2018 Annual Report


Photo by D H Vockins

The 2018 banding season was the 52nd year of operation. 2319 birds were banded. Banding stations operated for 270.5 banding days. We have now banded 152,947 raptors over the history of the Project.

Operation Highlights

This year’s migration and the overall number of birds banded was an improvement over 2017. Excluding Rough-legged hawks, Swainson’s and Peregrine falcons, the number of birds banded for all other species was greater than last year. Merlin numbers were exceptionally high, the highest number in 15 years. Cooper’s hawk numbers were slightly lower than 10 year average but 50% higher than last season. Same for Red-tailed hawks. Red-shoulder numbers were good this year, right on par with the 10 year average. More noteworthy though was catching three adult red-shoulders in a two week period.

Photo by A Nelson


Alma Schrage was selected as our research assistant for the 2018 season. She assisted in every aspect of the banding operation and provided outstanding support all around. We especially appreciate the enthusiasm she brought to the banding demos, the dedication that she devoted to trapping and processing raptors and the initiative shown in the online fundraiser that she managed. We wish Alma the very best as she seeks other professional opportunities.



Photo by D H Vockins

The number of Northern Harriers banded, 77, was up significantly from the low of 42 in 2017. It is slightly higher than out 10 average. However, as noted in last year’s report, there seems to be a pattern with harriers where there is a peak season followed by 2 or 3 down seasons. During the past “peak” seasons we have typically seen well above 100 birds banded. So, while this is the third year following the last peak and it is a significant improvement over last season, we hope that the “peak” is to be expected in 2019.



Photo by A Nelson

The Project banded 1688 accipiters. Cooper’s hawks remained the dominant species with Sharp-shinned hawks second at 454. Sharp-shin numbers are well below their 5 and 10 year averages. 1232 Cooper’s hawks banded is slightly above both. Two Goshawks were banded. Accipiters made up approximately 72 percent of our season’s banding total. Cooper’s hawks made up 53 percent.



220 buteos were banded. Red-tail numbers were much improved, 204 vs 129 last season. Additionally, 13 Red-shouldered hawks were banded. Three Broad-winged hawks round out the buteos. There were no Rough-legged hawks or Swainson’s captured.



Photo by G Biglin

We banded 334 falcons including 59 American Kestrels, 222 Merlins and 53 Peregrines. Merlin numbers were very high, the best in 15 years. Kestrel captures were much better than last year and slightly higher than their 5 year average of 57.8. Peregrine numbers were much lower than last year’s total of 92 and lower than their 5 year average of 72.2.


No eagles were captured in 2018


Cape May Owl Project

The Cape May Owl Project operated from October 24 through November 16. 143 owls of 4 species were captured. Northern saw-whet owls comprised the vast majority, 138, of captured owls. As usually happens when numerous Northern Saw-whet Owls are captured, most were hatch year birds. The large proportion of HYs likely reflects good productivity during the breeding season in the population that migrates through Cape May.

Females dramatically outnumber males in all age classes. This is consistent with results from previous years at Cape May and other North American owl banding stations: the percentage of males captured decreases with decreasing latitude, probably due to distance from the prime breeding range. Males, even immatures, apparently remain closer to potential breeding locations.

Several impromptu owl demos in the Meadows parking lot afforded close-up views of Northern Saw-whets and Long eared Owls. Because these educational demos promote owl appreciation and conservation, they are always an integral part of the owl project.

Returns and Foreign Recoveries

Photo by A Nelson

It was a good year for returns and foreign recoveries. Overall we had 13 Foreign Recoveries and two Returns. One Return was a male Cooper’s hawk originally banded in Cape May in September of  2016 and recaptured this season on October 21. The other Return was a female Cooper’s hawk banded in November of 2013 and recaptured November 8. The Foreign Recoveries consisted of three Kestrels. three Peregrines, five Cooper’s Hawks and two Sharp-shinned hawks. Foreign Recoveries are birds that were originally banded elsewhere and subsequently captured by our operation in Cape May. The Bird Banding Lab (BBL) provides us with the information recorded by the banders at the time of the original banding.  Two of the Foreign Recoveries were American Kestrels banded in the nest, one from near East Amwell, NJ and the other near Princeton, MA. A male Peregrine falcon was banded in the nest in New York and we recaptured it twice, once on September 24 and again on October 13. The BBL has not yet Received the banding information on most of the other Foreign Recoveries.


Banding Demos

Regularly scheduled banding demos were given at the Cape May Point State Park on Saturdays and Sundays and on Sundays at the Nature Conservancy’s South Meadows from mid-September through October. Demonstrations were also provided at the state park for special events and for private groups. In all, 659 visitors attended the presentations.

2018 Season Summary

Species2018 Total10-year Average
GOEA0< 1