2022 Annual Report


The 2022 banding season was Cape May Raptor Banding Project’s (CMRBP) 55th year of operation. A total of 1,562 birds were banded. Banding stations operated for 197 banding days. CMRBP has now banded 157,715 raptors over the history of the Project. The stations operated for a total of 197 banding days with an average of 7.9 birds banded per day.

Operation Highlights

We operated three banding stations during the season. Due to the Pond Creek Marsh Restoration Project, CMRBP was once again unable to operate the Mag station. Projecting out with the possibility of running a fourth station, our annual total number of banded birds would have been slightly short of the Project’s 10 year average and slightly higher than the 5 year average but much lower than the average over the life of the Project.

Despite this rather average overall outcome. Many species were dramatically lower than usual. Twenty-two Peregrine Falcons (PEFA) were banded. This was the lowest number banded since 1983. Seventy- seven Merlins (MERL) was the lowest since 2000 and 18 American Kestrels (AMKE) was the lowest ever, a far cry from the 1,935 American Kestrels banded in 1976. Sharp-shinned hawks (SSHA) were also at a low point, 284 banded was the fewest since 1970. The 29 Northern Harriers (NOHA) banded was slightly better than last year but still far below the 5 and 10 year averages. These numbers do not consider the fact that 3 rather that 4 stations were in operation. However, if those numbers were projected out, they would still be some of the lowest ever for each species mentioned.

2022 Banding Season Results

Northern Harrier

The number of NOHA banded, 29, was slightly better than the 24 banded last season but dramatically lower than the 10-year average of 62. Other than the 24 banded in 2021, it was the lowest number since 1974.


The Project banded 1,203 accipiters during the 2022 banding season. COHA remained the dominant species for the season, with 917 captures, and SSHA remain the second-most banded accipiter, with a total of 284 banded. This is a trend that CMRBP has observed since 2003. The SSHA numbers are below their 5- and 10-year averages of 476 and 528, respectively. COHA numbers are also below both the 5- and 10-year averages of 981 and 1,080, respectively. Two northern goshawks were banded during the 2022 season. Accipiters made up approximately 77 percent of the season’s banding total, with COHAs making up 58 percent of the total.


213 buteos were banded. Red-tailed hawk (RTHA) numbers were up from last year, with 199 banded in 2022 versus 138 banded in 2021. 9 RSHAs were captured during the 2022 banding season, which is lower than the 5-year average of 16 but on par with the overall Project average of 10. Five Broad winged Hawks were banded which is better than the 5 or 10-year average of 2. No rough-legged hawks or Swainson’s hawks (SWHA) were captured.


CMRBP banded 117 falcons including 18 AMKE, 77 MERL and 22 PEFAs. The number of AMKEs banded was far lower than the 10-year average of 56 or the Project average of 335 and as mentioned above, was the lowest number in the Project’s history. MERL numbers were below their 5- and 10-year averages of 161 and 170 respectively. The number of PEFA banded was far below the 10-year average of 59.


No eagles were banded in 2022.

Cape May Owl Project 2022 Summary

Katy Duffy, owl project leader

We captured 87 northern saw-whet owls (NSWOs) during fall 2022 at our usual site in the South Cape May Meadows Preserve. Most (63) NSWOs captured were hatch year birds – please see Table 1. These results are similar to results in years when there was probably good nest productivity, when numerous young were produced in the population of saw-whets that migrates through the Cape May area. As usual, most (66) NSWOs captured were females. Female NSWOs of all ages tend to migrate farther south in fall than males of all ages.

We captured three Foreign Retrap NSWOs:

1204-22855 retrapped 4 November, banded by Observatoire D’OiseauxTadoussac, Quebec on 6 October 21

1104-36952 retrapped 8 November, banded by Dave Brinker at Petit Manan, Maine 30 September 22.

1014-49806 retrapped 9 November, USGS Bird Banding Lab has no data yet.

The Cape May Owl Project ran from 28 October through 21 November. Winds were often strong at night in late November, preventing us from opening our nets on several nights and causing us to end the owl project earlier in the season than originally planned.

We were able to conduct several public demonstrations of captured saw-whets in the preserve parking lot and we were also fortunate to be able to show a captured saw-whet to a Nature Conservancy film crew.


Cooper's hawk

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 were 51 documented Recaptures, 10 more than 2021: 9 Foreign Recoveries, 1 Return, and 41 Retraps. The ten-year average is 91.1 Recaptures (high of 117 in 2016), of which 5.8 are Foreign Recoveries (high of 15 in 2008), 3.2 Returns (high of 11 in 2010), and 82.1 Retraps (high of 110 in 2016).

As usual, most of the Retraps were within a couple of days if not the day of original capture but there was a HY-F COHA separated by 52 days and a HY-F COHA separated by 16 days.

The Return was a M-COHA banded on October 1, 2021 and recaptured on October 10.

The Foreign Recoveries featured 4 AMKE that were banded as juveniles (J) in the nest, 2 from Connecticut, 1 from New Hampshire, and 1 from Pennsylvania. The RTHA was captured at JFK International Airport in New York, then banded and released at a New York State Park north of the city.


In 2022, 34 birds that were originally banded by CMRBP were reported as encountered by others.  Only five species were represented in these encounters, with Cooper’s Hawks, as usual, being by far the most common, accounting for 50% of the total.  Red-tailed Hawks were second at about 30%.  See the Species Encounters by Year table for additional details on species numbers.

For the last three banding seasons back to 2019 (there were no operations in 2020), encounters have been down substantially – by about 60% – from the average of the previous 10 years.  This is due partly to the smaller number of birds banded over that time because of the closure of Mag Station, since approximately one-half of encounters in a given year are of birds banded the previous year.  However, the drop in birds banded since 2019 has been much less steep – about 33% – than the drop in encounters.  Also, the lack of operations in 2020 should have meant an especially precipitous drop in 2021 encounters, but that was not the case.  Clearly, other factors must be at work.  It is worth noting that this recent change in encounter numbers coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, although it is not obvious what the connection might be.

The most uncommon encounter was that of a Red-shouldered Hawk (only the eleventh encounter of that species in the project’s history) banded in 2017 and found dead in nearby Rio Grande NJ.  The most distant encounter was that of a Peregrine Falcon banded in 2013 that was found dead in El Salvador, about 2000 miles from Cape May.  The earliest banding encountered was that of a Sharp-shinned Hawk banded in 1984.  That shockingly old date only makes sense when you note that the band was “found in grandpa’s stuff.”

Public Demonstrations

Regularly scheduled public demonstrations were given at the Cape May Point State Park on Saturdays and Sundays and at The Nature Conservancy’s South Meadows on Saturdays from mid-September through October. Demonstrations were also provided for private groups

2022 Banding Season Summary

Species 2021 Total 2022 Total
Sharp-shinned Hawk 291 284
Cooper’s Hawk 646 917
Northern Goshawk 2
Northern Harrier 24 29
Red-shouldered Hawk 10 9
Broad-winged Hawk 2 5
Red-tailed Hawk 138 199
Swainson’s Hawk 0 0
Rough-legged Hawk 0 0
American Kestrel 31 18
Merlin 128 77
Peregrine Falcon 24 22
Golden Eagle 1 0
Bald Eagle 0 0
Total 1295                        1562