Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Hawks, Vultures Fly In


Last updated 3/24/2024 at 11:47am

The annual Hawkwatch is nearing completion, and the number of Swainson's hawks are still making their way through Borrego Springs on their journey north.

This year's official kickoff of the Hawkwatch began on February 21. And on that day, 40 hawks and 30 turkey vultures were counted.

Since then, as of March 22, 2,525 Swainson's hawks have migrated through Borrego Springs. And in two of the last five days of that report, Borrego Springs Hawk Watch reported the highest count in the country. There have also been over 1,000 Turkey Vultures counted.

The hawks have been in the vicinity of the Date Farm on Borrego Valley Road, as well as in the potato field with another group near the West Coast Tree Farm, and flying over the flower fields at Henderson Canyon Road.

With the increased growth in the wildflower bloom, means more grasshoppers and caterpillar feast, which could produce thousands of hawks in the next few weeks. Food available for the hawks in Borrego Valley now include flying ants and crane flies.

"Swainson's Hawks in migration prefer to consume insects. We expect an increase in grasshoppers and caterpillars soon. Last season with an invasion of grasshoppers, the hawk count topped 16,000. The flower season has been extended as we have had more rain the past two days. Flowers = caterpillars, invasive Mediterranean grasses = grasshoppers," Hal Cohen, Hawkwatch coordinator, said.

Last year, with migrating hawks arriving early, the count began on Feb. 26, 2023. The official count then was a total of 16,000 Swainson's, along with 540 turkey vultures. This was a record in the 21 years the annual census has been conducted. Local bird experts credited the timing and the amount of winter rains for creating habitat conditions that provided a feast for migrating birds. However, winter rains could bring a damper to the hawks migrating, as a storm is brewing, and expected to pass over the parts of the state this week.

Borrego Hawkwatch is a unique citizen science event that has volunteers in the field daily during the count to monitor both arriving and departing birds.

Cohen is a retired college biology professor, and launched the count after noticing the Borrego Springs appeared to be on the migration route of the beautiful hawks that travel from South America to the northern parts of North America each spring.

Volunteer hawk watchers are in the field at 8 a.m. each day at the official county site, located on DiGiorgio Road, 2.8 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive. Each evening starting an hour before sunset, counters meet on Borrego Valley Road, 1.8 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive, to observe birds coming into roost for the night.

Additional information about the count, along with photos can be found at Information on other North American watches is available at