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A rail, hawk, and seabird to find this fall

In every issue of BirdWatching, eBird project leaders Chris Wood, Brian Sullivan, and Marshall Iliff describe three birds that are migrating. Here are the species they wrote about in our October 2013 issue.


Sora by Lois Manowitz
Sora by Lois Manowitz

It might be surprising that rails are migratory, given their rotund bodies, short wings, and long legs, but many species undertake long journeys twice a year. In late summer, Sora departs its northern breeding areas to head toward wintering spots along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and farther south into Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. In September and October, the species is on the move across most of the lower 48 states. Look for it on the muddy fringes of ponds, usually not far from cover, and listen for its calls, given year-round, including a sharp kip and a descending whinny.

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Sora.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk by Lora Render

The spectacle of fall hawk migration is upon us, and one of the stars of the show is Sharp-shinned Hawk. By late September, tens of thousands of Sharpies will be flying down ridges and coastlines, passing hawk watches from New Jersey to Oregon. The birds winter across a broad swath of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Look for Sharpies at your local hawk watch when the barometric pressure is high, especially on blustery days with northwest winds.

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Read about four great hawk watches.

Pink-footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater by Debra Herst

The waters off the Pacific coast are teeming with life in early fall. Birds from far-flung breeding locations such as New Zealand, Patagonia, and the Aleutians begin to mingle in the cold currents offshore. A common component of the spectacle is Pink-footed Shearwater. It breeds on islands off southern South America and disperses northward to the Pacific coast in summer and fall. Hundreds of the birds may be seen on pelagic tours and from seawatches from California, Oregon, and Washington, so put on your rain gear and get out there!

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Pink-footed Shearwater.


eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. Marshall Iliff, Brian Sullivan, and Chris Wood are eBird project leaders. Submit your bird sightings at

Read Chris, Brian, and Marshall’s tips for finding Great Egret, Yellow Warbler, and Wilson’s Phalarope.

Originally Published

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