain off Rt. 143. Waterfowl stopover site. Several access roads. Road past lake to ridgetop harbors nesting Acadian Flycatcher, Cerulean, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers.