Hawk Mountain Sanctuary birds of prey conservation and education.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

September 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has been in operation for more than 75 years and is actively involved in raptor conservation, public education and scientific research. This important refuge for birds of prey features an impressive number of falcons, eagles and hawks, lookout points, 8 miles of trails, an informative Visitor Center, a native plant garden and a bookstore. Visitors to the sanctuary can explore the trails by themselves or attend special weekend programs to learn more about raptors.

Situated in east-central Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary covers an area of 2 600 acres. Add to this the 13 000 acres of public and private lands and the birds of prey are provided with a vast protected tract of contiguous forest. The varied topography of Hawk Mountain offers flora and fauna a variety of habitats. The main tree species growing there include Red Maple, hickory, birches, five oak species and Black Gum. Older sections of forest are the perfect haven for Pileated Woodpeckers and Winter Wrens.

Keen birders will certainly find Hawk Mountain Sanctuary a fantastic destination. Some 265 bird species have been documented in the area since 1934, with over 65 species regularly nesting there. The area serves as an important stopover habitat for some 100 migratory bird species, of which 16 are raptor species. Amongst the migrant birds nesting at Hawk Mountain are Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers. Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks have been seen nesting in the sanctuary, as have Great Horned, Eastern Screech, Northern Saw-Whet and Barred owls.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary does much to contribute towards raptor conservation. By means of their Conservation Science Program they seek to gain further insight into raptor migration, raptor population statuses, and how raptors live in the ecosystems where they reside. The Acopian Center for Conservation Learning was opened at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 2002 and serves as a biological field station, as well as a training facility. Scientists, conservationists and the sanctuary’s personnel can work together here, making use of the GIS map lab, the world’s largest library of raptor literature, the archival storage room, a teaching lab, conference area and office spaces. Members of the public may only access the center on special occasions or by appointment.

Those who decide to visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary are advised to start off at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has a number of interesting exhibits, including stunning carved replicas of Hawk Mountain’s most regular raptor visitors. As you browse through the displays you will learn about raptors, conservation and migration. The best time to visit is between the months of September and November, as this is when the greatest numbers of falcons, hawks and eagles are passing through. The trails at Hawk Mountain are open throughout the year (with a few exceptions), and from dawn until dusk. There is a trail admission charge for non-members, and this fee goes towards the maintenance of the sanctuary and its conservation programs.

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