18 great places to watch hawks this fall

Juvenile Ferruginous Hawk
Juvenile Ferruginous Hawk at Beartooth Wilderness, Montana. Photo by Stephen Fisher

Now is the time to go hawk watching! To help you see lots of hawks, falcons, eagles, and other raptors, we’ve compiled a roundup of 18 great fall hawk watches across North America. Follow the links below to find maps, directions, bird lists, contact information, and detailed descriptions. Each site welcomes visitors.

Arizona

Yaki and Lipan Points, Grand Canyon National Park

Hawks, eagles, falcons, and the occasional California Condor fly past this pair of hawk watches along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

California

Hawk Hill, Marin Headlands

Located on a hilltop just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Hawk Hill hosts the largest known concentration of migrating raptors in the Pacific states: 30,000 sightings of 19 raptor species each fall.

Delaware

Ashland Nature Center and Hawk Watch, Hockessin

Birders tally 10,000 to 20,000 raptors each fall at this site in northern Delaware. The biggest show happens September 15-25, when hundreds or even thousands of Broad-winged Hawks can cruise past in a day or even a few hours.

Florida

Florida Keys Hawk Watch, Curry Hammock State Park

This site, which records the largest number of Peregrine Falcons of any North American count site, tallies an average of 15,000 southbound birds a year, only 21 percent of which reverse course when they find themselves confronted with a significant water crossing at the end of the Keys. How many complete the crossing is a mystery.

Iowa

Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

Each fall, about 11,000 individuals of up to 20 raptor species pass this hawk watch, located in western Iowa’s globally significant Loess Hills. The prime viewing period is between September 20 and October 20.

Mexico

Veracruz

Every day from August to November, thousands of raptors pass over sister count sites Cardel and Chichicaxtle during the most spectacular avian migration in the world. More than five million birds — predominantly Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks, Mississippi Kites, and Turkey Vultures — fly overhead on their way to Central and South America.

Minnesota

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, Duluth

A 315-acre woodland on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior. Tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks pass by in September, followed by impressive numbers of Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks in late October, but its claim to fame is the Northern Goshawk. Hawk Ridge hosts the largest concentration of the species in North America.

Montana

Bridger Mountains Hawk Watch, Bozeman

Getting to this lofty ridge requires determination (elevation: 8,520 feet), but it’s worth it, since this is the premier location in the lower 48 states for observing migrating Golden Eagles in autumn. Up to 1,800 have been observed in a season, and more than 500 have been tallied in a day. The site will be the focus of the Bridger Raptor Festival from October 2-4.

Broad-winged Hawk, Iron, Minnesota. Photo by Terry Crayne
Broad-winged Hawk, Iron, Minnesota. Photo by Terry Crayne

New York

Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch, Mt. Kisco

A hawk watch north of New York City that regularly tallies the highest counts of any watch site in New York State. The biggest attraction is the Broad-winged Hawk migration in mid- to late September. Look for Red-shouldered Hawks in late October and early November and Golden Eagles and goshawks from late October through November.

Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch, Davenport

This site provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Susquehanna River Valley in central New York State. It’s a great spot for watching Broad-wings and Red-tails, and it’s one of the premier places on the Eastern Flyway for viewing Golden Eagles.

Ontario

Hawk Cliff Hawk Watch, Elgin County

Located near the midpoint of the north shore of Lake Erie, this site tallies as many as 15 raptor species daily totaling several hundred to a few thousand birds.

Holiday Beach Conservation Area, Amherstburg

The 40-foot-tall observation tower at Holiday Beach, about 15 miles south of the city of Windsor, is strategically located to maximize viewing of raptors that funnel along the north shore of Lake Erie to cross at the southern end of the Detroit River. Expect accipiters in September, Peregrine Falcons in early October, and Golden Eagles in November.

Pennsylvania

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton

September sees a procession of Osprey and Bald Eagles. By mid-month, all eyes are trained for Broad-winged Hawks. The peak flight passes between September 12 and 22. 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.

Texas

Corpus Christi Hawk Watch at Hazel Bazemore Park

Located along the Nueces River in the northwest corner of Corpus Christi, Texas, this site hosts the largest concentration of migrating raptors in the United States or Canada each fall. The average count of 720,000 is more than three and a half times that of the second largest site. And since 30 species of diurnal raptors have been recorded over the years, the site can also be called the most diverse.

Smith Point Hawk Watch, Smith Point

No place is better for raptor photography than this hawk watch on the shores of Galveston Bay, not far from Anahuac NWR in southeastern Texas. The birds come in low over the tower and often circle around, giving ample opportunity for photos.

Virginia

Kiptopeke State Park, Cape Charles

This park, on Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is one of the best places on the planet to observe migrating falcons. One-day totals of more than 350 Merlins have been recorded, and two or more 100-Peregrine days occur each fall.

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, Afton

This hawk watch, in central Virginia’s Rockfish Valley, is located behind an inn off I-64. As many as 18,000 birds of prey fly past each year. Broad-winged Hawks peak during the third week of September.

Washington

Slate Peak, Winthrop

Unfortunately, Chelan Ridge Hawk Watch in central Washington remains closed to the public due to a massive wildfire. Hawk counters from HawkWatch International, however, have been allowed to return and say that their daily counts “have been fairly high.” Through late October, HawkWatch International will also monitor raptors at Slate Peak, the highest place in Washington accessible by car. The peak is about two hours north of Chelan Ridge and is open to birders.

Where to look for Golden Eagle in fall.

Tips from Pete Dunne for identifying hawks in flight.

View all Hotspots Near You.

See hotspots plotted on a clickable map.

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