January 1, 2003

2003 Winter Bulletin


Our fall hawk-banding project at Entiat Ridge (near Leavenworth) was a great success last fall. Our team of 33 stalwart volunteers, under the able direction of Mark Gleason, managed to capture and band 309 raptors, a new FRG record in the Cascades. This was a 42% increase over the 2001 total of 217 birds. The study ran from 1 September through 20 October (50 days).

We captured 10 species of hawks and falcons, including our first ever Peregrine, Prairie and Rough-leg at Entiat. We also set a new FRG one-day record of 22 hawks caught in a single day (1 October).

Here are the totals.

Sharp-shinned Hawks…………….. 194

Cooper's Hawks…………………….. 38

Northern Goshawks…………………. 6

American Kestrels…………………. 20

Merlins………………………………. 10

Prairie Falcons……………………….. 3

Peregrine Falcon……………………... 1

Red-tailed Hawks…………………... 16

Rough-legged Hawk…………………. 1

Northern Harrier…………………….. 1

Our banding station is located at 5,000' on land owned by the Longview Fibre Company. I'd like to acknowledge that they are kindly allowing us to conduct our research on their property. We really appreciate it, as the site is excellent for banding.

Our team of banders gained a lot of experience this year. They are continuing to sharpen their skills at identifying, capturing, and handling migrant hawks.

Thank you to Rik Adams, Beau Anderson, Gretchen Albrecht, Ann Fleck, Sara and Geoff Clark, Ray Cruz, Ed Deal, John Deliduka, Dean Drugge, Mike and Vicki Elledge, Fiona and Mark Gleason, Vivian Gross, Kathy Gunther, Susie Hindman, Sue Hoyer, Mitsuhiro Kawase, Dalene Keith, Pat Little, Marti Louther, Emma Lux, Don McCall, Martin "Prairie" Muller, Christy Mann, Roger Orness, Mary Pearson, Jim Shiflett, Ruth Taylor, Dolly Turner, Shirley Vanderveen and Dennis Weeks. If I missed anyone, please let me know!

All of us want to extend a special thank you to Mike Elledge for the storage shed he built for the project. Thanks Mike!


We are continuing to work with the Port of Seattle at Sea-Tac Airport. The FRG is developing a raptor management program for the Port. Our goal is relatively simple. We want to minimize aircraft/bird strikes. As a result, there will be an increase in human safety, a reduction in potential aircraft damage and improved survival of the local raptors.

Last year (2002), we captured and relocated 27 more raptors, including 5 Cooper's Hawks, 17 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk and 4 American Kestrels. Our total now is 46 birds banded. We relocated 3 nestling Red-tails from a nest at the airport to another active nest in Skagit County where they fledged successfully.

This year, we will be expanding our efforts to include owls, as Barn Owls are (unexpectedly to me) the number one raptor species struck at the airport.

I'd like to thank Airport Biologist, Steve Osmek, for his continuing support and progressive views regarding raptor management.


When you work with raptors, the most interesting things happen. Here is an example. Carole Hallet is a raptor biologist working at the Portland, Oregon, airport doing essentially the same thing we are doing at Sea-Tac. She captures and relocates hawks away from the airfield.

This fall (30 November), two of our banders, Pat Little and Ann Fleck, were observing an adult Red-tailed Hawk at their new condo in Seattle. They had earlier noticed the bird eating a rat on Dearborn Avenue, nearly in the heart of downtown Seattle. As they watched, they noticed that the bird was banded with a special orange color band! Pat called the USGS Bird Banding Lab in Laurel, Maryland, and discovered that it was one of Caroles' hawks from Portland. She had banded and relocated the bird on 9 April 2002.


Ed Schulz and I have now banded 85 Osprey nestlings at Everett Harbor over the last two summers, 47 in 2001 and 38 in 2002. We have received recoveries from 4 of these birds, all within a few weeks of banding and all a short distance from Everett.

We just received a fifth report, and our first long-distance return of a nestling banded on 19 July 2001 at nest "W" in Everett. This bird was recovered injured (broken scapula) at or near Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico on 10 December. It was taken to a veterinarian but did not survive. They suspect a thrown object, such as a rock, caused the injury.

This location is about 800 miles south of Tijuana, so the bird had flown over 2,000 miles south of its natal site. It was a year and a half old.


We will be holding the traditional hawk class in four cities this winter, including the Eastside in Kirkland for the first time in years. All classes begin at 7 pm.

Location Dates Cost

1.Whatcom Museum, Bellingham Tues., 14 Jan.-11 Feb. $135.00

2. Padilla Bay Center, Mt. Vernon Wed., 16 Jan.-13 Feb. $135.00

3. Center Urban Hort., Seattle Fri., 14 Feb.-14 Mar. $135.00

4. Kirkland, location TBA Tues., 18 Feb.-18 Mar. $135.00

Please pass this information on to your birder/hawk friends who might be interested. It helps support the FRG. To register, please send your check to the FRG at above address.


Please join us for the annual FRG hawk count. This year, it will be held on Saturday, 15 February. Mark your calendars. This is a really fun way to see what birds are on the Flats this winter, to meet old friends, and make new ones. It is a tradition among FRG members. We hope you can all return this winter.

Bob Merrick will be coordinating the count, once again with great aplomb. Please contact him at tinekasfam@aol.com or call (360) 678-3161 on Whidbey Island.


Our friend and colleague, Jack Bettesworth, has just shared a remarkable band return with us and I'd like to pass it on to all of you with his permission.

Jack and several volunteers (Bob Merrick, Marty Daniels, Pat Cozine and Gretchen Albrecht) have been doing the most extensive study of Northern Harriers ever performed in Washington.

One of their nestling harriers, banded on Whidbey on 3 July 2000 was found injured in or near Petaluma, CA on 12 December 2002. This is his first return from California and longest known distance traveled (1000 km+) by any of his birds.


Two FRG members (who wish to remain anonymous) have kindly donated funding for a satellite transmitter. They wanted to know where our fall migrant hawks are going.

We decided that the ideal bird for this work would be a Red-tailed Hawk because of its size and hardiness. Furthermore, we decided to attach it to an adult bird as immatures have a much higher mortality rate. We also decided to wait until later in the season to catch the bird and avoid it being a resident local.

Well, in two years of trapping 526 hawks at Entiat Ridge, we have caught exactly one adult Red-tailed Hawk! Sue Hindman lured it in on 14 October. We fitted the backpack to this hawk and released it the next morning. Everyone expected it to fly to Mexico.

However, this Red-tail had plans of its own. It actually flew northwest instead of south. It flew to Glacier Peak and spent some time there before crossing WEST over the Cascade Mountains and settling into a winter range just south of Snohomish. It has been there ever since.

We hypothesize that this is a northern breeding bird that comes to Washington each winter. We have learned over the years, that there are many such Red-tails "wintering" in northern Puget Sound, probably more than we suspect. For example, half of the six adult Red-tails that we have trapped at Sea-Tac leave the area in summer, presumably to go north.

If this theory is correct, the satellite hawk will move north in spring. Time will tell.


If you like what we do, you can help support our work by sending in your annual 2003 dues ($25.00) to the FRG, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. It all helps. And thank you.

~~ Thank you for your support! ~~