Derby Hill Bird Observatory
|Description: Derby Hill, on the southeastern corner of Lake Ontario, is a premier hawkwatching
site. On average, 40,000 raptors comprising 15 species are counted
here each spring as they migrate northward, making this one of the best spring
hawk-watching sites in North America. The season runs from the beginning of
March until the end of May, peaking in late April. When northbound hawks
reach Lake Ontario, they turn east and north along the lake shore to take
advantage of rising thermal air masses, as well as to avoid crossing the lake.|
Though raptors are the main attraction, impressive numbers of migrating
waterfowl and other birds can also be seen here. Many kinds of songbirds stop
here in the spring. And, in late fall, Derby Hill’s bluffs are an excellent place to
watch waterbirds along the lake shore. Species that usually spend most of their
lives at sea, like rare gulls, jaegers and scoters, arrive from Hudson and James
Wildlife to Watch: Favorable weather as early as late February can trigger movements of roughlegged
and red-tailed hawks, as well as golden and bald eagles, but April is the
best month to look for hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures. In late April, flights
of hawks can be spectacular. On one occasion, up to 16,000 broad-winged
hawks were counted in a single day!
Other birds that can be observed in large numbers during migration are
Canada and snow geese, several species of ducks, herons and bitterns,red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and blue jays. Sometimes, after a
warm night in early May, the hedges on the hill on the south shore of Lake
Ontario are packed with warblers, orioles, tanagers and thrashers.
Several species of gulls, kittiwakes, loons, terns, and swallows are present
every fall at Derby Hill, as well as three species of jaegers usually seen on the
open ocean. Strong winds make for good birdwatching, as they sometimes
blow birds into the southeast corner of the lake, right on Derby’s doorstep.
Special Tips: The site is open from sunrise to sunset year-round. The parking lots
are not plowed during the winter.
This site has some accessible
features, including the
North Lookout parking lot.
During weekends from March
through May, this parking lot
is for vehicles transporting
people with disabilities.
36 Grand View Ave.,
Mexico, NY 13114,
Other Activities: A trail and boardwalk take you through fields, wet meadows and forest for
good wildlife viewing. The best hawk viewing is from a field adjacent to the
lakeshore. Three other viewing areas—Bluff Overlook, South Lookout and
Sage Creek Marsh—yield good wildlife sightings, too.
Ownership: Onondaga Audubon Society
Size: 90 acres
Closest Town: Mexico
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: