Mackinaw Straits Raptor Watch Receives MICF Grant Supporting Island Count

Feb 15, 2024 | Grantee Press Release

February 15, 2024

The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) is pleased to announce receipt of a grant of $12,664.00 from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation (MICF) to continue its Mackinac Island Hawk Count this spring. The count is held at Fort Holmes on Mackinaw Island, and runs from March 5th till June 5th.  The public is invited to join Gracie Sangmeister as she documents the thousands of hawks and eagles crossing the Straits as they migrate north to their breeding grounds in the UP and Canada.  “The island counts are an incredibly important piece of the larger migration puzzle, and we simply couldn’t do this work without the support of the Community Foundation” said Ed Pike, Chair of the Raptor Watch’s Research Committee. Large numbers of raptors have been noted flying across the Straits since the 1920’s. However, only recently have we begun to understand what has been driving those sightings. As it turns out, raptors have an aversion to flying over large bodies of water.  It’s easy to understand then, given the unique convergence of land and water occurring in the Straits, why this area is now recognized as one of the most important migratory pathways for raptors in all of North America.  At least 17 different species of raptors have been recorded crossing the Straits, which holds the North American record of 22,420 Redtail Hawks crossing in a single season (2019) as well as the record for Golden Eagle sightings (374) east of the Mississippi (2015). 

Working with researchers, contractors and volunteers, MSRW tracks and documents the migration of raptors as they pass through the Straits, contributing valuable data toward the understanding of migratory patterns and population trends of these unique birds. MSRW sponsors bi-annual hawk counts in Mackinaw City (spring), St. Ignace (fall) and Mackinac Island (spring only); bi-annual waterbird counts in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, bands migrating Saw-whet owls in the spring and fall, works with MSU to map the migratory routes of Red-tailed hawks using solar powered GPS transmitters, and even tags monarch butterflies as they begin their epic migration south.  The Island count is made possible through the support of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation.

Ed Pike & Gracie Sangmeister @ Ft. Holmes

The hawk and waterbird count sites are open to the public, and visitors are encouraged to come out and learn more about these unique birds.  Most weekends there is a Raptor Naturalist on-site to help visitors learn to identify hawks on the wing and interpret what they’re seeing.  Please check the website: for details on exactly when and where the counts are occurring. 

2024 Marks the 10th Anniversary of The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW).  You can help MSRW kick off another 10 years of conservation success by coming out to the hawk watches, learning more about the importance of the Straits to migrating animals of all kinds; and by purchasing tickets to MSRW’s 10thAnniversary Raffle with four fantastic prizes.  Just scan the QR code or go to to get your tickets.