Raptors, or birds of prey, in North America (eagles, hawks, vultures, falcons, and kites) have to move to more temperate zones
during the winter months due to extreme living conditions (low temperatures and food scarcity). This migratory movement is not
exclusive to birds of prey for the majority of bird groups who live in that region and are affected by climate changes, also
migrate. Nonetheless, raptor migration is one of the most spectacular, as gigantic flocks of hundreds of thousands of
individuals move in unison between thermal air currents to their southern destinations. Migration is a phenomenon which occurs
twice a year, starting in autumn, before winter reaches the northern hemisphere. Once the cold is over, the birds fly back to
their territories in the north during springtime.
Given its geographical position, the state of Veracruz is the obligated route for those bird species that year after year make
this movement, starting either from North America towards more temperate zones or vice versa. Thanks to the State’s orography,
the ideal conditions for flight are set: large plane extensions with a temperature that allows for the formation of ascending
thermal air currents (hot air that moves upward), which are fundamental for the soaring flight of raptors. A factor of big
importance, and key to the large incidence of individuals, is on the one hand the presence of mountain chains like the Sierra
Madre Oriental and the Transversal Neovolcanic Axis towards the western part of the State and on the other, the Mexican Gulf
to the east. These elements act as natural geographical barriers for the birds as they require more energy to fly above them.
The barriers flank instead the flow of migration, directing it and making it more compact, simulating an enormous funnel.
The project is a study that had its early beginnings back in 1991, when not only the bird counting started but also the search
for ideal sites and periods to do the count. A medullar part of the project was the creation of a standard protocol for data
collection, to ensure that the information gathered each year is measurable and comparable. Since 1992, Pronatura Veracruz has
been in charge of the project. Its main objective is the long-term conservation of migrating raptor populations through
observation and monitoring. The counting officially takes place during autumn, from the 20th of August to the 20th of November,
in the city of Cardel and the town of Chichicaxtla, both located in the central part of Veracruz. A fundamental part of the
process is working with the human populations living in the region where the migration occurs. In 1995 therefore, the
Environmental Education program is created to complement and be part of the Veracruz Program known as "Rivers of Raptors".
For more information regarding this subject, please visit us at: www.pronaturaveracruz.org