I love to watch the hawk migration at Bonney Butte because the site offers amazing topside views of raptors against an astounding mountainous backdrop, which includes Mt. Hood. It’s an excellent site to see one of the rarer raptors, such as dark-morph Broad-winged Hawk, Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk, or Red-shouldered Hawk. They can pop up on the horizon at any minute and pass by at close range, just as an adult light-morph Harlan’s did during my last visit.
Bonney Butte averages about 2,900 raptors of 16-18 species per season and countless non-raptor migrants. As you approach the lookout, you’ll notice educational kiosks that show migrant raptors and provide information about the site and landmarks visible on the horizon. The count is conducted from a rocky outcrop atop the peak. HawkWatch International has been conducting counts at Bonney Butte since 1994 to monitor long-term trends of raptor populations.
The most commonly seen birds of prey are Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, and Cooper’s Hawks, Turkey Vulture, and Golden Eagle. The site is also noted for its relatively high numbers of Merlins — up to 100 or more per year, some of which are the “Black” subspecies. — Jerry Liguori
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 the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch in Corpus Christi, Texas, No. 241.