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This Week’s Creature Feature: Now’s the Time to Look

Broad-winged hawks come out en masse for migration
     The fall hawk migration is still taking place. Here is a common passerby.
      Broad-winged hawks live in eastern hardwood forests, including Maryland, but are uncommon to see. They weigh only one and a half pounds but have a wingspan of three feet, making them the smallest of the Buteos, a class that includes red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks. Their most distinctive marking is the single, wide, white stripe on their tail.
      Broad-winged hawks are dense-woods perching birds and drop down on prey rather than soar for hunting. During breeding season, pairs will do acrobatics high above their territory in a mating ritual. In early spring, two to four eggs are laid in a well-formed nest; both the male and female nurture the hatchlings. By the middle of summer, the brood is ready to fly. 
      During autumn, broad-winged hawks young and old start soaring and collecting into large migratory groups to begin the long route to South America. They follow mountains down to the Gulf of Mexico and then west and south, not crossing the Gulf waters. As the large groups of hawks migrate together, they will find updrafts or thermo-clines, and sometimes hundreds will circle together in a cluster called a kettle.
     The updrafts occur commonly at certain geographic areas along their migration route and are common hawk-watch sites. Hawk Mountain and Elk Neck State Park have monitoring stations. Fall migration is the best time to see broad-winged hawks.