Hawks Aloft Inc.
PO Box 10028
Albuquerque, NM 87184
Phone: 505 828-9455
Fax: 505 828-9769
E-Mail: gail@hawksaloft.org

Logo: Hawks Aloft Inc.

Hawks Aloft Blog

Blog Topic: Education birds

Our New Elf in Residence

Image by Larry Rimer

Just a few weeks we ago a new Avian Ambassador was permitted to us, trusted to our care and attention for the remainder of his life—the perfect holiday gift for all of us at Hawks Aloft.

This isn’t just any bird, it is in fact an Elf Owl, the smallest species of owl in the world, although it tends to stay further south, in the western region of North America on either side of the Mexican border. This petite, no-bigger-than-a-sparrow bird is quite scarce throughout most of New Mexico, so you can imagine our surprise at bringing this new friend into the Hawks Aloft fold.

This owl—yet to be named, more on that soon—was found in Tularosa, New Mexico, a village slightly to the north of Alamogordo in the southern half of the state. At any time of year, this is an unlikely spot for an Elf Owl to stake out—at the very, very northernmost tip of its range, and by some accounts, not within normal range for the species – period!  He was found with an injury and immediately transported to Alameda Park Zoo, where he was treated for a severe fracture to his left wing and for contusions throughout its whole structure.

Image by Larry Rimer

When the owl stabilized, he was transferred to us, where our own Lisa Morgan continued treatment along with Southwest Veterinary Medical Center’s Dr. Daniel Levenson. After many hours of treatment attempting to restore the bird’s flight, it become clear that full flight capabilities would sadly never be returned to him.

This species is not just adorable, they are threatened throughout much of their range, and are federally listed as endangered in California. Thus, it’s all the more of an honor, then, to have this particular owl in our care, so that he might share his story far and wide and bring awareness to the plight of his species.

Image by Larry Rimer

All of Hawks Aloft’s Avian Ambassadors have names that are educational—they say something about each bird’s species, or their particular story. For example, Malary, one of our Prairie Falcons, was named this because of her lovely falcon malar stripes. Her pal, and our other Prairie Falcon in residence, Sunny, got this name because it says something about the kind of habitat the species favors.

This month we are holding a contest to see who can name our newest Avian Ambassador. Got an idea? Email your best suggestions to Gail at gail[at]hawksaloft.org before December 31. In our January newsletter, the HAI Flier we’ll share a list of our top picks and will rely on you to cast a vote. (Not subscribed to the Flier? Sign up here!) We look forward to hearing your ideas, and in the coming months, stay attuned to upcoming Hawks Aloft events for your chance to meet our very own Elf in residence!

Image by Larry Rimer

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Introducing Aztec

Photograph of Aztec by David Powell

Photograph of Aztec by David Powell

Although we’re not certain what happened to her, Aztec, the Great Horned Owl was brought to Hawks Aloft with some permanent injuries most likely caused by a collision with a car. She earned her name because she came to us from Aztec, New Mexico, in the Four Corners region, a small city near the Animas River, bordered by the ancient ruins at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Photograph of Aztec by Keith Bauer

Photograph of Aztec by Keith Bauer

Aztec is a striking bird. One of the largest tufted owls in North America, Great Horned Owls like Aztec always attract attention. Aztec has fostered orphaned Great Horned Owlets in the past, and also has also provided Hawks Aloft educators with an opportunity to talk about raptor adaptations, owls in general, and the unique features of Great Horned Owls in particular.

Great Horned Owls are one of the most common owls in the United States. They are highly adaptable and make their homes in diverse landscapes—deserts, wetlands, grasslands, and urban environments—anywhere that there is some forested areas with semi-open spaces interspersed throughout.

Aztec at Bosque del Apache

Aztec at Bosque del Apache. Image by David Powell.

This common and easily identifiable species of owl is noted for its long, earlike tufts, the white patch on its throat, its heavily barred underbelly, and distinctive hoot. Below you can listen to the typical call of a Great Horned Owl.

The tone of the Great Horned Owl’s various calls can vary by region, but the deep series of 4-5 hoots is never so different that it can’t be readily identified. However, males and females are known to perform a call-and-response duet, wherein the sex of the birds are distinguished by their variation.

