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Zucchini, Martina – Flight strategies of neotropical migrant raptors in Panama

Photo of Martina Zucchini with binocularsWe studied the flight strategies of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni), and Broad-winged Hawks (Buteo platypterus) in Panama during October-November of 2005 and 2006. Observations were made from two count sites along the Panama Canal (Ancon Hill and the Canopy Tower) following Hawk Mountain’s Sanctuary field protocols for studies of vulture flight behavior. We determined the amount of flapping and gliding done by migrants during 30-sec intervals, noting their age and molt status. Flapping-rate observations of migrants were confined to the period from 0930 to 1530 H to reduce time-of-day effects. During 2005 a total of 631 observations were obtained vs. 1217 observations obtained in 2006. Paired-observation analyses were made to determine the effects of species, age differences, and molt status on the flapping rates of the three migrant species. The results of the 2005 and 2006 seasons are somewhat different; however, our preliminary results show significant differences among the flapping rates of the three species during both seasons.