While far less spectacular than their congregations near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (in Pennsylvania) and other viewing sites in eastern North America, a small flock of broad-winged hawks circled above Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning, headed for Central or South America. Mingling with a large flock of turkey vultures, these small buteos could have easily been missed.
After summering in deciduous or mixed forest in the eastern U.S. and southern Canada, where they are often solitary and inconspicuous, broad-wings gather in large flocks for their autumn migration, funneling southward along coastlines or isolated ridges where updrafts aid their journey.
When I arrived at Eagle Bluffs this morning, the air was calm and patchy fog covered the Missouri River Valley. Teal hunters huddled near their decoys and an osprey flapped above the pools where great blue herons and great egrets fished the shallows. By mid morning a southwest breeze raked the floodplain, forcing air to rise along the river bluffs; this sent squadrons of vultures into the air, joined at times by red-tailed hawks, a Cooper's hawk, an immature bald eagle and the migrant broad-wings. Any visitors who failed to look up missed one of September's classic autumn displays.