Protecting Raptors through Research

Conducting long-term and focused research to better understand and minimize the impacts of changing landscapes to raptors.


Minimizing and Mitigating the Impacts of Energy Development - Energy development is a necessity in today's world, and HWI is committed to partnering with industry, government agencies, and others to find ways of reducing or removing the impacts these activities can have on raptors and the ecosystems they are a part of. To this end, we will work to refine, further develop, and distribute results from our modeling efforts to identify high-volume migration ridges across the West. HWI is also working with a coalition of partners to understand road-side raptor mortalities, their link to road-killed carcasses, and the effectiveness of carcass removal as a mitigation strategy and offset option for wind development.

Using Technology to Track Movements - Where do birds go after they leave the nest, and what is their mortality rate? What pathways do migrating birds take between wintering and breeding grounds? What habitats are used by wildlife and how do human activities impact this? These are important questions that would inform management and conservation efforts for many species; these are also some of the hardest topics to study. HWI plans to use the latest technologies to shed light on:

  • Golden Eagle movements using GPS telemetry.
  • Flammulated Owl migration paths and wintering habitat using micro-GSM or geolocator units.
  • Kestrel population connectivity across the Americas using high resolution genetic markers.

Urban Raptor Studies - The world is becoming an increasingly 'urban' place as human populations grow, ever encroaching into wildlife habitat to accommodate the growth. This phenomenon impacts raptors both in cities and at the urban fringe, where rural and wildlands are being converted into housing developments and business districts. Some species are suffering while others are adapting well. It's important to understand the ecology of raptors in these new environments. With your support HWI will expand efforts to:

  • Grow our existing urban Kestrel studies.
  • Launch new urban ecology projects on other raptors and their prey base.
  • Leverage what we learn to inform urban planners, city and county managers, and build community awareness of wildlife and our shared environments.

Climate Change and the Value of Long-term Monitoring - Climate change is altering the western landscape; some areas are becoming hotter and drier and others cooler and wetter. Micro-climate shifts along this continuum are expected to have massive implications for disturbance regimes (fire, wind, flooding), shifting habitat structure, and the plant and animal species that call these areas home. The impacts will not be the same everywhere, nor affect species the same from location to location. With more than 30 years of monitoring data, HWI is well-positioned to document how climate and habitat changes are shifting raptor migration and will provide support for these research efforts. We will also study how a changing climate impacts the breeding ecology of cavity-nesting raptors, how nesting phenology is changing, how the dynamics of available cavities may be influenced, and whether nest boxes can be an effective conservation tool in a changing world.

Protecting Birds of Prey in a Human Dominated World

wind farms composite2Climate change, energy development, urbanization, and habitat degradation and loss are some of the greatest threats facing wildlife. Each one of these alone is a serious and poorly understood threat, but the fact that they are occurring at the same time in many areas, and likely have interactive and synergistic effects, is by far the greatest threat to wildlife and ecosystems in the West and beyond.
Furthermore, there is a lack of appreciation and support for long-term monitoring efforts, such as HWI's migration network. Sparse funding exists for these types of research efforts, yet long-term data sets (both historic and going forward) are essential to documenting how the primary drivers of global change (landuse/landcover change and climate change) impact wildlife populations and the communities and ecosystems we all share.
Another serious concern we must face as a society is the growing lack of interest in the natural world among the general public. This widespread and alarming phenomenon has been coined the"nature-deficit disorder." People have traded in outdoor play and exploration for electronics and screen time. Each year environmental issues are becoming more complex and future generations will be facing a myriad of issues that are becoming increasingly difficult to manage. A stronger and wider public understanding of environmental science and related issues is a growing necessity. Comprehensive environmental education is the only real answer.