© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fall is prime time for hawks and eagles in Va. Here’s where to see them

A hawk in flight after its release
Logan Wallace
Virginia Tech
A hawk in flight after its release

Fall is the prime time for many birds to make their migratory journey south — hawks, falcons and eagles are all visible throughout Virginia now. Migrating birds can be seen from parks, lakes rivers—even your own backyard.

“You just have to have a decent pair of binoculars, which you can get for a couple hundred bucks, and some time and energy to sit outside,” said Robyn Puffenbarger, a biology professor at Bridgewater College in the Shenandoah Valley.

If you want help identifying birds, Puffenbarger recommends looking for a bird club in your area to find local birding events. One popular destination where experienced birders watch for hawks is at Harvey’s Knob near Roanoke, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. In Central Virginia, there’s one on Afton Mountain, and in the New River Valley, many go to Hanging Rock in Monroe County, West Virginia.

You can also search on ebird dot org for birding hotpots in your community. Many places throughout the Shenandoah and the New River Valley list hundreds of different species of birds that have been identified.

And many species of birds are increasing their numbers. “We’ve had amazing recoveries of bald eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons in Virginia,” said Puffenbarger.

Other species are declining, however, like sharp-shinned hawks and barn owls. Puffenbarger added that bald eagles are threatened by lead poisoning, because they eat carcasses of animals that have been hunted, and left with lead shot in their bodies.

Researchers and birders across Virginia are also currently compiling data for the second second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, a citizen-science-based project with over 1400 volunteers who contributed over 80,000 hours of surveying from 2016-2020. Their findings are due to be published in 2023.

Preliminary data shows hopeful signs that many birds aren’t only migrating through the commonwealth, their populations are settling down and producing young.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.