Great Horned Owls, like all raptors, are carnivores. Built for secrecy and stealth, these birds can take down birds and mammals that are larger than themselves. They’re not picky eaters and have one of the most diverse diets of raptors in the United States. They’ll feed on small mammals and rodents, as well as scorpions, snakes, loons, ravens, doves, insects, fish, other invertebrate and even cats and carrion—whatever is readily available. They are one of the only birds known to prey on skunks—they have a weak sense of smell—and the Executive Director of Hawks Aloft has even observed a Great Horned Owl that managed to snag a Red-tailed Hawk. It’s Great Horned Owl’s incredible adaptability that has made them one of the most successful predators in North America. Typically, these owls spot their prey from a perch and descend for the kill. Yet, illustrating their versatility, Great Horned Owls have even been observed stalking prey on the ground too.

A wild Great Horned Owl and owlets captured by Larry Rimer

A wild Great Horned Owl and owlets.  Image by Larry Rimer

Owls like Aztec are sometimes migratory, although most populations show fidelity to a single site year-round, where they remain in their monogamous pair—though outside of breeding season, the male and female often roost separately.

If you’ve fallen in love with Great Horned Owls and Aztec, consider supporting her as she lives out her remaining years with Hawks Aloft. Aztec’s injuries make her permanently non-releasable, so she requires care from our staff. If you’d like to support her by providing food, housing, and veterinary care check out our Adopt-A-Raptor Program.

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Maggie Grimason is a writer and educator at Hawks Aloft

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Why is the Crow Black? And Other Interesting Thoughts on the North American Crow

Last week during a school program at La Mesa Elementary School, we presented our Avian Ambassador, Indigo, a North American Crow. After discussing her history and talking about raptor adaptations and how a bird like Indigo differs from hawks, falcons, owls, and eagles, I asked the students if they had any questions.

Avian Ambassador Indigo, enjoying some sunshine

Avian Ambassador Indigo, enjoying some sunshine

A third-grader in the back of the room hoisted his hand up immediately and asked pointedly, “Why are crows black?” It is such a straightforward question, but one with a complex answer.

The answer is: no one really knows why species of corvid like the North American Crow or the Common Raven are black in coloration. The best guess that evolutionary biologists can give us is that flocking birds like crows use coloration as a quick way to identify other members of the same species.

A North American food scavenging tortillas behind Bueno Foods

A North American Crow scavenging tortillas behind Bueno Foods

In one story from the Sioux Nation, the crow was once white as snow. After continually thwarting the hunting efforts of the tribe’s cleverest hunters, they caught the biggest, most important of the crows and, as a punishment, intended to burn him. The crow was very sly, however, and got away, but his feathers were charred, and ever since, all crows have been black. In Lenape legend, the crow was once rainbow colored—the earth’s most beautifully feathered bird. During a long, very cold winter, the Rainbow Crow flew to the heavens to ask the Great Sky Spirit for help. He gave the crow fire to take back to the animals of the land. When Rainbow Crow returned to earth, however, he was a different bird; on the return journey the flame had scorched his feathers black and made his beautiful voice a harsh croak.

Regardless of why or how, crows and ravens are black from their bills to their legs. As extremely social birds, crows sometimes form flocks up to one million in number. Just imagine what that might look like overhead!

Indigo, photograph by Doug Brown

Indigo, photograph by Doug Brown

Besides being one of the few completely black North American birds, crows are also exceptional due to their advanced cognitive abilities. Scientists working throughout the world have proven the crow’s ability to recognize human faces—which is, incidentally, an extension of their keen ability to recognize one another. Crows are also known to have complex communication systems that include regional “dialects” and a long-reaching memory—for example, crows have been known to change their entire migration routes to avoid farms where a single crow has been killed in the past.

Since crows are well adapted to living among human beings, you’re likely to encounter them nearly anywhere—Downtown, Uptown, the foothills, near the Bosque, and beyond. Next time you observe one of these dark birds flying overhead, take a moment to appreciate their unique characteristics and intelligence.


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Maggie Grimason is a writer and educator at Hawks Aloft

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Through the Eyes of an Intern, No. 5: Rescues

Lisa in the office, holding the Great Horned Owl we rescued

Lisa in the office, holding the Great Horned Owl we rescued

I finally had the chance to go on my first few rescues. Most recentl of which was a Western Kingbird, which is now recovering from its twisted knee joint; a Cooper’s Hawk with severe head trauma; and a Great Horned Owl, camping out on a family’s fence because of a broken left wrist. He was beautiful and impressive even in his crippled state. I don’t think I’ll ever forget casually glancing at the box into which Lisa, our rescue coordinator, had just wrestled him, and suddenly seeing nothing but one luminous, sunflower-yellow eye neatly filling one of the air holes in the box. No wonder great-horns are so often seen as symbols of power and strength; I wouldn’t even dare call the chicks “cute,” they’re too intimidating! We are unsure of his prognosis, but I’ll keep you updated for sure.

