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Bird of the Week: Broad-winged Hawk

A common but infrequently seen bird, the Broad-winged Hawk is a summer resident of deep woods and forests across much of eastern North America. These relatively small hawks (about the size of a crow) are very secretive during the breeding season. They tend to nest far away from human activity, typically near a clearing or body of water nestled within a forested area, where they spend the summer raising a single brood of 1-5 young. Broad-winged Hawks are opportunistic predators, consuming a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, and insects that they snatch from the forest floor after dropping down from a high perch. In the fall, these normally discreet birds take part in one of the most incredible migratory spectacles that can be seen in Michigan, forming “kettles” of hundreds of birds along ridges or coastlines as they journey to winter homes as far south as Argentina. Broad-winged Hawks can be identified in flight by their short, pointed wings and in adults a distinctive tail pattern of thick black and white bands. Look for them during migration, particularly in late August and early September. To see large kettles in Michigan, your best bet is to head to a site along the Great Lakes such as Lake Erie Metropark, but these birds can be seen overhead in smaller numbers during migration across most of the southern portion of the state.

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