Throughout the western half of the United States, biologists are watching ecosystem health like a hawk. Gathering data from birds of prey (golden eagles, ospreys, kestrels, peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks – among others), HawkWatch International is keeping tabs on migration and nesting patterns of the hawks.
Permits have been granted to 131 biologists and volunteers to trap and band the raptors at 10 sites in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, over 10 weeks from late summer until winter.
Among other things, scientists are working to determine the impact of the BP Gulf Oil Spill on birds of prey, as well as counting the number of bird strikes as a result of wind turbines and habitat displacement from oil and gas exploration.
Uncontrolled urban growth, power lines, global climate change and increased use of herbicides and pesticides also affect hawk populations.
HawkWatch International maps migration flyways, and has been keeping tabs on over 20 million hawks over the past 30 years.
According to its website:
Raptors are an essential part of healthy, functioning ecosystems. As regulators of natural systems, raptors are crucial to maintaining the stable, healthy, and diverse ecosystems upon which we all depend. And as sensitive and widespread predators at the apex of food chains, raptors are superior indicators of ecosystem health worldwide. Humans share these ecosystems with raptors and all other species–thus, whatever happens to the raptors will happen to us. Hence, HWI’s mission of conserving raptors is very relevant to the human condition. HWI fulfills this mission through programs in long-term monitoring, ecological research, applied conservation, and public outreach and education. Through these programs, HWI promotes an ethic of ecological sustainability and conservation for this and generations to follow.
HawkWatch International is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Its mission is to conserve the environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research on raptors as indicators of ecosystem health.
You can help by becoming a member of HawkWatch International, or by “adopting” a hawk, giving a gift membership, or simply spreading the word about the organization.
Become a fan of HawkWatch International on Facebook to keep up to date on raptor conservation news, migration tracking and overall ecosystem health.