2016 Annual Report





Photo by Matias Juhant
photo by Matias Juhant

The 2016 Banding Season was our 50th year of operation. 2,697 birds were banded. Banding stations operated for 291 banding days. We have now banded 148,969 raptors over the history of the Project.



Operation Highlights

Highlights of the season include the capture and banding of one Golden Eagle and eight Peregrine Falcons that were fitted with transmitters and tracked by researchers cooperating with The Project. The most notable changes in the composition of species occurred with Cooper’s Hawks, Goshawks and Red-tailed Hawks. After a disappointing year in 2015, Cooper’s Hawk numbers are back up, slightly higher that their 5 and 10 year average. Ten Goshawks caught was well above their historical averages. After last year’s exceptionally low number of Red-tails at 138, our Red-tail numbers jumped to 340.

Overall banding productivity was good. We averaged 9.2 birds per banding day as compared to 7.5 last year.


Research Projects   


Peregrine with transmitter

Cape May Raptor Banding Project banders provided one Golden Eagle and eight Peregrine Falcons to researchers this fall so that they could be fitted with cellular transmitters.


Dr. Trish Miller, West Virginia University, assisted by Mike Lanzone of Cellular Tracking Technologies, banded and attached a GPS telemetry unit to a hatching year male Golden Eagle on October 14, 2016. Dr. Miller and Mr. Lanzone hope to attach additional transmitters to Golden Eagles in the future to learn more about the movement ecology of coastal Golden Eagles and how they may differ from the Appalachian Plateau wintering population.


Dr. Jean Francois Therrien, Senior Research Biologist at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, attached GPS cellular transmitters to eight Peregrine Falcons as they migrated through Cape May. The project focused on hatching year juvenile Peregrines and will study the dispersal and migration paths of these young falcons as they move up and down the east coast of North America



thudsonan2016webTom Hudson was selected as our research assistant for the 2016 season. Tom was there from set-up in August until early December. Tom proved to be outstanding in all aspects of the banding operation including, banding, handling raptors, data collection and providing banding demos to our visitors. We really appreciate all that he did to make this banding season a success. We wish Tom the best as he seeks other professional opportunities. Tom was provided with housing and a stipend for his time. Both were made possible through a generous private donation.




After an outstanding year in 2014, the harrier flight was somewhat disappointing for the second season in a row. 68 birds were banded this year and 65 in 2015 as compared to 108 in 2014. Our ten year average is 83. We have seen this type of fluctuation in Northern Harrier numbers over time and hope for a good year in 2017.




The Project banded 2002 accipiters. Cooper’s hawks remained the dominant species for the season with Sharp-shinned hawks second at 732. The Sharp-shin numbers have been noteworthy for the past two years. They are higher than anything that we have experienced since 2007. 1260 Coop’s banded is higher than the five or ten-year average. It was a good season for Goshawks with ten banded. Accipiters made up approximately 74 percent of our season’s banding total. Cooper’s Hawks alone make up almost 50% of our banding total.



367 buteos were banded this season. Of those, 340 were Red-tails, 25 were Red-shoulders and 2 were Broad-winged hawks. The number of Red-tails banded was the second highest since 1999, exceeded only by 351 in 2014.


Photos by Arthur Nelson




We banded 259 falcons including 57 American Kestrels, 145 Merlins and 57 Peregrines. Merlin numbers were lower than our ten-year average of 174. Peregrine numbers were once again lower than our ten-year average of 69.




One Golden Eagle was captured. The only eagle trapped this season, it was banded and fitted with a cellular transmitter.


Owl Project


The owl banding project was in operation from October 20 through November 18 in the South Cape May meadows. 119 owls were captured including 115 northern saw-whet owls, 3 long-eared owls and I eastern screech owl. The peak night of the season occurred on November 4 when 31 northern saw-whet owls were captured.




We had 117 documented recaptures: four Foreign Recoveries, three Returns and 110 Re-traps. As usual, most of the re-traps occurred within a day of the original capture but there were a few noteworthy exceptions. A  Cooper’s hawk banded on September 24 was re-trapped 41 days later, Five other Cooper’s hawks had more than 21 days between captures and three Red-tailed hawks had more than 21 days between captures. The Foreign Recoveries included an American Kestrel and a Peregrine falcon which were banded in the nest as juveniles. We have no additional information on the other two Foreign Recoveries. The three returns were all Cooper’s Hawks. They were previously banded at Cape May in 2011, 2014 and 2015.


Photo by Arthur Nelson

Banding Demos


Regularly scheduled banding demos were given at the Cape May Point State Park on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-September through October. Demonstrations were also provided at the park for special events and for private groups. Banding demos were offered once again at The Nature Conservancy Migratory Bird Refuge. In all, 954 visitors attended the presentations.



2016 Season Summary



Species 2016 Total 10-year Average
SSHA 732 638
COHA 1260 1219
NOGO 10 4
NOHA 68 83
RSHA 25 11
BWHA 2 2
RTHA 340 229
SWHA 0 <1
AMKE 57 67
MERL 145 174
PEFA 57 69
BAEA 0 1
GOEA 1 < 1