The Kittatinny Ridge is the premier raptor migration corridor in the northeastern U.S., one of the leading such sites in the world. The ridge funnels thousands of southbound migrants; lesser numbers also follow the ridgeline north in the spring. Other species in addition to raptors migrate through, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Monarch Butterflies. The ridge is covered with second-growth deciduous forest. The valleys on either side are characterized by mixed farmland and small, rural communities. Renowned Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is among the best known hawk watching sites in the East, but there are several other sites worth a visit.

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Ornithological Summary

The Sanctuary's annual counts of migrating raptors have helped assess long-term trends in raptor populations throughout eastern North America. This database has helped document subsequent rebounds in several raptor populations following decreases in the use of environmental contaminants such as DDT. Sixteen species of regular migrants include: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Merlin. In addition to the raptors, over 140 species of birds are recorded regularly during the fall migration. Of the top ten most abundant species nesting at the Sanctuary, eight are forest interior birds.

The sanctuary became a registered US Natural Landmark in 1965. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the world's first refuge for birds of prey, engaged in long-term monitoring, applied research, land stewardship and public education. Vsitor access to forested areas is largely restricted to eight miles of trails. Limited camping is allowed and campfires are prohibited during periods of risk. Deer hunting is allowed within the property through a permit.

Conservation Issues

During peak visitation (October), the Sanctuary can host up to 3,000 visitors per day. A comprehensive biological survey has been completed as well as two of the longest running Breeding Bird Censuses in the state. Development along the Kittatinny Ridge/Blue mountain corridor east of the Susquehanna River is a conservation threat. The construction of communication towers is being studied as a possible risk for migrating birds. Although few formal studies exist, more work in this area is anticipated in the next few years.

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