HWI and its organizational precursors have been studying the fall raptor migration in the Goshute Mountains of northeastern Nevada since 1980 when HWI founder Steve Hoffman and colleagues first began banding at the site. Standardized counts were begun in 1983 and have continued each year since. This is one of the longest running standardized migration-monitoring efforts in the West. This project runs from 15 August through 5 November each year. Annual counts typically range between 10,000-25,000 migrants of up to 18 species, making this one of the largest concentrations in the western U.S. and Canada.
The Goshute count monitors long-term trends in populations of raptors using the Intermountain Flyway. In 2009, HWI conducted or co-sponsored 10 long-term standardized migration counts in 7 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. More than 55,000 raptors have been banded at this site since 1980. In 1999, HWI also began tracking raptors banded in the Goshutes using satellite telemetry to learn even more about the breeding and wintering distributions and migratory habits of selected species.
HWI also initiated a migration-banding study of Flammulated Owls in the Goshutes in 2003, which continued each year through 2008 and resulted in the capture of more than 250 Flammulated Owls, as well as hundreds of Northern Saw-Whet Owls.