2021 Annual Report


  • The 2021 banding season was Cape May Raptor Banding Project’s 54th
    Photo by A Nelson

     year of operation.

  • A total of 1,295 birds were banded during the 2021 banding season.
  • Banding stations operated for 234 banding days.
  • CMRBP has now banded 156,153 raptors over the history of the Project.

Operation Highlights

Due to the Pond Creek Marsh Restoration Project, CMRBP was only able to operate three banding stations instead of four as in the past. Even when comparing the five-year average with only three stations, however, the overall number of birds banded was low. Excluding northern harriers (NOHA) and merlin (MERL), the number of birds banded for each of the other species was lower than their respective 5-year averages. Although NOHA numbers were higher during the 2021 banding season than the 2019 banding season, the numbers are still below the five-year average.

Banding productivity was lower than the 2019 banding season, dropping by approximately 26 percent. CMRBP operated for 234 banding days. An average of 5.3 raptors were banded per banding day, compared with 7.1 raptors per banding day in 2019.

2019 Banding Season Results

Northern Harrier

The number of NOHA banded, 24, was down from the 27 captured during the 2019 banding season and substantially down from the 10-year average of 76.3 birds banded per banding season, although these numbers are affected by the reduction of banding stations from four to three in 2021.


The Project banded 937 accipiters during the 2021 banding season. Cooper’s hawk (COHA) remained the dominant species for the season, with 646 captures. A total of 291 sharp-shinned hawks (SSHA) were captured, and no northern goshawks were captured during the 2021 banding season. Despite consideration of the reduction in banding stations, SSHA numbers are still below their 5-year average of 366. COHA numbers are also below their 5-year average of 781. Accipiters made up approximately 72 percent of the season’s banding total, with COHAs making up 50 percent of the total.


150 buteos were banded during the 2021 banding season. Red-tailed hawk (RTHA) numbers were up from 2019, with 138 birds banded in 2021 versus 137 banded in 2019; however, this does not take into account the reduction of operating blinds from four to three. A total of 10 red-shouldered hawks were captured during the 2021 banding season, which is substantially lower than the 21 captured during the 2019 banding season. Only two broad-winged hawks were banded during the 2021 banding season. No rough-legged hawks or Swainson’s hawks (SWHA) were captured during the 2021 banding season.

Photo by G Biglin


CMRBP banded 183 falcons including 24 American kestrels (AMKE), 128 MERL, and 31 Peregrine falcons (PEFA). The number of AMKEs banded during the 2021 banding season was above the 5-year average of 22. MERL numbers were above their 5-year average of 107. PEFA numbers were lower than the 2019 banding season; however, this does not take into account the reduction of operating blinds. PEFA numbers remain lower than their 5-year average of 35 banded per year.


One male golden eagle (GOEA) was banded in 2021, and no bald eagles were banded in 2021.

Cape May Owl Project

The Cape May Owl Project conducted banding operations from October 21 through November 27, 2021 in The Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows Preserve, the location of this annual owl banding project since 1984.

The peak night for owl capture was November 4, 2021 when 13 saw-whets were captured. Since 1980, the peak capture night has occurred in the first ten days of November. The only long-eared owl, an adult, was banded on November 24, 2021.

Owls captured consisted of 56 Northern Saw-whet Owls (NSWO) and 1 Long-eared Owls (LEOW). Most (38) of the NSWOs were females; more female than male NSWOs are usually captured at Cape May, probably because females tend to migrate farther south than males. The ages of NSWO captured in 2021 were somewhat surprising: 23 (41%) were hatch year owls, meaning they hatched in 2021, while 33 (59%) were adults, owls that hatched in 2020 or earlier. In a fall with a preponderance of hatch year owls, the probable explanation is that there were numerous successful nests in the areas where the owls originated. When mostly adults are captured, the likely reason is that nest success was low. It appears that 2021 was neither a great year for successful nests nor a poor year. One of the second-year NSWO was a return, an owl banded at Cape May in 2020. This owl is the thirteenth return NSWO since Katy started banding owls in the Cape May area in

Returns and Foreign Recoveries

Raptors that have been recaptured fall into one of three categories: Foreign Recovery, Returns, and Retraps. These terms are defined as such: Foreign Recovery indicates that a raptor was caught in Cape May with a band not applied by CMRBP, regardless of the year it was originally banded; a Return is a raptor that was originally banded as part of CMRBP and was caught again during a subsequent banding season; and a Retrap is a raptor that is banded and then caught again by CMRBP during the same banding season. There was a total of 41 documented Recaptures: seven Foreign Recovery, one Return, and 33 Retraps. The ten-year average is 91.1 Recaptures, of which 5.8 are Foreign Recoveries, 3.2 Returns, and 82.1 Retraps. As usual, most of the Retraps were within a couple of days if not the day of original capture, but there were three notable Retraps: a hatch-year female COHA separated by 38 days, and hatch-year red-tailed hawk separated by 48 days, and a hatch-year female COHA separate by 36 days. The Return was a male COHA banded on October 5, 2017 and recaptured on October 27, 2021.

The Foreign Recoveries were interesting as usual. Two of the COHA were via an USDA/APHIS program that captures raptors at airports and releases them miles away from the site; both were from Maine. One of the PEFA was banded in the nest near Wachapreague, Virginia. The other PEFA was an after-second-year male recaptured on November 2, 2021 that had an old, pitted band; unfortunately, at the time of report, the BBL had yet to receive banding information on bird.

Public Demonstrations

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public demonstrations were not conducted in 2021.

2019 Banding Season Summary

Species 2021 Total 5-year Average
Sharp-shinned Hawk 291 366
Cooper’s Hawk 646 781
Northern Goshawk 0 3
Northern Harrier 24 22
Red-shouldered Hawk 10 15
Broad-winged Hawk 2 2
Red-tailed Hawk 138 178
Swainson’s Hawk 0 <1
Rough-legged Hawk 0 <1
American Kestrel 24 31
Merlin 128 107
Peregrine Falcon 31 35
Golden Eagle 1 1
Bald Eagle 0 <1
Total           1295