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Birds of St. Croix River Valley: Minnesota and Wisconsin

FAMILY ACCIPITRIDAE

Hawks and Harriers


Swallow-tailed Kite -- Mississippi Kite -- Northern Goshawk -- Sharp-shinned Hawk -- Cooper's Hawk -- Red-tailed Hawk -- Red-shouldered Hawk -- Broad-winged Hawk -- Swainson's Hawk -- Rough-legged Hawk -- Ferruginous Hawk -- Golden Eagle -- Bald Eagle -- Marsh Hawk

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)

Status: Accidental, one record.

Record: One bird was found dead along Highway 95 near Marine-on-St. Croix, Washington County, on 29 April 1966. The specimen is now in the collection of the Minnesota Museum of Natural History (#23152).


Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Status: Accidental, one record.

Record: A single bird was observed at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, on 27 May 1976 (Hofslund and Niemi 1977).


Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

Status: Regular migrant and winter resident, casual nesting species.

Migration: Rare migrant throughout the Valley. Most regularly observed in the forested areas of the Northern Highland and Central Plain, casual in the Western Upland. Fall migrants begin to arrive in mid-September and are most conspicuous from mid-October to mid-December. Spring migration begins in late February with dispersal toward nesting areas. Goshawks are most conspicuous in spring 15 March to 10 April and have departed by 30 April.

Nesting Season Distribution: One nesting record for Burnett County; an adult incubating during May 1973 (W. Norling). A nest at Camp Wilder, Washington County, in 1967, was abandoned because of excessive human activity in the immediate area (Huber 1967). Numerous sight records, primarily from the Northern Highland, indicate that additional nesting records are probable.

Winter: Rare to uncommon winter resident throughout the Valley. Most frequently observed in the heavily forested Northern Highland.

Habitat: The Burnett County nest was in mixed jack pine-oak habitat. Additional nesting season records have been obtained from mature Northern Hardwood Forest, mixed coniferous forest, and jack pine-oak habitat.


Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident.

Migration: Uncommon spring and fairly common fall migrant throughout the Valley. Occasionally 30 to 40 migrant sharp-shinned hawks can be observed per day along the St. Croix River. Spring migration begins in mid-March; largest numbers occur 10-25 April. Most birds have arrived on nesting territories by 10 May. Fall migration begins in mid-August and peak numbers are reached 10 September to 10 October. Most have departed by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Uncommon to rare during the nesting season in the Central Plain and Northern Highland. Although this hawk is regularly observed during the nesting season, only one nest has been found. On 23 May 1976, I found one sharp-shinned hawk nest in the McKenzie Creek Wildlife Area, Polk County. Other observers, primarily Jackson (1941) and Bernard (1967) have recorded this species during the nesting season but failed to find a nest. In the Minnesota counties, Green and Janssen (1975) stated that during the summer this hawk is "most numerous in the north central, northeastern . . . regions."

Winter: Uncommon to rare winter resident in the Western Upland and Central Plain. Casual in midwinter in the Northern Highland. Three were observed on Solon Springs (Douglas County) CBC on 30 December 1973.

Habitat: The Polk County nest was situated about 4.6 m from the ground in an aspen tree. Surrounding vegetation consisted of young aspen-maple-basswood forest, intermixed with red pine. Additional summer observations have been made in similar habitat and in brushy "edge" situations. This hawk is usually observed in oak-maple woodlots along the St Croix River during winter. Occasionally, an individual will frequent feeding stations in residential areas.


Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident. The WDNR has listed this species as threatened (Les 1979). Alteration of nesting habitat resulting from intensive farming is a primary cause for their decline.

Migration: Uncommon to rare migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migration begins in mid-March; birds are most frequently encountered 10-25 April. Nonsummering birds have departed by 15 May. Fall migration begins in late August and continues through mid-October. Because of the low number of birds observed during fall migration, no indication of peak movements is provided.

Nesting Season Distribution: Rare nesting species throughout the Valley. Although this hawk is regularly observed during the summer, only two confirmed nesting records exist. On 13 June 1976 a nest containing two young, and on 29 June 1976 a nest containing one young, were found 8 km west and 4.8 km east of Star Prairie, St. Croix County. Goddard (1972) reported one pair during the breeding season in Pierce County and Jackson (1941) reported a breeding season record (31 May 1919) for Burnett County. Numerous other breeding season records exist, but data on eggs or young are lacking.

