Migration Pathways – Stuck in the Middle

As I stated a couple of weeks ago one of the reasons I was glad to see migrating Turkey Vultures is I rarely get to see any migrating raptors. And I think the main reason is I live between the main migration pathways.

Every year I wonder if migrating raptors take the same paths. I assume so since they know what will be the most economical path to move south.

This year I’ve been checking the Detroit River Hawk Watch daily recap to see which migrating raptors are on the move. It’s fun to see the days with large movements and hope some of the birds might actually head this direction.

But it isn’t so.

It seems raptors take a different path after crossing from Canada and heading south to Texas. I checked for detail on migration paths but didn’t find much info except for the following chart at the Hawk Mountain website.

raptor-migration-routes migration pathways

A chart of raptor migration from Hawk Mountain Web Site.


Note how birds crossing at Detroit (purple dot) move north of my location (red dot).

As seen on the maps once birds cross at Detroit they appear to follow the Wabash River towards the Mississippi Flyway. And migrating eastern birds stay well east following the Appalachian corridor.

So for the most part I’m stuck between migration pathways.

Looking at the map it seems migrating raptors follow mountain ridges, coast lines, and major rivers. Nothing new there. Makes sense they would follow rivers versus flying blind over corn fields.

But when I lived in Illinois I was on the Illinois River which is a major part of the Mississippi Flyway. On the chart above you can even see one of the lines follows the Illinois River.

But I never saw great numbers of migrating raptors.

Which brings me to the other point I observed watching the Turkey Vultures a few weeks ago. They move fast. Maybe it doesn’t matter where you are since they go by quickly.   Unless you are at hawk watching site for 8 hours a day actually looking skyward all the time. I would have missed the Turkey Vultures if I hadn’t been looking at the airplane.

I guess the moral of the story is like most of life, you need to be at the right place at the right time looking in the right direction.

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