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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 bays.

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, http://onondagaaudubon.com

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

RestroomsParkingHikingVisitor CenterHandicap Accessible

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Broad-winged Hawk - Photo by Gerry Lemmo
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
From Syracuse, take I-81 north to exit 34, and head west on Rte. 104. Drive 6 miles to the village of Mexico. Turn right (north) at the traffic light onto Rte. 3. Drive north on Rte. 3 for 4 miles to the intersection with Rte. 104B. Turn left (west) on Rte. 104B and drive 0.5 mile. Sage Creek Drive will be on your right. Look for the green signs for Derby Hill.

Map Link

Derby Hill Bird Observatory : Wildlife Viewing Area