Where to see the largest concentration of migrating raptors in the United States or Canada each fall.
By Jerry Liguori and Dane Ferrell | Published: 8/23/2016
The largest concentration of migrating raptors in the United States or Canada occurs each fall at the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch. In 1997, HawkWatch International began full-season counts at Hazel Bazemore County Park, which sits on the southern bank of a horseshoe bend of the Nueces River. An astounding 1,030,849 hawks flew overhead in 2004, and over the last 10 years, the site has averaged more than 525,500 birds annually.
The passage of Broad-winged Hawks, which peaks in late September, is amazing. Tens of thousands can be seen in a single day. The hawks appear in the distance, circling in kettles, and then glide past in a mass of rows.
The dark-morph Broad-wing is uncommon anywhere in the U.S. and highly sought by birders; as many as 184 dark morphs have been seen here in a day. The hawk watch tallies the largest groups of migrating Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites in North America each August, as well as a significant Swainson’s Hawk flight from late September through early October. Passerines are common in nearby woods. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, for example, is visible from the hawk-watch platform throughout much of the season. — Jerry Liguori and Dane Ferrell
Jerry Liguori is the author of three books on raptor identification. He also wrote about Yaki and Lipan Points in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, Hotspot Near You No. 196, Chelan Ridge Hawk Watch in Pateros, Washington, No. 220, and Bonney Butte Hawk Watch in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon, No. 243. Dane Ferrell is a long-time hawk counter at the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Open grassland, semi-open thorn scrub, forest, pond, seasonal wetlands, riverfront.
Flat. A paved walkway leads to observation platform, which is wheelchair-accessible. Nature trail and boardwalks mostly flat.
More than 300 species. Resident raptors: White-tailed, Swainson’s, Harris’s, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, and Crested Caracara. Fall migrants: Mississippi Kite, Broad-winged Hawk, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Wood Stork. Other fall species: Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Couch’s Kingbird, Brown-crested and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Olive Sparrow, Green Kingfisher, Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, Rufous, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Long-billed Thrasher, and Groove-billed Ani. Uncommon to rare: Aplomado and Prairie Falcons, Short-tailed, Zone-tailed, and Ferruginous Hawks, Golden and Bald Eagles, Verdin.
When to go
Official count August 1 through November 15, 9-5, weather permitting.
Peak times 11-3.
Viewing platform has water, electricity, Wi-Fi access, and a partial roof that provides shade. HawkWatch International crew on site every day. Celebration of Flight festival, September 23-25, features educational programs. A second viewing deck overlooks wetlands and pond areas, and a nature trail goes through thorn-scrub habitat. Restrooms in the park.
County park. No fees.
Bring sunscreen, folding chair, water, and food. Walk the boardwalks along pond and near river to find resident and migrant passerines.
For more info
2.3 miles east of Hazel Bazemore on Up River Rd. Good for waterfowl, Least Bittern, White-winged Dove, and Great Kiskadee.
Hilltop Community Center
3.2 miles southeast of Hazel Bazemore on Leopard St. Native brush attracts Groove-billed Ani, Pyrrhuloxia, Olive Sparrow.