To the great surprise of many Ontario birders, a Ferruginous Hawk, a native species of the grasslands and open country in western North America, was recently recovered near the town of Erieau. This rare occurrence marks only the 9th recorded sighting of this species in Ontario. The hawk’s journey, from being rescued after a tumultuous encounter with passing vehicles to its successful rehabilitation, has now taken an exciting turn with the implementation of advanced tracking technologies. In collaboration with the Bluewater Centre for Raptor Rehabilitation and the Hawk Cliff Raptor Banders, scientists at Birds Canada initiated a project to monitor the hawk’s movements and shed light on the behaviour and survival of vagrant and rehabilitated birds.
Ferruginous Hawk. Photo: Ron Ridout
Rescue and Rehabilitation:
Samantha Ethier of Sarnia, Ontario, stumbled upon the hawk on May 3 near Erieau, as the bird was flying low over the road and subsequently landed in a nearby waterway where it then swam to shore. Prompt action led to the hawk being rescued and handed over to the Bluewater Centre for Raptor Rehabilitation. There, it underwent thorough inspections for injury and disease, avian flu screening, and received necessary medical attention. Soon enough, the hawk regained its strength and was deemed fit for release.
Tracking and Research:
Recognizing the opportunity to contribute valuable data to the study of vagrant and rehabilitated birds, Birds Canada, in collaboration with the Hawk Cliff Raptor Banders, arranged for the Ferruginous Hawk to be banded and equipped with a small cellular-GPS tag. This tracking device was generously donated by one of our Motus Wildlife Tracking System technology partners Cellular Tracking Technologies who quickly mobilized to prep a unit that was ready for deployment in short order. This unique technology enables scientists to monitor the hawk’s movements and understand its behaviour and survival patterns.
Ferruginous Hawk. Photo: Ernest Carman
On May 20, after receiving the necessary permits and permissions, the Ferruginous Hawk, affectionately named Erieau, was banded and released near Wyoming, Ontario. Since then, Erieau has embarked on an exploration of southwestern Ontario. She ventured approximately 100km east of her release site just north of London, then spent a day 100km west near Forest, before returning south to Erieau where birders rediscovered her independently. After a brief stay, she moved west toward Point Pelee where she resides today. Her behaviour appears to be normal as she explores and hunts during the peak warmth and daylight hours.
Following Erieau’s Progress:
As the project progresses, updates on Erieau’s journey can soon be followed on a dedicated website and through updates on our social media platforms. However, real-time information regarding her whereabouts will not be shared to ensure her safety and minimize any potential stress.
The tracking of Erieau, the vagrant Ferruginous Hawk, presents a unique opportunity to study the behaviour and survival of birds outside their usual migratory pathways or ranges. By gaining insights into the movements and experiences of vagrant and rehabilitated birds, we can advance our understanding of migration, behaviour, survival, and ultimately contribute to bird conservation efforts. Erieau’s journey exemplifies the resilience and adaptability of these remarkable creatures, while highlighting the importance of scientific research in their conservation.