2021 Year in Review

17 December 2021
Some team bonding at axe throwing! Some team bonding at axe throwing!

This year has been big for HWI, in fact, it was our 35th Anniversary as an organization! Anniversaries are a great time to look back at the work we’ve accomplished, and also to look forward to what we want the next 35 years to look like. If you attended our first-ever virtual gala, HawkWatching from Home, you got a taste of what is next for HawkWatch International. But before we reveal our future plans, let’s look back on what we were able to accomplish this year because of generous supporters like you.


​​Created the VERA Model

          Photo by Meg Murgatroyd

Dr. Meg Murgatroyd,  Conservation Biologist in our International department, partnered with the Fitzpatrick Institute of Ornithology and the University of Amsterdam to develop a new tool—the Verreaux’s Eagle Risk Assessment (VERA) model. This model offers wind turbine developers more accurate guidance on where to safely build their turbines to prevent collisions with Verreaux’s Eagles. 

Awarded our first-ever funding for our grant program

Himani KhatiPhoto by Himani Khati

This year marked the beginning of our Global Raptor Research and Conservation Grant. In total, we received 54 applications totaling nearly $133,000 in funding requests from 30 countries across South America, Africa, and South Asia. We were able to award funding to three different projects led by female biologists in India, Ghana, and Columbia.

Expanded our American Kestrel internship program

Screen Shot 2021 12 17 at 9.59.57 AMPhoto of JJ Amaya by Jesse Watson

We started an internship program in order to provide field experience for early career biologists, particularly experiences open to all that don’t require the ability to go months with little or no financial support. In 2021, we were able to take on 3 paid interns for the nesting season.

Published five papers on our international work

unnamedPhoto by Evan Buechley

Our International department put out five papers this year focusing on vultures, Augur Buzzards, raptor migration, and our VERA Model.

Provided community science opportunities from the comfort of your own home

FlammiesPhoto by Markus Mika

Former HWI biologist and current partner, Dr. Markus Mika from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, gave folks the chance to get involved in our Following Forest Owl project. Community scientists watched footage of prey deliveries to nestling Flammulated Owls and identified the food items making up their diets.  

Brought back all of our fall migration sites 

2Photo by Jesse Watson

Back in 2020, we made the hard decision to close down our migration sites due to the pandemic. Luckily, with the creation of COVID vaccinations, we were able to bring back all 7 of our fall HawkWatches for this migration season.

Received recognition for our work with Golden Eagles

goldeneaglePhoto by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Deseret News published 3 articles highlighting the conservation work we are doing in Utah’s West Desert studying Golden Eagle nesting. The articles were picked up by the Associated Press and USA Today.

Successfully raised funds needed to close the nature gap for English language learners and those on the autism spectrum

OutdoorPrograms 2021Photo by B&N Tyler Photography

Last year showed us that not every student has the opportunity or ability to spend time in the fresh air and experience the natural world first hand. So we set out with the goal to raise $22,040 to expand our educational programming to reach more students. Because of donors like you, we will now be able to develop programming in Spanish and for those on the autism spectrum.

Trapped and placed transmitters on our first Black Harriers

72d710fb f951 44b6 a79d 5ec0e3728ddfPhoto by Meg Murgatroyd

At the tail end of the year, Dr. Meg Murgatroyd was able to place transmitters on Black Harriers with the intent of tracking their movement and survivability. With this data, Meg hopes to expand her VERA Model to include guidance on Black Harriers.

Contributed to new conservation status of North American Raptors 

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HawkWatch International contributed our 35 years of raptor migration data to help determine population trends for migratory raptor species. From this report, we are now able to see which raptors are declining, stable, or in a rebound.

Captured stunning 4k video at all 7 fall migration sites

Screen Shot 2021 11 23 at 3.59.16 PMPhoto by Blank Space

In honor of our 35th Anniversary, we hired Blank Space to film our fall migration sites. This footage became professional films released at our first-ever virtual gala, HawkWatching from Home. Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss when these films become available to the public.