A couple weeks ago, yes I’m that behind in blogging, David and I went out to the Braddock Bay Raptor Research Hawk Banding Tour. According to Braddock Bay Raptor Research, or BBRR for short, Braddock Bay in itself is a bird migration “hot spot” located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, northwest of Rochester, NY. Millions of birds migrate through the area every spring as they head north to their breeding grounds.
What is unique about BBRR is the main Raptor Banding Station.
This banding station is the only banding station open to the public on the entire continent. Yes, you heard me right. I said continent. So if you want an opportunity to see them capture, band, record and release hawks, this is the only place you can do so… on the continent. Pretty amazing that this is right in our backyard. Well, 6 miles up the road, but you get the idea.
So we set out on the Owl Migration Trail, with our BBRR guide Amanda, in search of the banding station. Yes, this trail is named appropriately. When in season, usually early spring, you can come to this trail and see migratory owls in the hollows of the trees. But I digress. We were not here for owls (too late in the season), we were here for hawks. So onward we walked.
Once we arrived at the banding station we were invited in by the two banding volunteers. Amanda and the other two volunteers explained what they were doing and how they go about capturing a hawk.
Once a hawk is spotted, they use bait birds to lure them into the net. Sorry to say but yes, they use real birds for bait. However, they have a pretty good record for keeping the bait birds alive and well. Wearing a leather harness helps. Plus when the season is over, the bait birds are released to live out their lives in the wild. I like to think that they are training the bait birds on what not to do and how not to get captured and eaten when they are released. But that’s just me.
So once the hawk is interested in the bait bird, he pounces. The volunteers who are in control of the net and bait bird wait until the timing is right to spring the net. They don’t want to injure the bait bird or the hawk. Once netted, the volunteer goes out, untangles the netting around the bird and brings them inside. The bird is placed head first into a Folger’s Coffee can or a Pringles Potato Chip can, depending on their size. Since the birds can not see anything, they immediately calm down.
A Band Is Placed On The Birds
Before we were done with this hawk, the other volunteer spotted another hawk in the area.
Watching For The Other Hawk In The Area
I couldn’t help myself in taking this picture. How funny is it that one hawk is captured in this man’s hands while he is searching for another. It almost looks like the hawk is helping him spot the other. Too funny.
The Hawk Banding Volunteer Showing Us The Hawks Wings.
The two hawks that were captured, banded and then released while we were there were both juvenile Red Tailed Hawks. It was estimated that they were born last summer. So they were more than likely around 15 – 18 months old. Red Tailed Hawks don’t actually get their red tail until they are over 2 years old.
A Juvenile Red Tailed Hawk
They are certainly beautiful and magnificent animals up close. Graceful in the air. Vision beyond compare. The females are physically 25% larger than the males. They can fly between 20 and 40 miles per hour.
We had a wonderful morning at this banding station. We had gained a lot of insight into the Red Tailed Hawk up close and personal. We were able to touch and pet the hawk, while it was in the can of course. How many people can say that?
So if you find yourself in the Rochester, NY area and you want an experience you can not find anywhere else on the continent, you must check this banding station out. It’s an opportunity you should not pass up.