Birds and Birdwatching
Audubon Hawk Watch at Waggoner's Gap
Very few wildlife experiences are more exciting than the sight of a Golden Eagle cruising south over a landscape cloaked in late autumn browns, yellows, and reds. And there is no better place in Pennsylvania to see this sight than the rock outcrop at Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch. Audubon Pennsylvania invites you to visit and enjoy this exciting phenomenon!
Raptor migration data have been collected at Waggoner's Gap since the 1950s. In the late 1980s, volunteer hawk watchers began logging more than 500 hours per year. Today, dedicated volunteers have their eyes to the sky from August 1st to December 31st, logging more than 1,000 hours per season on the rocks.
Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch has been owned by Audubon since 2001. The acquisition of Waggoner's Gap was made possible by the Erdman Trust and Natural Lands Trust, assuring that recreational hawk watching and scientific counting will carry forward in perpetuity.
View the Migration Timing Chart (based on 5 years of Waggoner's Gap data) to determine the best time to observe a particular species. To view historical and current raptor migration counts for Waggoner's Gap, and other sites in Pennsylvania and around North America, visit HawkCount.org, the raptor tracking and reporting database for Hawk Migration Association of North America(HMANA).
Click here to visit a web site containing historic Hawk Watch count data as well as other important information from Waggoner's Gap.
For more information and details of Hawk Migration Association of North America statistics, download our brochure.
The Cliff Jones Field Station at Waggoner's Gap
Audubon Pennsylvania is pleased to celebrate and commemorate Cliff Jones' lifelong dedication to conservation and birding with the establishment of the Cliff Jones Field Station.
This initiative includes improvements to the site, on the east and west sides of Rt. 74, that will help support hundreds of weekend visitors, and make the site more accessible for groups while maintaining the natural and rustic quality of the area.
- Establishment of handicapped-accessible viewing areas
- Trail improvements and interpretive signs
- Creation of an outdoor classroom and picnic glen
- Enhanced education and outreach on- and off-site
Find other Hawk Watching Sites along the Kittatinny Ridge.
Waggoner's Gap is located 10 miles north of downtown Carlisle on Route 74 on the Cumberland/Perry County line. A marked parking lot is on the east side of Route 74, a tenth of a mile down from the crest of the mountain on the north side in Perry County.
Note: The trails to the outcrop from the parking lot are extremely rocky and uneven. Please assure that everyone in your party is confident hiking under these conditions. Wear proper footwear.
Waggoner’s Gap Hawkwatch has been owned and operated by Audubon Pennsylvania since 2001. Its acquisition was made possible by the Erdman Trust and Natural Lands Trust, ensuring that hawkwatching, education and scientific monitoring will continue in perpetuity.
Season: August 1 – December 31
Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk.
Location: Waggoner’s Gap is located 10 miles north of downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania on Route 74 on the Cumberland/Perry County line atop the Kittatinny Ridge. (See directions below.)
Best Conditions: Winds from the northwest and south, with higher numbers of birds seen with northwest winds, but closer views with south winds. Raptors tend not fly in fog or when it’s raining or snowing. Hawks are often seen lower in the sky in the morning and late afternoon. A lull usually occurs during mid-day.
The third and fourth week in September is generally when the broad-winged hawks peak in Pennsylvania. Thousands can be seen on heavy flight days. See the Migration Timing section below.
What to Take: Layers of clothing (conditions are often cooler and windier on the Ridge), hat, water and snacks, field guide, binoculars and/or spotting scope, low chair or soft cushion if you don’t like sitting on rocks.
Amenities: There is a portable toilet at the north parking lot. This is the only restroom facility currently at the site. South of the outcrop is the education amphitheater, which offers a level space from which to view the Cumberland Valley. There you can find picnic tables. Follow the wide trail west of the rock outcrop and around the corner to the left. Groups and classes are also welcome to use this space. If you wish to reserve this space, please contact Audubon Pennsylvania at 717-213-6880.
Cautions and Rules: What to Know Before You Go: click on PDF at the bottom of the page.
Website Links to Partnering Organizations: