Raptor Use of the Rio Grande and Estancia Valleys: An All-Volunteer Study
The agricultural lands of the Rio Grande and Estancia Valleys support high concentrations of raptors during the nesting and wintering periods. The Estancia Valley has been identified by the National Aududon Society as an Important Bird Area due to its high number of nesting Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks and wintering raptor populations of several species. Likewise, the Rio Grande Valley hosts high numbers of raptors, particularly during the winter months, when numerous buteos, harriers, falcons, and eagles reside here.
In 1994, we established several driving survey routes on secondary roads and levees. The route length varies somewhat, according to access, but is between 18-20 miles. Each route is surveyed once a month during the winter period of December, January, and February, and during the summer period of June, July, and August. Highly skilled and trained volunteers conduct all surveys using point count methodology.
Virtually every species of diurnal raptor known to occur in New Mexico has been detected over the course of this ten-year, ongoing study, making for some very exciting field days. The data enable us to monitor general population trends in these two important areas, as well as trends for individual species.
Managed by Gerald Hobart, a volunteer, this project provides an excellent opportunity for individuals that would like the opportunity to view some of the less frequently observed raptors of New Mexico such as Prairie and Peregrine Falcons, Merlin, Rough-legged Hawk, and possibly even a Zone-tailed or Common Black Hawk. Please contact Gail Garber to learn more about how you can become involved in this citizen science project.