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Peregrine Falcon Migration Capital of the World: 3242 for the Season to Date!

October 16, 2012

By Rafael Galvez

At 14:49 today October 16, 2012, the Florida Keys Hawkwatch tallied the 3220th Peregrine Falcon for the count season! By the end of the count day we had tallied 3242 Peregrines! To our knowledge, this is the highest count for that species ever recorded during a single migration season anywhere in the world; and we are still counting!

As October set on, we were still being bombarded with blustery winds out of the ESE. As the winds began turning out of the ENE, we started getting back-to-back triple-digit Peregrine Falcon flights. First on October 5th with 113, then 237 on the 6th, 155 on the 7th, 230 on the 8th and 318 on the 9th. Finally, on October 10th we tallied an amazing 651 Peregrines. The highest documented single-day Peregrine migration count in the world had been set also at Curry Hammock on October 11, 2008 with 638 birds; we managed to beat that. The photo of Peregrine Falcon above taken by Bob Stalnaker.

Last year, our final seasonal count for Peregrines was 2976. This took us to the highest number of Peregrines recorded in the U.S. during migration, but shy of the 3219 season world record for the species tallied at Kekoldi, Costa Rica during the fall of 2004. Today, we were thrilled to surpass that excellent count from Costa Rica with the new record of 3242 by day’s end. With 28 more days in the season, it is difficult to predict at this point how many Peregrines we will manage to tally by November 13. This speaks loudly to conservation and rehabilitation efforts for a species that was nearly extirpated throughout much of the continent just a few decades back.

The record-setting bird. Photo left by Ted Keyel, photo right Bob Stalnaker

A banded Peregrine Falcon during migration. Photo by Ted Keyel

As much of a pleasure as it has been to witness all of these Peregrine Falcons migrate, it would not have been possible without so many people volunteering the valuable time. Tedor Whitman and Marguerite Hunt have been very reliable, coming every Monday to help out.  Catie Welch spent a week counting with us and added to the overall enthusiasm and morale of the group. Dave, Jenn, and Gabe Cenker came down for 10 days and spotted many of the furthest birds.  However, that wasn’t enough, and Jenn and Gabe came back to help out for another few days. We have also been very fortunate to have the eagle eyes of Charles and Colleen Caudill for the past week and a few more days to come. Ryan Mong joined us for multiple days in September and made it back in time for our great day today. Bob Stalnaker has been counting with us a week and sharing his passion and great photos with us. Jim Eager counted during the first portion of the season, and his dream of many Peregrine Falcons passing by has become a reality. Jeff Bouton, with his enthusiasm and vicarious contributions, has urged us above and beyond. We could not be more thankful to the great staff at Curry Hammock State Park! This will not be a full thank you list, for it would take many pages and there will be time for that by the end of the season. Finally, Ted Keyel  has been a fantastic addition to the full-time counting team; his seriousness and dedication are showing their fruit in this day’s results. We have worked hard for these birds. LET MORE PEREGRINES COME. Good hawkwatching to all!

Peregrine Falcon from the Florida Keys Hawkwatch deck. Photo by Bob Stalnaker

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn C permalink
    October 16, 2012 7:53 pm

    we are extremely proud to have been able to help such an amazing team of people! The Florida Keys Hawkwatch has firmly placed its mark on the world map – congratulations guys!

  2. Peter List permalink
    October 16, 2012 10:04 pm

    When my wife and I left the Hawkwatch yesterday in mid-afternoon, there were only 100 more Peregrines to go. So it didn’t take long for the record to be surpassed. Because there is nearly another month to go, the F.K. Hawkwatch is not only going to surpass the record, but smash it to smitherines. So congratulations to Rafael and Ted, and all of the excellent volunteer counters who have given their time to this great endeavor.

  3. October 17, 2012 3:19 pm


  4. October 17, 2012 4:28 pm

    For the bean counter types out there you might find it interesting to note that in 2011 between Oct 17 & Nov 13 – 491 Peregrines were tallied! In addition through that same period there were 605 Harriers, 1,997 Broad-wingeds, 2,528 Sharp-shinneds, 1,054 Kestrels, 147 Osprey, 39 Short-tailed Hawks, & 149 Swainson’s Hawks – For a total count of 8,738 raptors total. So there is still a lot of excitement to come and more records to potentially fall (Northern Harrier, Broad-winged, total raptors… who knows?!?)

  5. Clifton Kahler permalink
    October 19, 2012 12:32 pm

    Way to go guys. That is an impressive record. It was good to watch with you all and hope you have continued success.

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