Sugar House nonprofit HawkWatch International celebrates 35th anniversaryJan 03, 2022 16h12 ● By Anagha Rao
HawkWatch brings live raptors to local schools as part of their educational awareness program. (Photo courtesy HawkWatch)
HawkWatch International, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Sugar House, is celebrating 35 years in business and continues to work toward conserving the environment by rescuing raptors, conducting scientific research, and educating the public about the importance of raptors.
HawkWatch conducted a five-week virtual celebration for their 35th-year anniversary. Each week included two seminar-style presentations about bird-related issues. That culminated with a virtual fundraising gala and a silent auction.
HawkWatch started when Steve Hoffman traveled to Utah to further his education, and when he discovered his passion for birds, he started HawkWatch International to help birds in his community.
One popular program HawkWatch International does to raise awareness about raptors is by taking ambassador birds to visit local middle and high schools in the Salt Lake area and allow students to interact with the animals. They have visited over 40,000 people and educated them about birds and the issues they face. In addition, HawkWatch receives ZAP funding, which allow them to conduct free community programs
“Having the opportunity to get up close and personal with a bird of prey gives you a greater appreciation for birds and nature. We hope to give that experience to as many people as possible,” said Nikki Wayment, the executive director of HawkWatch International.
One of HWI’s signature programs is the migration monitoring network. Volunteer teams that consist of biologists and wildlife professionals spend two to three months scanning the sky and counting migrating raptors.
“The special thing about HWI is that we have migration sites that range throughout the western United States from California to Texas, and this gives us a much larger picture of what’s going on with larger populations,” said Dave Oleyar, the director of Long-term Monitoring and Community Science at HawkWatch International.
HWI also impacts the golden eagle population in Utah through their conservation efforts. One way they help is by putting out satellite transmitters on young golden eagles who haven’t left the nest yet to monitor their movement and survivability. This helps researchers conduct studies to learn about some of the issues faced by the eagle population and work to resolve these issues.
“If you see golden eagles or bald eagle populations going down, it may be because contaminants in the environment may be causing the prey population to decrease. These contaminants in the environment directly affect people and their well-being,” Oyelar said.
After conducting these studies HWI discovered that many birds are being struck by moving cars as they are feasting on roadkill. They have studied this threat for five years by measuring how many animals are killed on the road and placing cameras on carcasses to document the presence of eagles and other scavengers.
To support HawkWatch International, patrons can either donate money or volunteer. There are opportunities for volunteers to get involved with the various conservation and education projects HawkWatch does. To donate, visit hawkwatch.org/support/donation.