Important Bird Areas

Derby Hill Bird Observatory

New York

This site is located on the southeast corner of Lake Ontario; the
observatory is one of the highest points in the area. In spring, as
birds migrate north along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, they
follow the shoreline instead of flying over the lake, which funnels
the birds over Derby Hill. A broad open field atop the hill provides a
wide expanse for viewing migrating hawks. The site also has mixed
deciduous woods and a small marsh. Onondaga Audubon Society
owns the sanctuary; the surrounding land is privately owned.

Ornithological Summary

Derby Hill is a well-known spring hawk concentration site and has
been monitored annually since 1963. The average number of hawks
counted each spring from 1979-1996 was 43,293, with a maximum
of 66,139. At least 20 diurnal raptor species have been recorded
here, including annual spring averages of 2,997 Turkey Vultures
(maximum 7,537), 406 Osprey (maximum 692), 37 Bald Eagles
(maximum 101), 780 Northern Harriers (maximum 1,554), 5,936
Sharp-shinned Hawks (maximum 11,582), 543 Cooper?s Hawks
(maximum 1,176), 70 Northern Goshawks (maximum 174), 950 Redshouldered
Hawks (maximum 1,805), 22,449 Broad-winged Hawks
(maximum 40,108), 7,979 Red-tailed Hawks (maximum 19,531), 396
Rough-legged Hawks (maximum 656), 24 Golden Eagles (maximum
55), 497 American Kestrels (maximum 931), 19 Merlins (maximum
53), and four Peregrine Falcons (maximum 12). The site is also an
important spring stopover site and concentration point for migrating
passerines. Offshore waterfowl, particularly sea ducks, diving ducks,
and gulls, regularly number in the thousands. The site is one of few
viewing locations for fall jaeger flights, with more than 200 (mostly
Parasitic) counted on one day in October 1979. The Sage Creek Marsh
has supported breeding American Bitterns and Black Terns (twice in
the last five years?one pair in 1999 and two pairs in 2002), and Least
Bitterns have been heard.
Mixed species Average 32,149,
maximum 41,315 ind. observed
during the 2002-2004 seasons

Conservation Issues

Sage Creek Marsh is threatened by the invasion of purple loosestrife.
Erosion of the bluff, particularly during winter storms and spring
thaw, is causing the loss of overlook property. During the first round
of IBA site identifications, this site was recognized under the research
criterion because a long-term monitoring project is based there.