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One of West Virginia’s best locations to view the annual migration of birds of prey is the Hanging Rock Raptor Migration Observatory in Jefferson National Forest on Peters Mountain in Monroe County. The observatory is a tower perched on the rocks at an elevation of 3,800 feet above sea level. The original tower was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and was manned by forest fire spotters until the early 1970s. Vandals destroyed the old tower in 1996. Using the original construction plans, the Forest Service had the tower rebuilt. Peters Mountain, a prominent northeast-southwest ridge, intercepts a major migratory route. Migrating raptors follow the ridge past the tower each fall. The best time to visit will vary from year to year. The peak of the broad-winged hawk migration is usually September 16–21. The peak for sharp-shinned hawks is usually early October. Golden eagles and red-tailed hawks are best seen in mid-November.

In 2021, a Motus Wildlife Tracking System was installed at the observatory. Motus is the world’s largest collaborative radio telemetry system tracking 278 species of birds and bats that have been tagged with radio-emitting devices. It can record the movements of tagged animals 10 miles away. Hanging Rock is now one of 1,200 such stations in 14 countries around the world.

This Article was written by Jim Phillips

Last Revised on September 13, 2021


Davis, J. Ray. The Redstart, vol. 65.

Hurley, George. The Redstart, vol. 37, no. 3; vol. 42, no. 4; vol. 54, no. 3; vol. 64, no.4.

Cite This Article

Phillips, Jim "Hanging Rock Observatory." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 September 2021. Web. 17 July 2024.


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