A better story is that of my first rescue, several weeks ago now:

It had been a long day. I’d been up since five a.m. to go on a Willow Flycatcher survey with our director, Gail, in the bosque just north of Alameda. That in itself was fantastic, as we saw everything from a flock of Eastern Bluebirds and Black Phoebes (which are probably my favorite just because they’re so adorable) to a Snowy Egret, two types of woodpeckers, and an Indigo Bunting. But it was nearing two p.m. and the afternoon sleepies were hitting me pretty hard—until Lisa, who sits at the desk behind me, turned around and said, “HEY. You wanna come with me on a rescue?”

Well, that woke me up. How could I say no? The one part of Hawks Aloft that I had not yet experienced was rescues, aside from the occasional raptors Lisa would bring in like just another briefcase and keep in the office while she finished up her computer work. (I kid! She treats all the birds with a healthy dose of respect and love, and if I were an injured bird, I’d certainly want her to be the one taking care of me!) We hopped in her car and headed for a vague address in Moriarty. An hour and a half later, I felt nothing but gratitude for the inventor of GPS and a burning curiosity as to what a rescue actually involved. Running around after a panicked bird? Bandaging wings and consoling stricken house owners?

A Prairie Falcon coming in for a landing on a cottonwood tree. Photo by Doug Brown

A Prairie Falcon coming in for a landing on a cottonwood tree. Photo by Doug Brown

Pulling into a beautifully landscaped yard, I was surprised to see the husband actually sitting on the lawn less than a foot away from the bird, which he had been able to approach and take in from his field. Pro-tip: you don’t want your face that close to talons that sharp, much less to pet it just inches away from an equally sharp beak. But I digress. Lisa identified it as a juvenile, probably female, Prairie Falcon, and quickly got to work, first picking up the falcon and looking at its head, then examining its wings for fractures. Here’s where it got interesting for me, since the falcon was clearly well enough to start biting Lisa’s fingers midway through the wing exam: I got to hold the patient! This involved two fingers of one hand around its neck and three of the other around and between its legs, securing its main defenses. After finishing with the wings, which seemed to be in fine condition, she force-fed it a liquid containing amino acids and various other nutrients, wrapped it in a towel, and set it inside the cardboard pet carrier she’d brought with her.

And that was that. Pretty standard procedure, from what I’ve watched of other rescues Lisa has performed; a quick physical and some hydration, then off to a caretaker’s house or a vet’s, depending on the severity of its injuries. A couple days later, she reported that the Prairie Falcon would be unreleasable due to near blindness in one eye. We’re hoping that it can become an Educational Ambassador. Fingers crossed that the permit comes through soon!

I really enjoy going out on rescues, the feeling that I’m doing something to improve a bird’s life, even if that improvement is euthanasia. Loss is a very real aspect of rescue work, and I think it’s probably a good topic for me to learn about in this small and humane way. Buddhism preaches non-attachment and acceptance of life’s innate mutability, but I’m pretty sure anyone could learn that much more personally from just one day’s experience as a rescuer.

A Swainson’s Hawk being harassed by a Western Kingbird. Photo by Doug Brown

A Swainson’s Hawk being harassed by a Western Kingbird. Photo by Doug Brown

To end on a happier note, though, I saw two raptors on our drive to and from picking up the Prairie Falcon. I later identified them (all by myself! go me!) as light-morph Swainson’s Hawks, the first time I’ve seen them as far as I know. Anytime I feel stuck—in my work, relationships, day-to-day life—I think about these beautiful raptors, who soar through the sky and make even the mundane necessity that is hunting a majestic occasion. I’m learning that if I keep my mind as open as their prairie habitats, anything can be awe-inspiring in its own small way.

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Through the Eyes of an Intern, No. 1: Introductions!

Hello! My name is Mirinisa Stewart-Tengco (please call me Miri) and, in case you haven’t read the latest HAI Flier, I am the intern for this summer. I am very excited to be able to experience all the different facets of this wonderful organization.

For the first week I mostly worked with the educators, which was a good introduction as that was the side of HAI I was most familiar with. I learned how to conduct a basic single-visit school program, including learning some of the educational games—they’re a lot of fun, by the way, and I think that a lot of adults would benefit from playing these same games. (Seriously. There was one game about the effects of farmers putting pesticides on their crops, and it made me realize some of the very concrete and far-reaching outputs of even slight inputs to a system. Highly recommended for anyone who believes that their small actions have no effects on the wider environment.)

