These birds make some of the most amazing migratory journeys known, whether it's in total distance traveled, distance migrated without a stop, or numbers of birds in a migratory flock.
Their breeding range is in the highest latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, including Cape Morris Jesup, Greenland - the most northerly dry land of all. Upon departing their breeding grounds, Arctic Terns typically funnel east, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and ending up in Great Britain. From there, flocks head south with many birds following the coast of Africa. Arctic terns end up in Antarctica and spend the next several months, from November to March, feeding along the waters of Antarctica. Some birds will circle the Antarctic continent during this time as they hunt krill in the water. As winter arrives to the Southern Hemisphere, Arctic Terns head north. Some will return up the coast of Africa, while others head north along the coasts of South America. All told, an Arctic Tern may travel over 22,000 miles in a single year!
These plump shorebirds spend their brief summer in the barren Arctic regions of central Canada as well as the northwestern-most regions of Alaska. Red Knots will migrate south along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as along inland routes. Southbound birds may pass through our area in August and September. Red Knots eventually end up about 9,400 miles south from their breeding grounds in the southeastern part of South America, from Patagonia to Tierra del Fuego.
It's in spring that the Knots make their astounding flight. Beginning in March, Red Knots will hopscotch up the Atlantic coast of South America until they reach the southern shore of Brazil. Knots will then feed heavily for about a month, more then doubling their body weight. From Brazil, Red Knots then travel a non-stop curving route of 7,000 miles, much of it over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, until they reach the Delaware Bay on the east coast of the United States. Here, they feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. Feeding is critical during this time - they must regain weight lost during their trip from Brazil, plus fatten up for the final leg of their trip (another 2,400 miles) and to survive the start of breeding season.
While they don't make the longest journey of all the raptors, the size of the flocks in their fall migration can be mind-boggling. Broad-winged Hawks have an extensive breeding range that covers much of the eastern US and Canada. They make most of their migration over land, riding from thermal to thermal through Mexico, into Central America, and ending up in the northern parts of South America. September is a great month to look for Broad-winged Hawks at Hawk Mountain in eastern PA, where several hundred can be spotted in a day. These flocks join up with others as the progress south. As they pass through the southern part of Mexico in an area known as Veracruz, birds face a bottleneck created by the mountains and the sea. Broad-winged Hawks congregate and pass through this narrow area in kettles that number in the tens of thousands - in all, an average of 1.4 million broad-winged hawks pass through this narrow corridor of land every fall.