2023 Annual Report

CAPE MAY RAPTOR BANDING PROJECT, INC.

Compiled and edited by Mitch Harris and Gene Biglin

Contributors; Olin Allen, Paul Engman, Steve Felch, Alex Mankofsky, Paul Napier, Bob Studholme

HIGHLIGHTS

– 2023 WAS OUR 56th YEAR OF OPERATION 
– A TOTAL OF 1,227 BIRDS WERE BANDED 
– THE CAPE MAY RAPTOR BANDING PROJECT HAS NOW BANDED 158,942 RAPTORS
– BANDING STATIONS OPERATED FOR A TOTAL OF 172 BANDING DAYS

SUMMARY

Banding productivity was similar but lower than the 2022 season, averaging 7.1 birds per day as compared to 7.9 last season. We continue to experience lower numbers in many species, including 14 Peregrine Falcons (PEFA), down from 22 last season and the lowest since 1983; 11 American Kestrels (AMKE), down from 18 last season and now the lowest ever; and even Cooper’s Hawks (COHA) at 585 compared to 917 banded last season. We did however band more Sharp-shinned hawks (SSHA), Northern Harriers (NOHA), and Merlin Falcons (MERL) compared to last season.

Hatch year male Northern Harrier
Photo Credit: Hannah Glass
Technician Hannah Glass with a hatch year male Peregrine Falcon
Photo Credit: Maia Nguyen
TECHNICIAN ASSISTANT

Hannah Glass was our Research Technician for the 2023 banding season. Hannah rotated her weekly work schedule in order to be able to spend some time in each of our three different banding stations and gain experience from as many of our banders as possible. Hannah came to the project with prior raptor banding, handling, and trapping experience, which proved to be very valuable.  Hannah was a great addition to the 2023 banding project, and we received numerous good reports from other banders of how well Hannah was doing and what an asset she was to the project. She did a great job
with public demos and private demos. Hannah also maintained our social media accounts, posting consistently and engaging with our followers. 
We wish Hannah the best in her future endeavors and hope to see her return as a bander for future seasons.

RESULTS OF DIURNAL RAPTOR BANDING

Northern Harrier
The number of NOHA banded, 40, was better than the 29 banded last season but lower than the 10-year
average of 58.

Accipiters
The Project banded 935 accipiters during the 2023 season. COHA remained the dominant species with 585 captures, but was significantly lower however than the 917 captures last season. SSHA remains the second- most banded accipiter, with a total of 349 banded. This is a trend that CMRBP has observed since 2003. The SSHA numbers are lower than the 5- and 10-year averages of 387 and 504 respectively. COHA numbers are also below both the 5- and 10-year averages of 912 and 1,038 respectively. One American Goshawk (AGOS – formerly Northern Goshawk) was banded during the 2023 season. Accipiters made up approximately 76 percent of the season’s banding total, with COHAs making up 48 percent of the total.

Buteos
116 buteos were banded. Red-tailed Hawk (RTHA) numbers were down from last year with 105 banded versus 199 banded in 2022. 7 RSHAs were captured during the 2023 banding season, which is lower than the 5-year average of 13. The overall Project average for RSHA is 10. Four Broad winged Hawks were banded, which is better than the 5- or 10-year average of 2. One Swainson’s hawk was banded. No rough-legged hawks were captured.

Falcons
CMRBP banded 134 falcons including 11 AMKE, 109 MERL, and 14 PEFA. The number of AMKEs banded was far lower than the 10-year average of 51 or the Project average of 335 and, as mentioned in the summary, now the lowest number in the project’s history. MERL numbers were below their 5- and 10-year averages of 148 and 157 respectively. The number of PEFA banded was far below the 10-year average of 58.

Eagles
One BAEA was banded in 2023.

INJURED RAPTORS

Old injuries noted during processing included a broken or dislocated toe, a blind eye, bumblefoot, infected nares, and typical healing leg/foot lacerations and contusions. 65 SSHA affected by probable Capillaria were noted. 1 PEFA had a mass on its tongue and 1 COHA had a Capillaria-like mouth lesion. Swab samples were taken of both for laboratory analysis. Please see the Research Projects section for more information on the Capillaria Study.

FOREIGN RECOVERIES, RETURNS, AND ENCOUNTERS OF CAPE MAY BANDED RAPTORS

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.

Recaptures
There were 21 documented Recaptures, 30 less than 2022. There were 2 Foreign Recoveries, 2 Returns, and 17 Retraps. The ten-year averages are 83.8 Recaptures (high of 117 in 2016), 6.3 Foreign Recoveries (high of 15 in 2018), 2.2 Returns (high of 5 in 2012), and 75.3 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 13 days. The 2 Returns were a M-COHA banded as a HY on November 3, 2019, and recaptured on October 21, and remarkably a F-COHA banded as a HY on September 11, 2012, and recaptured on October 5. This return is not a record, although it’s the second oldest – there was a 14-year-old return COHA in 2017 and two 10-year-
olds in 2013 and 1997, both COHA. The two Foreign Recoveries were a HY-U RSHA, just the third foreign recovery or return RSHA by the CMRBP, both in 1980, and a HY-M SSHA. The BBL had yet to receive banding data on either bird at the time of publishing this report.

Encounters
In 2023, 44 birds that were originally banded by CMRBP were reported as encountered by others. Only three species were represented in these encounters, with Cooper’s Hawks, as usual, being by far the most common, accounting for 60% of the total. Red-tailed Hawks were second at about 30%, with Sharp-shinned Hawks comprising the remainder. The 44 encounters from this past season represent a major increase over the previous three years, 2022–2020, although that number is still substantially below the average of the 10 years before (2019–2010) of 83. This recent decrease is due partly to the smaller number of birds banded over the last few years 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 in recent years has been less steep than the drop in encounters. Clearly, other factors must be at work, although it is not obvious what they might be.
About three-quarters of the 2023 encounters were in New Jersey. There were no encounters outside of the U.S. The most distant were Cooper’s Hawks from southern Maine and southern Florida. Unusually, there were many older birds encountered in 2023. These included Red-tailed Hawks banded 23, 19, 17 and 13(2X) years ago, and Cooper’s Hawks banded 12 and 11 years ago. All were banded as HY birds.

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.

Hannah Glass giving a Demonstration at the Cape May Point State Park with an after hatch year Cooper's Hawk
Photo Credit: Arthur Nelson

Raptors Banded by Species
Species20232022
NOHA4029
SSHA349284
COHA585917
AGOS12
RTHA105199
RSHA79
BWHA45
AMKE1118
MERL10977
PEFA1422
GOEA00
BAEA10
SWHA10
Total12271562

 

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