Photo of Aztec and Bubba by Mirinisa Stewart-Tengco, photos of Aires and Commodore by unkown

L-R: Aires (Swainson’s Hawk), Aztec and Bubba (Great Horned Owls), and Commodore (another Swainson’s), who all introduced me to my first day of work.

I also had the opportunity to visit a lot of the education birds…and clean their cages, of course! I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to quite get used to taking rat and quail remains off of their mats, but if it gives me the chance to hold birds like the adorable Shadow (a Western Screech Owl, pictured below), then hey, it’s worth it.

Miri and Shadow with Saya (our previous Education and Outreach Coordinator) in the background. Photo by Julia Davis

Shadow says: “Wow, you’ve been holding me for five minutes and I can already tell you’re new here.”

My own education has also included various falconry terms, including:

  • mews: an outdoor flight cage for a bird
  • jesses: the leather strips that attach to the bird’s legs, held by the handler and used to control the bird’s talons as those are its main weapons
  • swivel: the double metal ring that attaches the jesses to the leash and, through the leash, to the handler’s glove

As you can see, we take multiple precautions to make sure our birds stay safely under our control—safer for the birds, of course, but also safer for the spectators nearby. One of the scariest moments for me so far was during cage cleaning, when we had to grab the water dish from the red-tails’ mews; they are already some of the most aggressive birds that we have and, as they were nesting, it was unsafe for us even to attempt to clean the rest of their enclosure. Luckily, most of our raptors are friendlier!

Photograph by Mirinisa Stewart-Tengco

Handlers’ gloves for the birds kept at Gail’s house.

In the second week I had my first taste of field work, a morning of nest checks in the Bosque. I’ll talk about that in my next blog, by which time I will have gone out another time or two and will be able to give you a better insight to field work in general. I also will be assisting with my first educational program this Thursday. I have little experience in education, so stay tuned to see how this goes! Though, seeing as that cutie Shadow is one of the birds we’re bringing along, I’m sure the program will go well.

Until next time,



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Falcon Facts

One of our annual fundraisers is a photo shoot and lecture of some of our educational ambassadors and the wild cousins they represent.  We thank Doug Brown, Keith Bauer and Greg Basco for organizing this as a part of one of their multi-day photography workshops.  You might also note that many of the images that you see on our website and Facebook pages, are donated to us by these superb photographers.  This year, we thought it would be fun to take all four species of falcon that might be found in this region at some time of the year to the class.

Male American Kestrel.  Image by Keith Bauer.

Male American Kestrel. Image by David Powell.

The American Kestrel, represented here by our avian  ambassador, Clark Kent, is the smallest falcon in North America.  In New Mexico, it is present year-round.  One of the fascinating facts about this particular species is that males and females have markedly different plumage.  Clark Kent was named by one of our youngest volunteers, Lindsey Porter.  When given the task, she was told the name must be educational.  “Clark Kent” was named as the alter ego of Superman because Lindsey learned to tell the difference in the sexes when told that “each morning when the boys get up they don their blue Superman cape”, just like the action figure. Females are brown and black barred throughout, except for a circle of blue-gray on their heads.

Meet our newest Educational Ambassador, Merlie, a female Merlin.  Image by Keith Bauer.

Meet our newest Educational Ambassador, Merlie, a female Merlin. Image by Keith Bauer.

Merlins are somewhat larger and definitely heftier than the diminutive kestrels.  In New Mexico, they are present only during the winter months.  They nest in the boreal forest of the northern U.S. and Canada.  “Merlie Falconbird” was named by Will Fetz, six-year-old son of Trevor Fetz, our lead avian biologist.  Will was adamant that Merlie have both a first and last name.  At first glance, Merlins look like a weird female kestrel with the vertically streaked breast and pale malar stripes.  But upon closer inspection, Merlins have banded tails and are stockier than kestrels.  They also have different plumages between males and females but the differences are less obvious. You can tell that Merlie is a juvenile by the bluish membranes around her eyes and nares.

Sunny, the Prairie Falcon.  Image by Keith Bauer.

Sunny, the Prairie Falcon. Image by Keith Bauer.

Prairie Falcons are the large falcon of the arid West.  They are found in drier habitats than their similar sized cousin the Peregrine Falcon, nesting on rock faces and preying primarily on other birds captured after a low coursing flight over uneven terrain.  The Prairie Falcon is brown on the back and whitish and brown on the breast.  “Sunny” was named by Gena Esposito, our education and outreach coordinator in 2013, when he was admitted with his wingtip shorn away.  He was found on a trail by hikers, far from any roads, so we have no idea how he was injured.  He was named Sunny after Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, for his plucky, survival instincts and the dark malar stripe that reminded her of the moustache of the Sundance Kid.  In this image, you can see that Sunny is undergoing a molt.  The darker feathers are the new ones that are growing in, while the pale feathers are the worn ones that are being replaced.

Isis, the Peregrine Falcon.  Image by Keith Bauer.

Isis, the Peregrine Falcon. Image by Keith Bauer.

Isis represents the goddess of the same name, the most powerful of all.  The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon in this area, eclipsed only by the Gyrfalcon of the Arctic Regions.  In New Mexico, peregrines nest on tall cliffs, usually near water.  They have been documented by National Geographic diving on prey at speeds of up to 248 MPH.    This makes them the fastest flying birds in the world, in a stoop.   Their prey is generally other birds that they capture in the air.  Isis is an adult peregrine, evidenced by her full black hood.  All falcons have dark eyes.



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Bioaccumulation: A Lesson from the Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon. Image by David Powell.

Bioaccumulation is the process in which the toxins in the environment are collected little by little by the organisms at the bottom of the food chain (i.e. plants, plant eating animals). As the toxin accumulates in the bodies of larger predators, it can reach lethal dosages within individuals. The top predators, those that never directly ingested the toxins, are affected by the indirect consumption of poisoned prey.

The story of DDT is popular with this theme in our elementary school programs.  Our educational Peregrine Falcon is often used for this lesson. Most students have never heard of DDT or about the endangerment of Peregrine Falcons,  Bald Eagles, and the Osprey (or fish hawk).  To demonstrate the bioaccumulation topic to today’s children, we play the bioaccumulation game.

This game is played in multiple stages. It starts with a rectangular area to represent a farm field (about 15 by 10 feet), and a student designated as a farmer. The farmer is responsible for spreading the nutrients needed to grow his crops; the nutrients are represented by poker chips of varying colors (about 50 chips). The rest of the students are asked, “What are the nutrients needed by plants (e.g. water, sunlight, fertilizer)?”

Then, about half of the students are given small plastic cups to represent their stomachs. These students are the ‘grasshoppers’ that eat the farmer’s plants, and nutrients for the plants. The farmer steps aside, and the grasshoppers

Peregrine Falcon with chicks.  Image courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Peregrine Falcon with chicks. Image courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

pick up, or “eat”, the poker chip nutrients.  When all of the poker chips are collected, the grasshoppers step outside the farm field and count how many red colored chips they have acquired. Students have to remember their number, and the grasshoppers return to the inside of the field. A smaller group of students are given larger cups, to represent their ‘sparrow stomach’.  The grasshoppers are then preyed upon by the sparrows. The grasshoppers hop around to avoid being tagged by the walking sparrows. Once tagged, the grasshoppers empty the contents of their stomach into the sparrow’s stomach, and hop outside the field. Once all of the grasshoppers are eaten, the sparrows count how many red chips they have in their stomachs. The sparrow students step back into the field, and 2-3 students, representing the falcons, are given the largest cups. The falcons can run around the field, while the sparrows can only walk, trying to avoid getting eaten.  When all of the sparrows have been eaten, the falcons count how many red chips they accumulated in their stomachs.

At this time, we all gather to discuss what was really going on. The farmer is called back up, and is asked what he/she planted in the field. Do you want the grasshoppers to eat all your crops?  What do you do to keep them away? The students easily answer, “Use poison!” At this point, I share with the students that the red poker chip they collected was the poison.  If they had more than 10 chips, then they were poisoned and died. And, all of the falcons should have collected more than 10 red chips!

We then talk about how many animals survived with a little poison, but that all of the falcons died with lots of poison. I ask students if they think this really could have happened, and they all agree that it probably did.  From there, we ask students what they think we could do to stop grasshoppers from eating crops and what could be done to help falcons. The students come up with all types of answers, from more sparrows that eat the grasshoppers, to catching all the grasshoppers and feeding it to our kestrels.  

