The first cold front of the year usually passes through the Smoky Mountains during the early-to-mid September time period. As the weather patterns change to cooler temperatures, Broad-winged hawks begin to make their annual migration down the Appalachian Mountain range to winter in the neo-tropics of Mexico, to as far south as Southern Brazil. For bird enthusiasts, this provides an excellent opportunity to watch the buteos as they kettle-up over the ridges and glide from one thermal to the next.
The Broad-wings are one of the first species to begin their southern migration. Flocks or “kettles” can be quite large. You may even see a few Cooper’s, Northern Harriers and Sharp-shinned hawks joining in as well.
Some of the best vantage points in the Smokies to watch the migrations are in the higher elevations of the park such as Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, Look Rock, or Indian Gap.