Establishing a Raptor Migration Count and Conservation Initiative in Columbia
HMANA grant: $1000
Esther Viviana Vallejo Santamaria
Esther Viviana Vallejo Santamaria, a past conservation science trainee at Hawk Mountain, PA is planning to share all the raptor knowledge she learned at home in Columbia establishing a raptor migration monitoring program coupled with public outreach and raptor conservation.
The aim of her project is to collect vital migration data on southbound raptor migrants and to empower the community through science, education, and conservation by following the example of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’s mission.
Esther is establishing two sites strategically situated across the country. The first site is in Urabá (Antioquía) in northwest Colombia and has the advantage of being located where Central America migrants enter South America and may count birds heading further south or east into northern South America. This first point of entry into Colombia is strategic for data collection, where the kettles remain grouped, before dispersing throughout the continent. An observatory will allow researchers to obtain information about the migration patterns that species adopt and the effect the Andes have on their migration routes. It will also provide important data on population trends and migration patterns for long-distance migrants such as the Swainson’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, western Turkey Vulture, and Mississippi Kite.
The second more southerly site in Ibagué (Tolima) in the western part of the Andes is a key site for education and conservation, as thousands of Swainson’s Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks have been shot in this region. More conservation efforts and migration research are critically needed there. By counting the raptors and attracting visitors, they hope to educate the local community about the importance of protecting raptors.
HMANA is thrilled to support such an important project, as there are currently no other active monitoring sites in South America. The project hopes to strengthen conservation efforts in the local communities and allow for a better understanding of the routes and stopovers by North American species passing through northern South America.
In addition to HMANA, the project is receiving support from the Universidad del Valle, Cocora Foundation, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and others. HMANA funding will directly support the training of local counters, the purchase of equipment and production of educational materials.
This project, which is affiliated with the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society, intends to contribute to the understanding of spring raptor migration with a particular emphasis on Golden and Bald Eagles in western Montana. If this project can be sustained for the long term, it will have the potential to enhance our knowledge of raptor population status and trends and may serve as a critical barometer of overall ecosystem health and human-caused environmental changes, including climate change.
Based on preliminary spring raptor counts conducted at Camp Baker, MT, it is estimated that this site may yield seasonal count totals of between 1,000 and 2,000 migrant raptors, with approximately half or more being eagles. The Camp Baker Eagle Watch Project is designed to determine not only total migrant raptor numbers and the seasonal timing of passage of the birds, but also to assess raptor flight paths (or overall breadth of the raptor migration flight lines). This information will help to determine how difficult it will be to conduct a consistent, standardized count of the raptor migration on an annual basis at this location.
HMANA is thrilled to support a spring site focused on eagle migration in a region that needs more raptor monitoring.