BAEA Juvie taking off - 10-13

Bald Eagles are now protected from DDT, but lead poisoning through fishing sinkers and lead bullets is an on going bioaccumulation threat. Image by Doug Brown



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Hawks Aloft Volunteers to the Rescue

Davedda Thomas and her Precious Cargo

Davedda Thomas and her Precious Cargo

One thing’s for sure at the Hawks Aloft office — Life is never dull!  Thanks to our Raptor Rescue Team, we never know what will come our way.  This week, Davedda and Tony Thomas volunteered to drive to Vaughn, New Mexico to transport birds to Albuquerque.  The birds were coming up from Desert Willow Animal Clinic where Dr. Samantha Rayroux takes in injured birds in that part of the state.  We put the call for help out on e-mail, and Davedda called right back!  It’s a 2+ hour drive one way to get to Vaughn, plus the return! So, it was mid-afternoon when they showed up with their precious load of cargo.

Two of the boxes held one bird each: a Great Horned Owl and a Merlin (a small falcon).  Lori Paras from the Santa Fe Raptor Center was on hand to take them the remainder of their journey to her facility, the Santa Fe Raptor Center for care.  That left one box, destined for Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico, a local wildlife rehabilitation organization, containing an educational Chihuahuan Raven also known as the white-necked raven.  Look carefully at the boxes – one of them is not like the others.

Peeking Out

Peeking Out

Seems the young lady had been pounding away on the five hour journey up from Carlsbad and had worn a small hole in the box top.  With a little extra lift,

Help Let me out of here!

Help Let me out of here!

she got her first look at us.  The female raven was illegally held by a family in the Carlsbad area, where she lived in their house with free reign, and liked to eat pizza.  An obvious imprint, this was not a good start for a bird that should have been wild.  She will become the newest member of the Wildlife Rescue educational ambassadors.  Lisa Morgan, our Raptor Rescue Coordinator and I had offered to put her equipment on, the bracelets and leather straps that all education birds wear.  So, we opened the box a little wider and


Ebony, so named by the Desert Willow Staff

she made herself right at home in the office.  We enjoyed her company for a couple of hours and what a treat it was!  It was hard to hand this charmer of a bird over to her new caretaker, Jim Battaglia.  We hope to keep visiting rights.

Ebony from Carlsbad

Ebony, from Carlsbad

Although she might be physically perfect, imprinting is irreversible as the animal does not recognize its own species, and thinks that it is like those that raised it.





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The HAI Flier – Our Monthly Online Newsletter

Sandhill Crane in Flight.  Image by Doug Brown.

Sandhill Crane in Flight. Image by Doug Brown.

Sandhill Cranes will be returning to the Middle Rio Grande Valley any day now.  Did you know that the Rio Grande and the adjacent bosque have become de facto refugia for these magnificent birds because no hunting is allowed within the urban areas.   Read about this issue and more in the October issue of the HAI Flier.   It is your way to keep in touch with all of the studies and education programs of Hawks Aloft, and membership activities too.

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Super Mom!

Our educational Swainson’s Hawk, Hudder is the world’s best foster mother! Every year she builds a nest and lays two infertile eggs.  And she sits patiently on them until Gail removes them about 2 months later, just KNOWING that chicks will come.  Once the eggs are gone, she wails because there are no babies.  But, some years she gets to be a foster mother, and she is the best mom ever!

This year, she fostered three Swainson’s Hawks chicks. All three came to Hawks Aloft from The Santa Fe Raptor Center.  They were found in southern New Mexico.  All were orphans, probably victims of the drought.  Nest failure has been high this year and it’s believed to be because of the drought. Prey numbers of all types are down, including grasshoppers and small mammals favored by Swainson’s Hawks.

Hud feeding chick  7-10-13

Hudder started to care for chick #1 from almost the first minute that he was placed in her flight cage.  She fed him 5 mice for his first meal.  He was hungry! She was hyper vigilant in watching over his safety and making sure he ate well.

Hud and Chick 1

Chicks # 2 and 3 came to Hudder later in July. She was just as good a foster mother with them. Chick #2 had a problem with a cloudy eye, so his human foster parents watched him closely too. Chick #3 was able to self feed from the beginning, swallowing mice whole, but Hudder tried to help feed him anyway.

Hud and Family

All three chicks became part of the family group. Now that the chicks are older, they are back in Santa Fe attending mouse school. They seem to be doing very well, even chick #2 is learning to hunt for himself. We hope they will be released this fall in southern New Mexico.

Hudder was rescued herself in 1989, making her 24 years old, our oldest educational ambassador.   We don’t know much about what happened to her before she arrived here.  Likely, she may have been hit by a car.  Her left pupil is fixed and her right wing is damaged.  But that doesn’t stop her from being a Super Mom and a great educational bird too.

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