Manzano Mountains Raptor Migration Project
HWI and the Cibola National Forest are working to learn more about raptors and their migration through this central New Mexico range. HWI began standardized, annual migration counts in the Manzano Mountains in 1985, followed by a banding project in 1990. Annual counts typically range between 5,000 and 7,000 migrants of up to 18 species. The project runs from 15 August through 5 November each year.
The Manzano count monitors long-term trends in populations of raptors using the southern Rocky Mountain Flyway. In 2009, HWI conducted or co-sponsored 10 long-term standardized migration counts in seven states and Veracruz, Mexico. The information gathered in these studies enables us to better understand the life histories, ecology, status, and conservation needs of raptor populations in North America. Because raptors are top-level predators, occupy large home ranges, inhabit most ecosystems, and are sensitive to environmental contamination and other human disturbances, they serve as important biological indicators of ecosystem health. Moreover, due to the remoteness and widespread distribution of most raptor populations, migration counts likely represent the most cost-effective and efficient method for monitoring the regional status and trends of multiple raptor species.
HWI's banding operations provide additional valuable information about migratory routes, breeding and wintering distribution, and the variations and health of individual raptors. HWI has banded more than 18,000 raptors at this site since 1990. In 1999, HWI began tracking raptors banded in the Manzanos using satellite telemetry to learn even more about the breeding and wintering distributions and migratory habits of selected species. To view complete tracking summaries and maps follow the Satellite Tracking link to the left of this page. Other recent additions to the Manzano program include a collaborative effort with Dr. Mike Hooper and graduate student Toby McBride to document lead contamination in Cooper's Hawks using the flyway. In addition, between 1999 and 2003, HWI affiliate John DeLong conducted a banding study of Flammulated Owls at the project site, and banded more Flammulated Owls at a single site than anyone has ever done before. John's work generated significant new insight about the migratory habits and morphology of this poorly known species. To view a copies of technical reports and publications resulting fronm John's work, follow the Publications & Reports link to the left of this page. In 2005, the project also helped support another graduate student study. Diego Sustaita from the University of Connecticut visited for several days to take advantage of our trapping operation to collect data on the bite and grip force of raptors.
In addition to gathering important scientific data, the Manzano project provides opportunities for the public to learn about the ecology and conservation needs of raptors through on-site environmental education and interpretation conducted by full-time volunteer educators. Visitors are always welcome at the site. This educational effort is the key to long-term success in securing public understanding and action on behalf of raptors and the ecosystems upon which we all rely.