"El Águila" The Mysterious Visitor of Laguna del Rey, Coahuila

01 May 2021

*¿Hablas español? Check out this story in Spanish on Pronatura Veracruz's Facebook

 Originating in Alberta, Canada, a male Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), ‘303’ was tagged by Research Biologist Jesse Watson of HawkWatch International (co-founding organization of the Veracruz River of Raptors). In 2014, Watson attached a satellite transmitter and a black color band to the hawk as part of his graduate research at the University of Alberta. The technology helped track ‘303’ throughout his annual cycle, from the nest site, throughout migration, and to the wintering grounds.

Each winter since 2014, Watson tracked the hawk as he migrated from southern Alberta to his winter home in Coahuila, Mexico. Last month, a stationary signal from the transmitter caught Jesse’s attention, raising concerns about the hawk’s status. Jesse contacted River of Raptors' coordinator Kashmir Wolf, who notified biologist Manuel Rodríguez. Rodríguez reached out to community wildlife ranger Mr. Fredy, who lives in Laguna del Rey, a small town surrounded by salt mines and a desert environment.

When Fredy reached the most recent location from the transmitter, he found the device on the ground, but no evidence of the bird’s remains. This “Eagle”, as he was referred to by the locals, was undoubtedly a well-known neighbor during the winter months. The Ferruginous Hawk spent at least seven winters in Laguna del Rey. Without fail, each spring, he returned to nest in southern Alberta. Watson estimates that he produced 18 or more nestlings between 2014 and 2020. Unfortunately, we can’t be sure of his fate, given no remains were recovered. However, locating the tracking device completes the 2,454-day story of Watson’s time tracking ‘303’, a period including seven breeding seasons, 7 and 6 fall and spring migrations, respectively, and nearly 90,000-km traveled!

HawkWatch International, University of Alberta, and Pronatura Veracruz thank those who helped with the effort, including Mapimí Biosphere Reserve biologist Manuel Rodríguez, community environmental watchdog Fredy Suárez, and Engineer Cristino Villareal. We remain hopeful ‘303’ will be located this spring at his breeding site in Alberta and, likewise, that residents of Laguna del Rey will once again observe their faithful winter visitor next winter. Thank you, ‘303’ for your contributions to science and the conservation of the species!

Check out this map of 303's 7 fall migration paths and 6 spring paths.

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