Anyone who lives in Utah has had the chance to glance upward and glimpse a soaring hawk. Whether you’ve noticed them or not, the hawks, eagles, falcons, and other raptors are there, all around us, living beside us on the mountain peaks, in the farmland, and along the banks of the snow-melt rivers – the same peaks, farms, and rivers that we depend on for our well-being.
Recent history in the United States has shown that raptor species can decline rapidly, as the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon did in the 1970s, going from healthy population numbers to near extinction in a matter of just a few years. Back then, DDT, an insecticide widely used primarily for agricultural purposes, was the culprit. Tomorrow, any number of threats could cripple an entire population.
HawkWatch’s efforts to study raptors allows the science to act as an early warning system: poised to take informed and measured action to address problem, as opposed to a more reactionary emergency response that is ultimately far more costly and comes at a time when a great deal of damage to ecosystem health has already taken place.
A little preventative medicine now averts a lot of emergency surgeries later. By following the birds, learning what they need to thrive, and taking action to build strategies incorporating this knowledge, we can uncover and resolve hidden maladies before they become fatal.
In order to succeed with any preventative approach, the importance of an educated public cannot be overstated. Beginning in elementary schools, through high schools and university partnerships, in combination with a variety of informal adult education offerings, HWI invests in the critical step of translating and sharing the science of raptors. We go one step further to invite the public to engage in the scientific process directly, inviting them to become trained citizen science volunteers. An encounter with a live raptor always makes an impact; one as profound as the look in the bird’s eye as you stare into the face of this creature; arguably the noblest representatives of the natural world. Such an experience so often changes how a person then sees their own role within this world.
Come volunteer with us! Get trained working with our education birds, offering community programs, or acting as a Citizen Scientist in the field.
A first easy step is to sign up for our free enewsletter – just visit our website at www.hawkwatch.org and add your email to the Raptor Update box in the upper left corner.
Eyes to the skies!