Advanced Reading on Hawks & Migration

Many of these books may be difficult to find in regular bookstores. Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Gift Shop in Lincoln, the Birdwatcher’s General Store on the Cape and Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift in Newburyport, tend to carry many of these publications. Some of the best books on hawks or migration might be out of print but are available inexpensively online through used book dealers. Buteo Books is also an excellent online bookselling resource.

Birds of Prey by Ian Newton (ed.), Facts on File (1990). A superb introduction to birds of prey (excluding owls), focusing on what makes each hawk family unique, followed by seven chapters on raptor biology and three on hawks’ relations with humans. Top experts wrote each chapter and numerous fascinating sidebars in very readable prose. Global in scope, the book is filled with spectacular color photographs. No other single book conveys a better understanding or appreciation of hawks. Out of print but available from many libraries and online from used book dealers.

Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons & Vultures of North America by Pete Dunne with Kevin Karlson, Houghton Mifflin (2016). Dunne is simply one of our best natural history writers. This book profiles 33 species of diurnal raptors in North America, offering a concise, highly informative natural history of each. Superb photos accompany each profile. The best such book currently in print.

Falcons of North America by Kate Davis, Mountain Press (2008). A superb introduction to the six North American Falcons in a beautifully produced, inexpensive paperback. The book includes some of the most stunning raptor photography available today, matched by some of the best prose.

Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks by Paul Kerlinger, University of Chicago Press (1989). This examines how hawks migrate, with most examples taken from North American species. The book is not written for the beginner, but for people who are professionals in the field or have spent some time hawk watching and would like to better comprehend how hawks migrate. It is jammed with information, e.g., how high do hawks fly, how fast, how far, and how they determine where they are going, but it is not a quick or easy read. Out of print but available from many libraries and can be purchased online.

Handbook of North American Birds (Volumes 4 & 5), Diurnal Raptors (Parts 1 & 2) by Ralph Palmer (ed.), Yale University Press (1988). If you want to learn more about the life history of a particular hawk species, there is no better place to start. These encyclopedic volumes provide the best, most complete and most recent “natural histories” or species accounts of North American hawks generally available. There are few illustrations. Out of print but available in libraries and from used bookstores online.

Migrating Raptors of the World: Their Ecology and Conservation by Keith Bildstein, Cornell University Press (2006). A synthesis of raptor migration ecology around the world, including chapters on migration geography, migrant life histories of eight species, and an introduction to some of the major hawk watch sites of the world. The best general overview on the nature and structure of hawk migration worldwide.  

Population Ecology of Raptors by Ian Newton, Harrell Books (1979). A masterpiece by one of the world’s leading authorities on hawks and one of the best writers in the field. Global in application, the topics of breeding, migration, wintering, mortality, persecution, and conservation are discussed in much greater depth than in Birds of Prey. Out of print but available in libraries and from used bookstores online.

Raptors of Eastern North America by Brian K. Wheeler, Princeton University Press (2003), Raptors of Western North America by Brian K. Wheeler, Princeton University Press (2003). Two excellent volumes that are best characterized as guides, not field guides. They are rich with numerous superb color photographs of each species, the most up-to-date range maps, and extensively detailed descriptions of the known plumages for each species. The eastern volume is 437 pp. and the western 544 pp. Both are written for the advanced hawk watcher, not the beginner. Out of print but available in libraries and from used bookstores online.

Raptor Migration Watch-site Manual, edited by Keith Bildstein and J. I. Zalles, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association  (1995, 177 pp.) This all-text guide to establishing a hawk watch site was developed to help biologists and hawk enthusiasts, particularly outside the U.S., study hawk migration. The guide includes chapters on raptor migration and conservation biology, monitoring the abundance and distribution of migrating raptors, managing data, establishing membership programs, and managing volunteer resources.

Raptor Watch: A Global Directory of Raptor Migration Sites (Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, 2000, 419 pp.) provides overviews of what is known about hawk migration, country by country, across six continents. Over 380 known migration sites around the world are then described in terms of biogeography, description, land tenure, and protected status, with information on the migration periods, raptor species seen (with peak counts and dates), and other migrants seen.

Raptors of the World by James Ferguson-Lees and David A. Christie, Houghton Mifflin (2001, 997 pp.) A comprehensive guide to 313 of the world’s diurnal raptors, including 2,115 color illustrations and describing identification, distribution habitat, voice, food, and breeding biology. Not for the beginner.

The State of North America’s Birds of Prey by the Raptor Population Index (2008) is the first continental report on the population status of North America’s migratory birds of prey. Written by 22 of the hemisphere’s best-known raptor migration specialists, the book includes a brief history of raptor conservation in North America, the principles and methods for the use of migration counts to determine population trends, regional overviews of trends in migration counts, a report on the conservation status of 20 species of birds of prey, and more. The individual chapters, or papers, can also be found available in PDF format at