Migrations are important achievements in the avian community, linking breeding ranges with areas used to enhance over-winter survival. Identifying key migratory routes and wintering ranges is a vital piece to long-term conservation of any migratory species. Even though many of the raptors we study spend summers in protected areas such as Grand Teton National Park, threats along migratory pathways, stop-over sites, and wintering areas can adversely affect these species. As part of several different projects, we have been documenting migration routes of several raptor species, including Ospreys, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and Bald Eagles.
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Beginning in the summer of 2010, Craighead Beringia South partnered with Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) to study Osprey migration. This study is part of a larger effort by the National Park Service to better understand the migration of animals that spend only part of each year in the park. Steve Cain, GTNP Senior Wildlife Biologist, sums up the project: "If we want to preserve the biodiversity of the park, we need to be looking beyond the borders and working with a variety of partners and stakeholders to preserve these migrations." This project has been completed and we are in the final phases of analyzing the data.
Typically, we think of raptors as “home” while on their summer ranges and away for the winter while their summer range becomes inhospitable during the snow season. In Jackson Hole, there are a few Rough-legged Hawks that consider the valley a good place to spend the winter. We are investigating the migratory pathways of these hawks in the opposite direction: from their wintering areas in Jackson Hole to their summer ranges in the Arctic. 2014 marked the first year of this multi-year investigation in cooperation with Grand Teton National Park.
Project Completion Report is Available Here.
Natural selection acts on Red-tailed Hawks throughout the annual cycle. Events during each phase of the cycle of a long distance migrant like the Red-tailed Hawk are likely to influence those in subsequent phases. Events that may have important influences include: changing, or loss of, winter habitat; juveniles from this population not returning to breed as adults; exposure to potentially toxic substances; and mortality of birds during migration and/or on wintering areas. As predators at the top of food webs, Red-tailed Hawks are bellwethers to environmental change. There is a great deal of concern about declines in neo-tropical migrant bird populations. This study was undertaken to learn how events that occur during the migration and wintering period affect Red-tailed hawk reproductive success in Grand Teton National Park.
Read our manuscript summarizing the migratory patterns of our tracked Red-tailed Hawks here.
Migration of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) from Northwest Wyoming. 2016. Derek Craighead, Ross H. Crandall, Roger N. Smith, and Steven L. Cain. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 128: 150-158.
As part of our study on lead ingestion in Bald Eagles from Jackson Hole, we outfitted many Bald Eagles with satellite transmitters to document how our local management was affecting this migratory raptor. With this data, we have also been investigating the migratory behaviors of Bald Eagles breeding in Canada and wintering in Jackson Hole and in Sublette County, Wyoming.