Scanning the Sky for Migrating Hawks

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Molly Samuel/KQED

Step Wilson, Paul Mirocha and Michele Harrison, volunteers for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory.

Tens of thousands of hawks pass the Marin Headlands on their way south every year. From Hawk Hill, you can take in this massive migration and help record it for research.

"We are on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, overlooking the entire Bay," says Joshua Haiman, a volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory.  From August through December there are volunteers like Haiman here every day -- including Thanksgiving -- counting hawks.

"The common ones are the red tails and the turkey vultures," he says. "We also get sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks. We've got harriers, ospreys, eagles -- bald and golden eagles -- four different falcons." 

These counts help scientists know how bird populations are doing. For instance, data from here  contributed to deciding when peregrine falcons could come off the endangered species list.

Migration season is tailing off now. At the peak of the season, the hawk watchers see sixty or seventy hawks an hour. Now you can still see at least a few hawks every hour, and views from the Bay Bridge to Mount Tamalpais.

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