ALERT: Temporary closure of overlook deck and tower at Hitchcock Nature Center. Check park page for details. Learn More
ALERT: Purchase a T-shirt by June 23rd & Support Your County Parks - Designed by Local Residents! Shop Now

Hitchcock HawkWatch

Every year, from September through December, birds of prey enthusiasts gather at Hitchcock Nature Center to observe & count thousands of eagles, hawks, and other raptors as they migrate south.

Fall 2023 HawkWatch

Fall 2023 HawkWatch Report

HawkWatch 2023 Report Graph

About Hitchcock HawkWatch

Hitchcock HawkWatch is a volunteer-driven research project based at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Staffed by dozens of volunteers and one paid seasonal employee, this hawk watch effort counts an average of 13,000 migrating raptors annually. Occupying the observation tower at Hitchcock Nature Center, our team watches from a vantage point providing a 360-degree view of the Missouri River Valley. The official hawk watch season is from September 1st through December 13th annually. 

Hitchcock Nature Center is an optimal location to view the annual migration of numerous species of raptors due to its position in the Missouri River Valley. Here prevailing westerly winds create near-perfect conditions for migrating raptors as they soar on thermals and topographically-induced upward wind deflections on their journey south. 

HawkWatch Observation Tower at Hitchcock Nature Center

The data collected by the Hitchcock HawkWatch team is shared with a national database to add to our collective knowledge about birds of prey and to support continued raptor research and support projects. Data is submitted to the Hawk Migration Association of North America, click below to view the Hitchcock Nature Center HawkWatch profile.

HNC HawkWatch Profile

Hitchcock HawkWatch began in 1991 by a group of passionate volunteers who devoted their time to counting and reporting migrating raptor species. The program has grown since its creation, becoming Iowa's first Important Bird Area in 2003 and receiving the Governor's Volunteer Award in 2004. Today the Hitchcock HawkWatch is part of a nationwide network of raptor monitoring locations and has been named one of the top 25 HawkWatches in the United States. 

Observing Hitchcock HawkWatch

Visitors to Hitchcock Nature Center are welcome to observe our HawkWatch during their regular season. Climb the park's 45-foot observation tower, located on the northwest corner of the Loess Hills Lodge, daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from September 1st through mid-December. Our HawkWatch team is intrepid and will be spotting raptors in all but the worst weather conditions. 

We ask that visitors remember this is an active scientific research project. HawkWatch volunteers are actively spotting, identifying, and recording data during their time on the tower. If we are having a particularly active morning of flight or if our team is short staffed HawkWatchers may not be available to answer your questions. Please note that all spotting equipment on the observation tower is for HawkWatch personnel use only and in many cases is a personal belonging of the HawkWatch volunteer. Please give all equipment a wide berth and monitor any accompanying children—thank you!

Become a Hitchcock HawkWatch Volunteer!

Join the Hitchcock HawkWatch volunteer team! All you need is a love of birds and a willingness to learn. On-the-job training is provided by our experienced team of HawkWatch volunteers and park staff.

To become a Hitchcock HawkWatch Volunteer please complete and submit your volunteer application. 

Become a Volunteer 

Get a full year of free access to all Pottawattamie County parks.

Become a member of the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation