And the Babies Keep on Arriving!
by Gail Garber,
So much has changed in our human world and yet wildlife continues along its phylogenetic pattern, with courtship, incubation, nestlings, and fledglings following the routines established over millions of years. This year has been especially busy as the first orphans--two Great Horned Owl nestlings--arrived on April 3 and 5, from different parts of Albuquerque. Fortunately, Dulcita, our foster mom owl under the care of Lisa Morgan seems to accept all babies. She reared these two until they "fledged," as much as one could fledge within the confines of a flight cage. They then moved on to attend "mouse school" at
Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabiliation.
Next up was a very early fledgling kestrel, now maturing under the watchful eye of his foster parent, Waldo, at the facility of Ed and Mary Chappelle.
A trio of white, downy Red-tailed Hawk nestlings arrived from the Farmington area after their nest blew down. One of these chicks was euthanized due to multiple fractures, and the remaining two have some ongoing health issues that may prevent their release to the wild. Finding a foster for them was essential so they would grow up knowing how to be Red-tailed Hawks. We called other rehabilitators--no one had a foster red-tail. We tried putting them in with Jamaica and Quemado, our pair that had been incubating eggs for over 35 days. That was a fail. Finally, we "borrowed" Harlan, our Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk, from Chellye Porter to see if he might foster, or at least act as a role model.
Harlan came to Hawks Aloft many years ago, already an adult. We recognized that he just might have reared his own young in the wild before he was injured. He took to parenting like a duck to water! Not only did he automatically deliver each mouse dropped in through the back trap door, the security cameras in the flight cage even captured him tearing up bits of a mouse into tiny little slivers and tenderly feeding the youngest. He's a one-in-a-million hawk, and the only known foster for this species in New Mexico.
Three nestling Barn Owls were rescued in San Juan County where they are being cared for by Boni Martin until they are self feeding. Then, they will be transported to Peralta where Luna, our foster Barn Owl will take them under his wing.
Finally, just this week, two fledgling Western Screech Owls arrived. We do not have a foster screech, and it appears that no one else in our area does either. Without a foster, these little ones are going south to Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation to grow up under the care of Dr. Sammie Uhrig, where they will mature alongside other orphaned screechers.
It takes a village indeed! AND a lot of food! Our food bill runs around $2,500 per month. If you'd like to feed an owl, a kestrel or young hawks, please
consider making a donation
Images above: American Kestrels by Mary Chappelle, Western Screech-Owls by Chellye Porter, Great Horned Owls by Lisa Morgan, and Red-tailed Hawks and Harlan by Gail Garber.
On the Taos Gorge
by By Sue Harrelson,
It has been a tough year for humans with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems to be a good year for raptors. Maybe they are benefiting from the lack of human disturbance.
This year we have nine occupied territories in the Taos Gorge, where we see pairs, but haven’t yet found a nest. Birds don’t like to give away their nest locations, and can be very sneaky. There are 16 active nests, in various stages of incubation, nestlings, or fledglings.
Our volunteer extraordinaire, Roger Grimshaw, has made most of these finds. On the last visit, he found that one pair of kestrels had already fledged young – he saw it perched on a juniper, as an adult brought food to it, and then it practiced flying on short, wobbly trips between perches on the edge of the gorge.
A new find this year was a Great Horned Owl nest in a crevice on a cliff. It now has two nestlings. I wish I could say that they are cute, but that would be a big stretch. I will say, their mother appears fierce!
We also have a Swainson’s Hawk and a Ferruginous Hawk nest, as well as several Red-tails, Prairie and Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, and maybe even a Turkey Vulture nest. Of course, they don’t make much of nest; in this case, there is an egg sitting on a ledge, and another egg which has rolled to a lower ledge. It will be interesting to see whether they hatch.
One concern we have is a virus that is even more contagious than COVID-19; Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is spreading among wild and domestic rabbits. It has a high mortality rate, and could decimate the prey base for raptors, as well as for mammals like coyotes and bobcats.
But for now, its good to see life carrying on in the wild, as we struggle to adapt to the changes and dangers of the pandemic. The birds aren’t afflicted with our worries, and so they continue to hunt, raise their young, and soar in the blue skies.
Photo of volunteer Roger Grimshaw in action by Sue Harrelson; Young Red-tailed Hawk by Roger Grimshaw
the Amazing Burrowing Owl
by Rebecca Szymanski
Terra came to us as an adult from the Española Wildlife Center in 2011 after suffering an eye injury in a collision with a motorcycle.
My life with this five-ounce Burrowing Owl started this way: A day or two after his arrival, my husband and I were startled awake in the middle of the night by a sudden, loud hissing--like a pressure cooker about to explode. I ran downstairs and there, in full defensive posture many times his normal size, was Terra sounding the rattlesnake alarm at a white cat outside the patio window.
I didn’t have a flight cage then, but one was soon built in our backyard by a young man, earning his Eagle Scout badge, with the help of volunteers.
It didn’t take long for Terra to adjust to life as a Hawks Aloft Avian Ambassador. Over the years, he traveled to classrooms and festivals around New Mexico often delighting children and adults just by turning his head 270 degrees.
Biologists say that because owls have such large forward-facing eyes and round faces humans are prone to project human characteristics onto them even more so than with other animals. We may see in them such qualities as wisdom, tolerance, affability, or annoyance. So, if I happened to see these qualities in Terra, well, it was just me and my anthropomorphism!
After a year or so, Terra hooted a greeting each time I walked toward his mews. I hooted in reply. He used a variation of this call whenever he was hungry and wanted a mouse. It had a screeching urgency to it: "I’m
he seemed to say.
It was hilarious to see his reaction after getting drenched in a sudden rainstorm. I have to say, he clearly seemed annoyed.
At some point, nothing much ruffled his feathers, even Cooper’s Hawks and cats eyeing him through the slats of his cage. They weren’t getting in and he knew it. He simply looked away in seeming indifference although, I’m betting he took some satisfaction in this.
Terra retired from education programs a couple of years ago and spent his time taking lengthy naps. He died last month at the age of 10 plus. He is sadly missed.
Image above by Rebecca Szymanski.
Surveys Begin in the Jemez Mountains
by Trevor Fetz, Ph.D. Senior Avian Biologist
In mid-May, we were finally able to begin surveys for our owl community study on Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP). Ideally, we would have begun surveying in April, but COVID-19 and other logistical issues delayed our start time. I'm grateful for the efforts of Bob Parmenter, Division Chief of Science and Resource Stewardship at VCNP, for securing our ability to get onto the Preserve during its closure and for his continuing support of the project. Without his strong support, there wouldn't be a project.
Over the past few weeks, Brent Thompson, Brian Dykstra, and I have teamed up to conduct Mexican Spotted Owl (MSOW) surveys at our 40 call points on the Preserve. It is a relatively slow process, as we can only cover about six to eight points in a single night. As the month concluded, we had completed first round visits at all points and about half of the second round visits. So far, we have not had any MSOW detections. This isn't particularly surprising, as there have never been any confirmed MSOW detections on the Preserve.
More surprising is the fact that, other than Great Horned Owl (GHOW) fly-ins at three points, we haven't had any direct owl responses to our MSOW calling. But, what we have been detecting at about 40% of our points are Flammulated Owls calling upon our arrival. We are also regularly documenting Wilson's Snipe calling at our points in the vicinity of their habitat. Once we complete the second round of MSOW surveys in early June, we will start mixing in surveys for the other owl species known to occur on the preserve (Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Long-eared Owl, and, at a couple of particularly high elevation points, Boreal Owl). In order to remain compliant with the survey protocol for MSOW, we will not call for GHOW, which is a potential predator. But, GHOW regularly responds (either vocally or by flying in) to the calls of other owl species.
Mid-May also brought the start of the ninth year of songbird surveys on VCNP and the Santa Fe National Forest as a part of the Southern Jemez Mountains Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project (CFLRP). After completing MSOW surveys around midnight, Brian Dykstra and I have been making quick turnarounds to start nearby songbird surveys by sunrise the following morning. Sleep is a luxury, not a necessity. It has been nice to survey these higher elevation sites and see birds such as Grace's Warbler, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and Clark's Nutcracker that I don't encounter in the bosque. Although I've conducted some of the surveys for the CFLRP on Santa Fe National Forest land in previous years, this is the first time I've conducted surveys on VCNP. I think VCNP has become my new favorite place, and I'm definitely looking forward to June surveys up there.
Flammulated Owl and Clark's Nutcracker images by Larry Rimer.
Join Us Every Monday on Facebook Live!
Monday at 11am on Facebook Live, staff educators Maggie Stein and Amelia Thompson present different Avian Ambassadors and educational concepts.
Join us this Monday (05/11) at 11am to meet a selection of grassland species.
An Eagle Scout Project
It was nearly a year ago that Luc Carbonneau approached Hawks Aloft for his Eagle Scout project. As we discussed our needs, we bonded with this highly motivated young man with a demonstrated passion for wildlife. After looking at our main facility and discussion about our greatest needs, Luc undertook a significant project: Razing our oldest flight cage (built in 1990--pre-Hawks Aloft) and building a new, two-chamber flight cage with a double entry. The huge undertaking required careful planning, approvals by Hawks Aloft, as well as leadership approval from Boy Scout Troop 9 of Los Ranchos.
A cage of this size is a pricey project! We agreed to help with some of the costs and Luc has planned several fundraisers of his own to raise the ~$2,500 necessary. Once the funds were in place, Luc, his troop, and other volunteers planned to work together to build and paint the sections that would later be transported and assembled in one weekend on the site of the old cage.
Then, along came COVID-19 in March 2020. No group fundraisings. No gatherings of more than five people. Six feet of social distancing. Masks for all. Re-plan the project. Re-write the proposal.
We applaud Luc for continuing to work on the sorely needed new flight cage, despite what might appear as overwhelming obstacles. But, persevere Luc did! There is a new plan underway. He writes: "The project will continue, for the most part as planned, but assembling the sections and completing it safely will have to slow down. As further advances come forth, we will continue to re-evaluate what is on hand. We do not plan to stop the project or put it on hold but we must lower our expectations of what can get done and how fast it can get done. The physical, mental, and medical safety of our helpers and everyone involved is of the utmost importance."
Luc has been scouting for nearly ten years, working on finishing his Eagle Scout and leadership training. He is a rising junior at Bosque School and is the goalkeeper for the Bosque varsity soccer team. Along with soccer and Scouts, Luc enjoys backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fine art, woodworking, and plays Spanish classical guitar.
Can you help with a small donation to help Luc's Eagle Scout Project? All donations will be earmarked for this project and are fully tax deductible.
Learning About Field Work
by Maggie Stein
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Our education programs often begin by asking the group, “What do
think Hawks Aloft does?” We get a lot of surprising and hilarious responses from our elementary school students, but the final answer we strive to reach is this: Hawks Aloft is an organization that helps birds in three ways--rescuing birds in trouble, teaching people about birds, and researching wild birds in New Mexico.
The last bit of the short-and-sweet explanation of Hawks Aloft had always given me a bit of trouble. Students would sometimes ask
we do research, or “What exactly do you study about the wild birds?” When questions like these came up, I would usually give a hurried response about our experienced scientists who know all about how to do research.
Now, with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and schools being closed, my job as an educator has changed tremendously. We have traded our class field trips for Zoom calls, our conservation projects for Facebook Live, and more. One of the biggest and most exciting adjustments for me has been my surprising leap from the classroom into the life of a Field Technician!
Embarrassingly enough, before this year, I had never gone out birding. I had been enjoying my increasing ability to identify raptor species, but never tried real bird watching. I didn't even have a pair of binoculars! So when COVID-19 hit and education programming was halted abruptly, I got a crash course on surveying, a pair of binoculars and was thrown into the best way of learning about our research--by doing it!
Now I have been given two nesting raptor survey routes in the bosque, added onto our Rio Grande Gorge survey crew, and just recently experienced my first songbird survey route in the JemezM ountains! It has been a privilege to learn from the experts at Hawks Aloft and incredibly humbling. I have learned so much in this short time and look forward to learning so much more.
No matter what the school year looks like next year, I am incredibly grateful for this field work. I will be able to confidently tell students about how we do field research. Our education programs will now include stories of what we see in the field, and new tips and tricks to spot them. I am glad to be using this time to become a better educator and to increase my knowledge of all areas of Hawks Aloft!
Photo of Maggie Stein by Gail Garber
The Hawks Aloft 2020 Raffle Quilt!
90" x 90"
Get your tickets now! $1 each or 6/$5.
We'll draw the wining ticket on December 5, 2020
Thank you to everyone who worked on this year's quilt!
Owls of New Mexico!
We are pleased to introduce our brand new T-shirt, featuring images of our Avian Ambassadors and nearly every single species of owl that might be found in our state. Designed by Scott Lowry, this unique T-shirt is the perfect gift for a loved one during the holidays. After all,
whoooo doesn't love owls?!
The shirt comes in both long and short sleeves. All shirts are $30 and can be ordered on our website or can be picked up at the office. Ladies sizes are available in short sleeves; all long-sleeved shirts are unisex, and we also have youth sizes in short sleeves.
Mews Cleaning in Spring 2020
by Amelia Thompson, Educator
Mews cleaning during the spring always presents a unique challenge, but with social distancing happening this year, we’ve had an added challenge. First, we have had to do all the mews cleaning without our amazing volunteers, who we miss dearly. Without our volunteers, it takes about twice the amount of time for just Maggie S. and I to clean the mews. We have found, however, that with less people around, the birds seem calmer and we can do a more thorough job. We plan on making some changes to the mews cleaning routine once social distancing rules are removed in order to give the birds and the volunteers more one-on-one time.
The other challenge that we face every spring is that it is breeding season for our birds. That means that many of the birds are behaving differently because of hormones; some of the birds are building nests and/or laying eggs; and a few of our birds are being foster parents to rescued chicks. This affects mews cleaning, because each week we have to check in and see how the birds are behaving before we can clean them. Sometimes we have to skip cleaning some mews altogether if a bird is sitting on eggs or has foster chicks, and sometimes we just have to be extra careful because the birds might be behaving differently than normal. Birds that are normally mellow during the rest of the year might become territorial in their mews, and birds that are already territorial in their mews become extra territorial. We just need to take extra precautions and skip a few cleanings here and there
Around the end of May, we had to do some mews shuffling to make space for some of our rescue birds. We have been unable to do a thorough cleaning of one of our mews because our cranky 32-year-old female Red-tailed Hawk, Jamaica, has been sitting on eggs for about a month now. With birds being shuffled around, we were finally able to get in there to do a good cleaning of that mews. Hopefully both breeding season and social distancing will be over soon so that things can start to get back to normal.
Jamaica, image by Gail Garber
Orioles Abound! by Maggie Grimason, Senior Editor
“Much might the traveller find to occupy his mind, and lead him into speculations regarding the past, the present, and the future, were he not attracted by the clear mellow notes, that issue from the woods, and gratified by the sight of the brilliant Oriole now before you,” John James Audubon wrote.
And so it has been on the long walks I've taken lately. It seems every few steps I am dazzled by a flash of orange. You see, I drove to northwest Indiana a few weeks ago to take care of several pressing family matters, so my walks have been accompanied primarily by the Baltimore Oriole.
In Albuquerque right now, our Spring guests consist of different varieties of these songbirds, including Bullock's and Scott's Oriole.
“Oriole” is an amalgamation of several Latin words that mean “golden,” a moniker that makes sense for this colorful group of songbirds. American orioles are classified as part of the blackbird family along with grackles and meadowlarks. In total, there are eight species of oriole found north of the U.S.-Mexico border. These include: Bullock's, Baltimore, Orchard, Hooded, Scott's, Altamira, Audubon, and Spot-breasted Orioles.
In New Mexico, we are graced with two species. How can you attract them to your yard?
Native trees like cottonwoods are attractive to orioles.
Naturally, water is a draw as well. Bonus points for moving water like a fountain or sprinkler!
Try out a nectar feeder; to every 1/3 cup of sugar, add two cups of boiled water. Cool, and fill your feeder.
Orange slices and grape jelly are also great foods for these migrants
Bird feeding is an easy and relaxed activity that is relatively easy to get started with—it's often as simple as knowing who you'd like to attract, doing some research, and offering a little bit of seed and water. Enjoy your oriole visitors!
Photo of Scott's Oriole by Tony Giancola
Hawks Aloft International Trips
and Local Trips
As always, we have your health and safety foremost in our minds when planning field trips and international tours. Until we learn more about the path of COVID-19 and infection risks, we are postponing all local and international tours as well as large group meetings. We are looking into resuming these outings in 2021 or later and will post notice of upcoming events in the
HAI Flier. Please stay tuned.
Meet "Taken" our newest Avian Ambassador. He was
in December 2019. Found standing in someone’s driveway in Albuquerque, we received a desperate call on the Raptor Rescue Hotline about a hawk that could not fly. They called back again to report that the hawk was laying down. We expected the worst, a bird in critical condition, likely near death. Upon arrival, our rescuers found a Swainson’s Hawk!
Why would we name a bird, “Taken”? Because he was taken from his parents as a nestling and raised by people. Can you imagine being TAKEN from your parents, or having your child TAKEN from you?
The entire world population of Swainson’s Hawks leaves North America each fall to migrate some 6,000 miles to the grasslands of Argentina in South America. You can imagine our surprise to find a VERY well fed juvenile hawk, but with absolutely no tail feathers and battered and frayed wing feathers. In fact, he was so chunky and round that before he was given his permanent name, his nick-name was Gordo! We believe that someone had kept him in a wire cage, and then decided to "release" him back to the wild. But, this young bird, although chubby, had terrible feather condition and could not fly at all. Further, as a species that never knows winter, he was not equipped for cold weather. He's now in the care of longtime handler, Liz Roberts, where she reports this chatty, human-imprint is quite comfortable.
Help support our non-releasable raptors through our Adopt-a-Raptor program. Hawks Aloft houses and cares for 28 permanently disabled raptors (and one corvid!). Our Avian Ambassadors travel throughout the Southwest, helping us to educate the public about how to help protect their species. We provide them with top-quality housing, food, and medical care for their entire lives. It costs an average of $2,500/mo. just for their food. When you adopt a raptor, you help feed our birds, make home improvements, and provide veterinary care for one Avian Ambassador of your choice. Prices range from $35-$100 depending on the species.
Photographed here by Larry Rimer. When you adopt a Hawks Aloft raptor you will receive:
- A one-year Hawks Aloft membership
- An Adoption Certificate
- An information sheet about the individual bird you have adopted
- Exclusive access to video updates about your bird
- Your choice of:
- A professional 8×10 photo of your bird, or
- A stuffed Audubon Bird with realistic vocalizations (if available for that species)
Support Hawks Aloft by Shopping at Smith's!
Many of you have long been Hawks Aloft supporters, and a good number of you have also been longtime Smith’s shoppers. For those not in the know, the grocery chain has a program that provides a small kick-back quarterly to nonprofits when their supporters link their shopper’s cards to the organization.
The company recently changed their policies regarding the program—so even if you’ve signed up in the past, you may need to do it again! The good news is that it is easy to do.
Either create an account or sign-in to an existing one
Once logged in, click on “Account Summary” on the left sidebar
From there, scroll down to “Inspiring Donations Program” and click “Enroll”
A searchable list will come up, you can either search for “Hawks Aloft” or enter our ID number for the program, GL430
Shop using your card and now that every time you do so, you help out Hawks Aloft!
We appreciate your ongoing support in this, and so many other capacities!
*Check out intakes and thank-you's after the Photographer's Gallery*
Photographers Monthly Gallery
Featuring: Kristin Brown
Kristin Brown is a full-time bird lover, an accomplished bird photographer, and a longtime cardiac operating room nurse. She is a valuable member of the Hawks Aloft family, having volunteered as a photography instructor at our annual Birds of Prey Photo Shoot and also as a raptor handler. She recently completed a Big Week of New Mexico Bird Photography with her husband Doug, during which she photographed 124 different species of birds in the central, eastern, and southern portions of our state, including 1 rarity (Hooded Warbler) and even 1 chicken.
You can see more of Kristin’s fabulous bird images at her
or her Instagram page: @kristinbrown1
- Yellow-billed Cuckoo
- Greater Roadrunner
- Painted Bunting
- Barn Swallow
- Scarlet Macaw
Thank You to our May Donors!
Dana & Marion Gebel
Margaret (Peggy) Roberts
Jeffrey & Karen Weisend
Our Veterinarians and Rehabilitators
Acequia Animal Hospital
Kariana Atkinson, DVM
Mary & Ed Chappelle
Desert Willow Wildlife
Eye Care for Animals
Christine Fiorello, DVM
Tim Fitzpatrick, DVM
High Desert Veterinary Care
Ray Hudgell, DVM
Gavin Kennard, DVM, DACVO
Daniel Levenson, DVM
Boni & Tom Martin
Mike Melloy, DVM
New Mexico Wildlife Center
Bob Peiffer, DVM, PhD
Petroglyph Animal Hospital
Santa Fe Raptor Center
Southwest Veterinary Medical Center
Samantha Uhrig, DVM
VCA West Side
Ventana Animal Clinic
Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico
May 2020 Call Log & Intakes
In May we received a total of 49 calls resulting in 12 intakes.
Great Horned Owl: Gunshot; wing and leg fractures
Cooper's Hawk: Wing injury; egg bound
Rock Dove: Orphaned
Great Horned Owl: DOA; emaciated
Great Horned Owl: Dog caught; multiple fractures
Great Horned Owl: Fledgling; birdnapped
American Kestrel: Fledgling; orphaned, thin
Red-tailed Hawk (3): Nestlings; orphaned, one had multiple fractures, 2 have Metabolic Bone Disease
Common Raven: Gunshot
Barn Owl: Electrocuted
Sharp Shinned Hawk: Caught in crate; shoulder girdle fracture
Barn Owl: Fledgling; on the ground in high traffic area
Raptor Rescue Team
And Thank You to Our Corporate Donors:
Albuquerque Community Foundation
Amazon Smile Foundation
Central New Mexico Audubon Society
Farmers Electric Cooperative
Four Corners Bird Club
Gathering of Nations
PayPal Giving Fund
PNM Resources Foundation
Peabody Natural Resources Company
The Verdes Foundation
Wild Birds Unlimited
Womack Wealth Management
6715 Eagle Rock Ave NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113
Who We Are
Lead Avian Biologist
Brian Dykstra, Biologist
Project Manager, Taos Gorge Raptor Study
Jerry Hobart, Project Manager, Raptor Driving Surveys
, East Mountain Representative
, Raptor Rescue Dispatcher
Raptor Rescue Coordinator
Larry Rimer, Project Manager,
El Segundo Raptor Study
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Brent Thompson, Biologist
Our Board of Directors
Christine Fiorello, DVM,
Patti Rosin, Director