As hundreds of thousands of eagles, hawks, and vultures make their annual journeys from Canada and the United States to southern overwintering grounds, many of the dedicated observers ascending to Hawk Watch sites throughout North America to document their travels are also recording coincident migratory dragonfly observations. This week, as peak numbers of hawks (and dragonflies) make their way south, the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) celebrates the annual spectacle with its 1st annual International Hawk Migration Week. Though the details surrounding the spectacular flights of dragonflies are not nearly as well-known as for raptors, we do know that fall is also peak migration season for these remarkable insects making their southward voyage. The most notable dragonfly migration flights are often witnessed along the rugged coastlines of western North America and the Atlantic seaboard to the east, but observations at inland Hawk Watch sites throughout North America are fundamental to our understanding of migratory routes and are contributing valuable data to further our understanding of this phenomenon.


Since its inception in 1974, HMANA has organized an international effort to promote raptor conservation through migration monitoring, fueled by the enthusiasm of citizen scientists throughout North America. Dragonfly migration is sporadic and discontinuous, and many events may be missed if observers don't happen to be in the right place at the right time, especially on a day when migrant numbers are lower. However, because raptor observers are stationed consistently at HMANA Hawk Watch sites throughout the migration season, they are perfectly positioned to make note of passing dragonflies following the same routes as the birds. Many hawk counters have already been taking informal note of migrating dragonflies at their sites, in some cases for years, either from a general interest in insects and/or as a way to pass the time when raptor numbers are low. It makes good sense for the counters of winged things to work together, and last year HMANA was recognized as a key partner in our quest to understand the migratory marvel of dragonflies.


In 2013, HMANA partnered with the MDP to develop a protocol to formally monitor dragonflies along with their regular raptor observations. Over 30 hawkwatchers from 18 observatories reported almost 11,500 dragonflies passing through their counting posts from August through November last year. Common Green Darners and Black Saddlebags, North America's common eastern migrants, were the most abundant species counted on the wing. Twelve-spotted Skimmers followed in individual numbers, leading us to believe this species may be more of a regular migrant in the east than previously thought. As reports of late-emerging individuals of migrant species continue to come to us from the northern US and even Canada, we wonder if these individuals will also amass and take wing to follow similar bird migration routes.  

2013 HawkWatch Dragonfly Migration Data

Our continuing collaboration this year will provide more critical data and help us investigate late-season emergence and flight behaviors of migratory dragonflies. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of the 2013 and 2014 participating Hawk Watch sites and monitors for their hard work and to HMANA for helping to develop a dragonfly protocol for migration monitoring. With the combined dedication of Hawk Watch and MDP dragonfly migration monitors, we are looking forward to another groundbreaking year of raptor and dragonfly migration monitoring! If you are involved at a Hawk Watch migration site and would like to incorporate dragonfly numbers into your counts, please contact Julie Brown at HMANA.

Check out HMANA's website for info on collecting dragonfly migration data at HawkWatch sites in 2014.  
If you witness migration this summer or fall, please submit your observations on the MDP website.
Make sure you have the necessary resources to identify migratory dragonflies. Also, check out the new version of the MDP field guide in Spanish!
This newly released publication provides guidelines for landowners to help them create, manage, and maintain backyard ponds to attract dragonflies and damselflies. Download your copy here! 

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Photo Credit: American Kestrel, by Celeste Mazzacano 


Migratory Dragonfly Partnership  I  628 NE Broadway, Suite 200  I  Portland, OR 97232 USA

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