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Natural State

Fall migration season underway for birds of prey in Marin County

Red-tailed hawk in flight in Marin Headlands.
Robin Gwen Agarwal
Flickr / Creative Commons
Red-tailed hawk in flight in Marin Headlands.

Peak migration season is underway for hawks, vultures, and eagles traveling south down the Pacific coast. Bird enthusiasts in the Bay can observe and help track these migrations from Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands.

For nearly 40 years, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory has collaborated with the National Parks Service to track the migratory patterns of these birds – collectively known as raptors – with the mission of inspiring their preservation throughout California.

Tens of thousands of raptors pass through the Marin Headlands each fall, and now is the time to dust off your binoculars. With the annual help of more than 250 volunteers, the observatory conducts long-term studies on seasonal movements, measuring changes in ecology, physiology, and population.

Data collected over the years has sought to identify and understand the biggest threats to raptor populations – with climate change being the largest. Changes in seasons and temperature can shift the relationships between plants and animal species, and have a large ripple effect on the food chains of many raptors.

The best time to see raptors at Hawk Hill is during midday hours (from 10 am to 2 pm) through October. Be sure to avoid foggy days, bring water, and dress in layers.

Natural State
Pat McMahon is a member of the 2024 KALW Audio Academy, an audio producer, sound artist, and radio enthusiast.