Thursday, 13 March 2014

Red-tailed Hawk Feedback

Tagged Red-tailed Hawk N2

Thanks everyone for enlightening me about the tagged Red-tailed Hawk. Here is Gary Searing's response posted with his permission. I know some of you registered some concern about the size of the tag but I believe it provides important information as laid out below.  Also check the footnote here and reader feedback from the previous posting.

Hi John

Thank you for reporting your sighting of N2. This is great information.    
I tagged her as an After Third Year bird at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on 5 September 2013 and released her the next day  in Chilliwack, BC as part of a program to prevent raptors from being struck by aircraft. Yours is the first sighting of this bird since that date. Let me provide you with some information on the program so you understand a bit more why we are doing this:    
YVR began a program of trapping and removing Red-tailed Hawks and Rough-legged Hawks in October 2010 in order to prevent them from being struck by aircraft primarily to improve air safety, but also as a raptor conservation tool. Each year the airport has a large number of transient raptors that winter at YVR as well as resident adults and local-raised young birds. Based on information from SeaTac International Airport in Washington, we expect that adult residents are least likely to be involved in collisions with aircraft, but a significant number of young birds and transient birds are struck each year. Therefore, we are attempting to remove those birds from the airport environs by capturing them and releasing them just beyond Chilliwack where there is ample habitat and a reasonable likelihood that they will not return to YVR. I view this not only as an air safety program, but also as a raptor conservation program because, if successful, we may prevent the deaths of a dozen or more birds each year. We expanded the program this fall to all raptors (including owls). To date we have captured and relocated over 225 birds. Most of them were relocated to Chilliwack.     

We are wing-tagging Red-tailed Hawks because we need to know who our resident birds are and are co-operating in a joint program with Seatac and Portland International airports all of whom are wing tagging airport Red-tailed Hawks (using different colours for the tag material). Not only is this program contributing to air safety, we are already learning a great deal about our wintering raptors and hope to learn much more as the years pass. To date we have captured about 100 Red-tailed Hawks of which less than a third, mostly resident adult birds or  long-term wintering residents, have returned to the airport. Less than 20% of the very hazardous juvenile birds have returned. Several of our birds have been seen in Washington State and as far south as Oregon and we have had a few birds from Washington State come to YVR. We have had one sighting of a tagged Red-tailed Hawk near Kamloops. In addition we have captured 10 Rough-legged Hawks of which 2 returned to YVR, 2 Snowy Owls (1 returned), over 70 Barn Owls (only a few have returned), and smaller numbers of Great Horned Owls, American Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons, Coopers Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins a few of which have returned to YVR. Raptors are one of the major strike risks at YVR and we believe that we are mitigating that risk significantly through the capture and relocation of raptors.    

It is through the sightings of many interested persons such as yourself that we are able to collect the essential information on bird movements and distribution and learn how well the measures we are using to manage wildlife at the airport and elsewhere are working.       

Thank you for your cooperation and your interest. Feel free to contact me for more information or with any sighting information.




Hi John

Go ahead and post away - the more the word spreads the better since I rely on sightings for my data.
Yes, the tags are relatively large, but this dramatically increases the flightability of the tags and hence the number of re-sightings of each bird. My colleague and I have been using this type of tag for more than a decade with many hundreds of birds tagged. There is absolutely no impairment of flight or other behaviour. Tagged birds that return to the airport resume their territorial behaviour, breed and successfully raise young. If the tags had a negative affect in any way, we would not use them since one of the reasons we are doing the program is for the safety of the birds (as well as air safety).



Gary F. Searing, M.Sc.      
Wildlife Hazard Biologist
Airport Wildlife Management International
Executive Director
Bird Strike Association of Canada

9655 Ardmore Drive
North Saanich, British Columbia
Canada V8L 5H5

Office/Home: 250.656.1889
Cell: 250.857.5133
Skype: gfsearing


  1. John, thanks for sharing this explanation. It sounds like a great program!

  2. Gary does a great job and yes the tags are harmless.Thanks for posting John.