The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was established in 1934, making it the world's first raptor sanctuary. It is located in eastern Pennsylvania along the Appalachian flyway, is 464 m high and currently 1,052 hectares large. On average, approximately 20,000 raptors are observed every year and the sanctuary keeps the world's longest continuous record of raptor populations.
At the World Owl Congress WOC 2017 in Portugal at the University of Évora, researchers from all over the world were able to meet. So it was also possible to meet Jean-Franҫois Therrien, senior research biologist and raptor and owl researchers from Quebec. On the way home from the International Ornithological Congress IOC 2018, it was possible to visit the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, where JF Therrien has been part of the Hawk Mountain team for eight years. At the same time, there was even a happy reunion at Hawk Mountain of four participants from last year's World Owl Congress - WOC Organizer and Global Owl Project President David H. Johnson from the US and Patricia from Portugal!
Heartfelt thanks to JF Therrien for guiding onto the Hawk Mountain, to the research facilities and the visitor center of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary! We look forward to possible future research collaborations! All the best for all educational and research projects at Hawk Mountain!
The history of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
The sanctuary was established after thousands of hawks were shot at Hawk Mountain - forced by a bounty of 5 dollars per Goshawk from 1929 onwards. In 1931, ornithologist George Miksch Sutton reported in the article "Status of the Goshawk in Pennsylvania" on the high number of bounties paid in Drehersville and about the impressive raptor migration along the Kittatinny Ridge. In response to the article, birder and photographer Richard Pough from Philadelphia traveled to the ridge over Drehersville on a Sunday in September 1932 and witnessed the hawk shooting. A week later, Pough returned with his brother and friend Henry Collins - on a windless day without raptors and shooting scenes - to face a ground littered by hundreds of shot and injured Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks from the previous days (the Goshawks were dropped off for the 5 dollar bounty, shot or injured individuals of other species were left behind). The three men put the injured birds out of their misery, lined up the hundreds of carcasses and took pictures of them. Pough reported about the battle scene in the magazine Bird Lore, the predecessor magazine of the Audubon magazine. In the following years, Pough endeavored to stop the shooting. In the fall of 1933, Pough showed the photo of the scene to the Hawk and Owl Society. The National Audubon Society expressed an interest and sent a scout to investigate, who, unfortunately, inspected the area on a windless, calm day. The case was dropped. In 1933, Pough called for a conservationists’ meeting on the situation of the hawk shooting with special attention to the Hawk Mountain. In the audience was Rosalie Edge (1877-1962), chair of the Emergency Conservation Committee. In June 1934, Rosalie Edge visited Hawk Mountain with her son and Pough. A few weeks later, Rosalie Edge borrowed 500 dollars to lease 566 hectares of land with a purchase option. She raised funds and bought the area a few years later in 1938 for 3,500 dollars over the Emergency Conservation Committee. In doing so, she founded the world's first raptor sanctuary.
In September 1934, Rosalie Edge hired the first warden and curator, the 29-year-old Maurice Broun (1905-1971, the best naturalist - ornithologist, botanist, natural history teacher - far and wide) to stop the shooting. Broun and his wife Irma posted the area, notified the regional newspaper about the newly established sanctuary, and hired an armed guard to patrol the nearby road. Broun began to observe the raptor migration and to count the migrating birds. A natural history family formed on the Hawk Mountain around the hospitable Brouns. On rainy days it was worked together on the border fences, firewood or camping shelters.
In 1937, a law was decided, in which all raptors were protected except the hawks (accipiters). The law was not enforced. There were six shooting stands within a 30 mile radius around the Hawk Mountain. If for example an osprey or a bald eagle was shot, they could plead errors of eyesight. It was not until 1957 that all raptors in Northeastern Pennsylvania were protected by law - in the Hawk Mountain territory in the months September and October. It did not pass a comprehensive protection bill until 1969. In 1970, a law was passed protecting all raptors except the Great Horned Owl and the Snowy Owl.
In 1938 – after the purchase of the property - the Emergency Conservation Committee officially declared the area a protected area and deeded it in perpetuity to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, incorporated that same year with Rosalie Edge as first president. On the 13th of September 1940, the total raptor count reached 100,000. In the same year the area was opened to the public. In April 1942, during a talk for more than 14,000 local athletes and students, Maurice Broun presented a color movie about hawks in flight over the sanctuary, which was later distributed internationally by the Brooklyn Children's Museum. In 1948, Rosalie Edge urged members to work for hawk protection legislation in their own states. In 1949, Maurice Broun published the book "Hawk's Aloft". In 1950, Broun and volunteers continued to document hawk shooting at nearby ridges. In 1951, the Pennsylvania Game Commission terminated the 5 dollar bounty on Goshawks. In 1962, Rosalie Edge died at the age of 85.
Her son Peter Edge wrote a biography about his mother: Rosalie Edge - A Most Determined Lady (1877-1962). Her conservation career began in 1929 when she was already 52 years old, after starting to practice bird watching in the mid-1920s after her divorce. She even sent a telegram to her son Peter to school, in which she told him about rare sightings along his way home from school. In late August 1929, the new career began for Rosalie Edge. When she was staying in a hotel in Paris with her daughter and her son, she received a 16-page letter about the conservation crisis. Small songbirds and insectivorous birds were already under a certain protection at that time, but not all other birds. The letter contained a list of birds "beyond saving" - four of them became extinct. Other species ranged from "very hard to find" to the Whooping Crane with a single surviving flock. 16 species were listed as "possibly in the realm of saving" and ten more species as "more or less in danger". Today, many of these species still exist – some few in greater numbers than in 1929. This modest good fortune is probably due to the conservation movement of that time – engendered in large part by this pamphlet.
“Look, each generation has to adapt to the conditions they find. When I was a boy, you saw bluebirds everywhere. They were common birds. It’s very difficult to find bluebirds now in the East—but we manage to live without them. Lots of young people, they’ve heard about the bluebird, they’d like to see a bluebird, but they’re not pining about it. Take the passenger pigeon. Who’s moaning about the passenger pigeon? They once filled the whole sky in clouds, in Audubon’s and Wilson’s time. Nobody’s moaning about the passenger pigeon. It’s gone. We’ve learned to live without it. All right. If I had children and grandchildren, I know damned well what (they would) face—an increasingly sterile world. But it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Upcoming citizens are going to have to cope. They’ll cope somehow.”
- Maurice Broun, 1971 (1905-1971)