Hawk Count at Mahogany Rock Overlook

Each fall thousands of hawks and eagles migrate southward along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Blue Ridge Parkway, with its overlooks and sweeping vistas, offer numerous opportunities to observe this annual migration.  One of the most popular spots is located near milepost 235 at the Mahogany Rock Overlook.

Jim Keighton and other members of the Blue Ridge Birders spend countless hours at the overlook observing the passing hawks.  They then log the numbers and types of birds seen into a Hawk Count summary which can be viewed here.

Jim Keighton watches for passing hawks at the Mahogany Rock Overlook

Jim Keighton watches for passing hawks at the Mahogany Rock Overlook

The birders also spend time talking with visitors about their work.  A silhouette chart helps novices identify the various species as they pass overhead.  Often little more than black dots, the birds standout especially well on days with high clouds.  The white clouds offer contrast that make the birds more visible. While the birds often pass singularly or in small numbers, occasionally observers will see flocks of over 100 in what are known as “kettles” as the birds circle in updrafts to save energy for the flight to South or Central America

Kettle of Broad-winged hawks over Grandfather Mtn. photo by Monty Combs

Kettle of Broad-winged hawks over Grandfather Mtn. photo by Monty Combs

While various species of hawks are most commonly seen, both Bald and Golden Eagles also use the Blue Ridge as a travel corridor.

A Blad Eagle passes over Grandfather Mtn. Photo by Monty Combs

A Blad Eagle passes over Grandfather Mtn. Photo by Monty Combs

Weather permitting, volunteers can be found at Mahogany Rock Overlook most days from September into early November.

Mahogany Rock is located less than 1½ hours from Charlotte, Winston Salem and Greensboro.  The overlook offers a large grassy area that is perfect for picnicking while the hawks pass overhead.  No admission fees are required.

Other popular hawk watch sites in western North Carolina include Grandfather Mountain and Pilot Mountain State Park.

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