MICHIGAN – There is nothing quite like observing fall raptor migration in Michigan. Each autumn, hundreds of thousands of hawks, falcons and eagles pass through the Metro Detroit area, making it a migratory hot spot.
Raptors often follow geographic features like Great Lakes coastlines, which help guide them south. Many birds fly through the St. Clair-Detroit River system before they round the western shores of Lake Erie and continue their journey south.
Unlike many songbirds, raptors migrate exclusively during the day, providing opportunities to see their great flocks, also known as “kettles.” Kettles can include up to tens of thousands of individual raptors, which is an incredible sight! Imagine watching an invisible trail system in the sky come to life as these birds of prey take flight.
In September, broad-winged hawks and sharp-shinned hawks will be the first to migrate through the state each day. In October, hawk diversity will increase as Cooper’s hawks, turkey vultures and more start to move through. By November, some northern owls, such as great gray owl, snowy owl, northern hawk-owl and boreal owl, make their way into the Upper Peninsula. Rough-legged hawks and golden eagles will move through the state in decent numbers in November, bringing the tail end of raptor migration in Michigan.
Want to see the wonders of raptor migration in action, but not sure where to start? Learn more about Detroit River Hawk Watch and Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, and plan your visit today! Take a trip to one of Michigan’s Important Bird Areas, most of which are on public lands, or tour one of Michigan’s birding trails, and submit an eBird checklist this fall.
MI Birds is a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which aims to increase all Michiganders’ engagement with public lands that are important for birds and local communities. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or sign up for email updates.