Where the Broadwings Roam

Part 1

Posted on in In the Field by M.Wilson, C.England, R.McCabe

Scientists Banding an Adult Broadwing
Charlotte and Malcolm banding an adult broadwing during one of their road-trapping sessions in the Muskokas. Photo by R.McCabe.

Charlotte England and Malcolm Wilson have been banding raptors with Simcoe County Banding Group (SCBG) in Ontario, Canada for over six years now. When they are not out trapping snowy owls and rough-legged hawks in winter, they are cruising the forest roads in Muskoka County, Ontario looking for hungry broad-winged hawks returning from spring migration. 

The broadwing banding project started in May 2017 following an encouraging conversation with SCBG coordinator Nigel Shaw, who mentioned that these small buteos are quite ravenous returning from spring migration and are fairly straightforward to catch, IF you can find them. Charlotte and Malcolm headed for the Lindsay region of Ontario for their first road-trapping session to see if they could find and trap the elusive broadwing. After successfully catching and banding two broadwings, they were already planning their next season!

In May 2018, they ventured further north to the Muskoka’s, and on their first day trapping they tripled the number of broadwings captured in 2017. With a new study site, and plenty more broadwings, Charlotte and Malcolm created a 160 km circuit that they could survey in the years to follow. That year, the dynamic duo caught and banded 42 birds in just over 13 days! 

An adult female broadwing with two bands
An adult female broadwing with an aluminum band on the right leg and the alpha-numeric color band- Z08- on the left leg. Photo by C. England.

Malcolm says, “Finding broad-winged hawks to catch can be ridiculously easy or impossible! The easiest is finding a bird sitting out in the open on telephone lines. Other times it is just that tiniest glimpse of a shape deep in the forest that catches the eye. Sometimes we would see a bird fly in to a tree and spend a few minutes trying to find it, only to suddenly realize it was right in front of us sitting perfectly still with all the confidence of its camouflage. To sum up, we were looking for a small mottled brown, tan raptor in a large mottled brown, tan forest!”

Back at it again, 2019 was an even more exceptional season with a total of 93 individuals banded in 19 days! In addition to banding broadwings with the USGS aluminum band, Charlotte and Malcolm added color bands to their permit so they could identify individuals from afar. This idea paid off, and in April–May 2020 they re-sighted three of the color banded birds from 2019 and four with metal bands from 2018, at the exact locations they were trapped at.

Having caught this number of broadwings Charlotte and Malcolm attracted the attention of Hawk Mountain’s Broad-winged Project through social media and a new collaboration was in the works.

Click here for Part 2, all about Hawk Mountain’s successful trip to Ontario to trap broadwings with the Simcoe County Banding team!