The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa Raptor Project coordinator talks preservation, education and creating a climate for change

The Daily Iowan; Photos by James
Iowa Raptor Project Coordinator, Shawn Hawks, poses for a portrait while answering questions shortly after lecture at the Old Capitol Building on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The lecture was put on by the Solon based Iowa Raptor Project and focused on conservation issues regarding Iowa’s raptor population. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

Knowledge took wing on Sunday afternoon as the Old Capitol hosted Shawn Hawks, the coordinator of the Iowa Raptor Project, for a presentation about preservation efforts for birds of prey.

Joining Hawks were Serrelle, a female American kestrel, and Kanati, a female peregrine falcon.

While the feathered predators stole the show, Hawks noted neither could survive in the wild. Serrelle had imprinted on humans as a chick and was dependent on them, and Kanati’s wing had been badly wounded in a territorial battle with another peregrine, ensuring she’d never fly again.

During his speech, Hawks discussed about ways people could help prevent these birds from going extinct, including removing litter from nature and building nesting boxes for the raptors.

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He said banning the insecticide DDT, which had been a large threat to birds of prey, plus the Endangered Species Act of 1973 were the reason species such as the peregrine falcon are more plentiful today.

He noted that some more local conservation efforts that his and other organizations had achieved, such as the population expansions of the bald eagle and barn owl to areas throughout the state.

After displaying the raptors, Hawks took questions from the audience and explained various ways to differentiate similar-looking species of birds of prey.

The Raptor Project was founded in 1985 as the “University of Iowa Raptor Rehabilitation Center” by a UI graduate student. Since then, the organization has moved away from general rehabilitation to focus more on the educational aspect of raptor conservation.

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The project is a joint initiative by Kirkwood Community College and the UI, located in the Macbride Nature Recreation Area. It currently houses 14 raptors, though it has enough space to take care of around 36.

“We have a few more cages that we could fill, but I’d hate to say that’s a maximum,” Hawks said.

Hawks started working with the project as a volunteer in the 1990s and was named the coordinator in 2015.

When this project came up, I was working as a research biologist for Hawk Watch International in Salt Lake City, but when I heard about this, it was an opportunity to get back to Iowa, where my family’s from, and here I am,” he said.

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UI junior Sydney McMurry, who works as a museum education assistant, introduced Hawks to the audience.

“I’d heard about the Raptor Project, so I emailed one of the people who worked there and asked if they were able to do any sort of program here, and they were very willing,” McMurry said.

This is not the only presentation based on the UI semester theme of “Climate for Change” that the Old Capitol will host. Kathrine Moermond, the education and outreach coordinator for the museum, said other speakers will include artist Judy Bales and nature photographer Ty Smedes.

“We want to stay local, and we welcome the community to come check us out,” Moermond said.

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