In the Spring of 2021, we embarked on an exciting new project to support the study of Red-tailed Hawks migrating through the Straits of Mackinac. 152 individuals were captured and 11 were fitted with GPS/GSM transmitters, which allowed us to collect detailed data on their movements and behavior throughout the year.

So, what have we learned so far from this project?
  • We’re getting a much clearer picture of the routes the birds use once they cross the Straits in the spring, and head toward their summer breeding grounds.
  • We’re learning a lot about their nesting habitats.  Some birds nested in the far north Hudson Plains habitat — a flatter and more open habitat than expected — and one where we wouldn’t expect to see these birds breeding and nesting (see map below).
  • The Straits are being used in both the spring and fall, as 6 of our birds passed through the area this fall on their way south.
  • And interestingly enough, 5 of our birds are wintering in KY relatively close to each other. (see map below).
All the data is not in just yet.  We’re still waiting for several birds to get within downloading distance of a cell tower and/or for their batteries to charge sufficiently to support the download.  But what we’re learning is incredibly exciting, and critically important to the conservation of this species.
RTHA Breeding Locations, Summer 2021
RTHA Wintering Locations, Winter of 2021-22
As preparation for the second year of this project begins, MSRW plans to continue its collaboration with The Red-tailed Hawk project, Michigan State University and Nick Alioto – but we need your help to expand our Research!

This spring, we hope to deploy as many as 10 additional transmitters to further enhance our understanding of Red-tailed Hawk migration through the Straits.  Each new transmitter costs about $2,000 to deploy.  That cost includes the transmitters themselves (we’re using a new and improved transmitter this spring, with dual solar panels for better battery charging), costs associated with downloading the data throughout the life of the transmitter, field supplies, and overhead costs associated with managing the project.
MSRW would like to raise funding for up to 10 more transmitters, by February 10th, 2022 

Although a gift of any size is important and greatly appreciated, donations of $2,000 or more entitles the giver to name his/her bird (includes certificate and photo), to receive periodic updates on the whereabouts of your bird, and makes you eligible for a “Blind Date with Nick” – a chance to see these beautiful birds up close, in the blind with Nick, while he is doing related hawk banding work!* (COVID precautions permitting)  How great of a gift would this be to a young birder just getting started?!  Donors of any amount will be able to follow the progress of Nick’s research – and the birds – on Nick’s blog and the MSRW Facebook page.
This is an awesome opportunity to help a local researcher add to our understanding of the lives of these amazing birds.  This is new and original research, and is fundamental to our understanding of these iconic birds and their conservation.  Your gift must be received by February 10th to qualify, so please consider supporting Nick’s research today!  

And don’t forget to join us at the Hawk Watch starting March 5th.  You may be able to see recently captured and banded raptors up close before they’re released!

Donate online using a credit card or PayPal via the MSRW web page by using the Donate button below, or send a check to MSRW, P.O. Box 465, Petoskey, MI 49770.
(If you choose to send a check, please notify us at when you send it so that we know to assign the donation to the transmitter project)
This would be a great gift for an aspiring young birder!  
Nick Alioto with a Red Tailed Hawk that is wearing a transmitter he applied in Spring 2021 for MSRW, with your help!!
*  Please note that due to the number of professional banders required to safely put a backpack transmitter onto a Red-tailed Hawk, the blind will be too crowded for anyone else to be able to watch that process.  That's why we're offering to allow you to watch simple raptor leg banding instead.
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