Winter: Rare winter resident in the Western Upland; casual to absent elsewhere.

Habitat: Both St. Croix County nests were in second-growth red oak woodlots, bordered by brushy fencerows. I have observed this species during the breeding season in similar second-growth habitats and in mixed jack pine-oak situations in Burnett and Pine counties. Wintering birds are regularly observed occupying Lowland Deciduous Forest habitats during this period. Like the sharp-shinned hawk, this species will occasionally frequent bird feeding stations in residential areas during the winter.


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident.

Migration: Common (locally abundant) migrant throughout the Valley. During both seasons, large numbers of migrants can be observed associated with the St Croix River and at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, Burnett County. Spring migration begins in mid-February in the Western Upland and Central Plain, reaching the Northern Highland about 1 March. Peak spring movements occur 20 March to 15 April, and nonbreeders have departed by 1 May. Fall migration begins in mid-August with dispersal of juveniles from nesting areas. Peak fall movements occur 20 September to 10 October in the Northern Highland and throughout October elsewhere. Nonwintering birds have departed by 1 December.

Nesting Season Distribution: Common nesting species in all regions, most conspicuous in agricultural areas. Nest records have been obtained for all counties except Chisago. Analysis of Breeding Bird Survey data indicate that the red-tailed hawk is the most frequently encountered breeding hawk in the Western Upland and Central Plain.

Winter: Fairly common to uncommon winter resident in the Western Upland. Uncommon to rare in the Central Plain and rare to absent in the Northern Highland. Birds normally depart the northern regions by mid-January. In open agricultural areas along the lower St. Croix River, red-tailed hawks are the most frequently encountered hawk during the winter.

Habitat: Red-tailed hawks use a large variety of habitats during the nesting season. In agricultural areas this hawk will use brushy field margins, small woodlots, and woods edge situations. In the Northern Highland, the species is usually associated with field borders of extensive Northern Deciduous Forest and Coniferous Forest. Jack Pine Barren and Lowland Deciduous Forest probably receive the lowest frequency of use by nesting red-tailed hawks.


Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident. The Wisconsin DNR has listed this species as threatened (Les 1979). Habitat destruction is considered the primary reason for their decline.

Migration: Uncommon to rare migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain; rare to absent in the Northern Highland. Spring migration begins in mid-February with a gradual movement into the Western Upland along the St. Croix River. Migrants have reached the Central Plain by 25 March (earliest-11 March 1950, 16 March 1975; Polk County). Red-shouldered hawk migration is rather diffuse, consisting primarily of movements of solitary individuals. Consequently, determination of peak dates is difficult. Most birds have reached nesting territories by mid-April. Fall migration is equally diffuse, consisting of a gradual movement from nesting areas. During fall, red-shouldered hawks are most conspicuous throughout October and non-wintering birds have departed by 1 December.

Nesting Season Distribution: Uncommon and local nesting species in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare and local in the Northern Highland. A. C. Rosenwinkel found young in a nest along the Willow River, Pine County, on 7 April 1949 (Mierow 1949). Establishment of the red-shouldered hawk as a nesting bird in the Valley is apparently very recent. Roberts (1932) mentioned no nests from Minnesota, and cited only one summer record (3 July 1927, at Marine-on-St. Croix, Washington County). Behavior and plumage of that bird suggested nesting. Since that time, however, the red-shouldered hawk has been recorded regularly, and there are presently nest records for all the counties except Douglas.

Winter: Rare and local winter resident of Lowland Deciduous Forests in the Western Upland, casual elsewhere.

Habitat: Primarily a species of medium-aged to mature Lowland Deciduous Forest. Rarely encountered away from this habitat type during the breeding season. S. D. Robbins and I recorded one red-shouldered hawk, apparently on territory, in mature black spruce habitat near Range, Polk County, on 16 March 1975.


Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Fairly common spring and common fall migrant throughout the Valley. During peak fall migration, broad-winged hawks are occasionally abundant at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, Burnett County. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland and Central Plain in early April (earliest-26 March 1975, St. Croix County; 24 March 1968, Chisago County). Migrants arrive in the Northern Highland 5-10 April (earliest-21 March 1956, Burnett County). Peak spring migration occurs 15 April to 1 May, and nonbreeders depart by 20 May.

Fall migration begins in late August, with dispersal from nesting areas and formation of loose flocks. Peak fall migration occurs 10-25 September, when 400 to 500 individuals can be observed on good flight days. Movement is very rapid, and departure from the region occurs by 10 October.

Nesting Season Distribution: Common nesting species throughout the Northern Highland and northern tier of the Central Plain. Fairly common in the remainder of the Central Plain. Rare and local in the Western Upland. Nest records exist for all counties of the Valley except Pierce. In the Northern Highland, the broad-winged hawk must be considered the most abundant and conspicuous nesting raptor. Roberts (1932), quoting Surber (1919), stated that along the St. Croix River in Pine County, the broad-winged hawk was "the commonest hawk" in the region.

Habitat: Broad-winged hawks use a variety of coniferous and deciduous forest types for nesting. Regularly used habitats in the Northern Highland and Central Plain include Northern Upland Deciduous Forest, Upland Coniferous Forest, and mixed deciduous-coniferous forest. Jack Pine Barren and jack pine-oak habitats are also occupied, but to a lesser extent. Nesting broad-winged hawks have been found occupying Southern Deciduous Forest and Lowland Deciduous Forest in the Western Upland.


Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Status: Casual migrant throughout the region, regular in St. Croix County. Several recent summer records.

Migration: Rare and local migrant with records from all regions. Spring migration dates range from 3 April 1965 (Burnett County) to 20 May 1967 (Pine County). Most records occur between 20 April and 15 May. Fall migration records are fewer and range from 6 August 1975 (Burnett County) to 12 October 1968 (Polk County). Most fall migration records occur 25 August to 10 September.

Nesting Season Distribution: During June and July 1978, up to three separate pairs were observed regularly in St. Croix and northern Pierce counties. Specifically, these pairs were near Oakridge Lake and near Erin Corners in St. Croix County, and near the junction of County Highway W and Highway 29, 10 km west of River Falls in Pierce County. Attempts to locate nests failed. These summer records are especially noteworthy because nesting occurs yearly in nearby areas of Dakota County, Minnesota (Green and Janssen 1975).

Habitat: Most Swainson's hawks observed during migration are associated with open habitats including Managed Grasslands and agricultural fields. The birds observed in June and July 1978 were in an ecotone between Managed Grassland and Southern Deciduous Forest. The Pierce County pair was using a hayfield-woods ecotone.


Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)

Status: Regular migrant and winter resident, accidental in summer.

Migration: Fairly common migrant throughout the Valley, becoming common at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, during the fall and early winter. Fall migrants arrive about 20 September (earliest-4 September 1974, Burnett County; 15 September 1968, Pine County). Peak fall migration occurs 20 October to 15 November, with a gradual exodus from most northerly locations occurring until 1 January. Spring migration begins in late February in the Western Upland and migrants have reached the Northern Highland by 20 March. Peak spring migration occurs 15 March to 15 April and departure by 15 May (latest-7 June 1975, Burnett County; 12 June 1975, St. Croix County).

Winter: Regular winter resident in the Western Upland and Central Plain. Sporadic midwinter resident in the Northern Highland. Distribution and abundance of wintering birds is highly dependent on small mammal populations and the severity of the weather.

Habitat: Rough-legged hawks occupy open habitats almost exclusively. Edges of agricultural fields, hayfields, native grasslands, and wet meadows receive primary use. Occasionally, this hawk will be found in Northern Hardwood and Lowland Deciduous Forests.


Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)

Status: Casual fall visitor.

Records: W. Norling observed an adult at the Fish Lake Wildlife Area, Burnett County, on 25 October 1974. I observed an adult flying over the Oakridge Waterfowl Production Area, St. Croix County, on 24 September 1978. A 30 December 1967 record of a ferruginous hawk on the Suburban St. Paul CBC is questioned, primarily because of the date and because the only accompanying notes were "all field marks were noted."


Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Status: Regular migrant and winter resident.

Migration: Rare migrant throughout the Valley becoming uncommon at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, in the fall. Fall migration begins about 5 October; most records are from 10 October to 15 December (earliest records-3 August 1976, 4 September 1974, and 15 September 1972; Crex Meadows, Burnett County). Peak migration occurs 1 November to 1 December. Spring migration begins in mid-February with a gradual movement through the Valley. Peak migration occurs 1-15 March and departure by 1 April (latest-2 May 1975; Crex Meadows, Burnett County).

Winter: Very rare and local winter resident throughout the Valley. Usually the largest numbers are observed at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, where up to four individuals occur throughout the winter.

Habitat: At Crex Meadows, golden eagles are usually associated with the large areas of restored native prairie on the refuge portion of the wildlife area. Elsewhere in the Valley, wintering birds primarily use open agricultural fields.


Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident. This species is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The WDNR has listed this species as endangered (Les 1979). Pesticides, nest-site destruction, and indiscriminate shooting are the main reasons for their decline.

Migration: Uncommon migrant throughout the Valley, fairly common at Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Spring migration begins in mid-February with a gradual movement from wintering areas along the lower St. Croix River. Peak spring migration occurs 10-25 March; most adults are on breeding territories by 1 April. Spring migration extends into early May; subadults arrive considerably later than adults.

Fall migration begins in late August, when juveniles move away from nesting areas. Peak fall migration occurs in two stages. Subadults reach peak numbers 1 October to 1 November and adults peak 15 October to 1 December. Most birds have departed by 15 December. Largest concentrations of migrants occur at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, and in areas directly adjacent to the St. Croix River.

Nesting Season Distribution: Rare nesting species throughout the Valley; nesting has been reported in Chisago, Burnett, Douglass, Pine, Pierce, and Polk counties. The Pierce County nesting pair was associated with the lower Kinnickinnic River. The pair abandoned their territory after a June 1973 storm destroyed the nest tree. Breeding populations in the St. Croix River Valley have been monitored continuously since the mid-1960's, and there is recent evidence that the population may be increasing.

Winter: Fairly common winter resident primarily in the vicinity of open water. Wintering birds at Crex Meadows regularly occupy open prairie areas. The distribution of wintering bald eagles closely follows the large river systems of the Valley; birds are located primarily at Prescott (Pierce and Washington counties) and St. Croix Falls (Polk and Chisago counties) along the St. Croix River, the Kettle River (Pine County), and Gordon Flowage (Douglas County).

Habitat: Nesting habitat of bald eagles consists of a complex of deciduous, coniferous, wetland, and shrub situations. In all instances, however, two prominent features (tall pine trees and nearby lakes or large rivers) occur. Unfortunately for the eagles, these are two conditions that also attract man, and several nesting territories in the Valley are endangered because of human encroachment.


Marsh Hawk (Circus cyaneus)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species, casual winter resident.

Migration: Fairly common migrant throughout the Valley, common at Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland about 15 March; average arrival is about 20 March. Migrants arrive in the Northern Highland about 25 March. Peak migration occurs 1-20 April, and nonbreeders depart by 1 May. Fall migration begins in mid-August and consists primarily of juveniles. Peak fall migration occurs 15 September to 15 October in the Central Plain and extends to 25 October at Crex Meadows. Most birds have departed by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Uncommon nesting species throughout the Valley, with nesting records for all counties. Apparently less numerous at present than earlier as evidenced by Jackson (1941), who reported them as "generally distributed... in favorable environments throughout the region." Marsh hawks have been greatly reduced as a nesting bird in western Wisconsin since the mid-1960's.

Winter: Casual midwinter resident in the Western Upland. Two midwinter records for Crex Meadows, Burnett County (9 February 1954, 25 February 1953).

Habitat: Marsh hawks use a wide range of grassland habitat types for nesting. Nesting birds have been recorded in retired cropland (timothy-quackgrass), old field habitat, wetlands (primarily sedge meadows), and restored prairie. In areas of intensive agriculture, nesting may regularly occur in hayfields and occasionally in oat fields.


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