Raptors released at Gardnerville school | RecordCourier.com

Raptors released at Gardnerville school

by Susie Vasquez

Teachers quieted their students at Gardnerville Elementary School Monday as one red-tailed and two Swainson’s hawks began their first journey in the wild.

Gathered in a large circle on the back playground, the children squealed as the raptors swooped low, then cheered as they disappeared over the rooftops.

“Cool,” said a fourth-grader named Sam.

“They’re cool,” said Melissa, another fourth grader. “And they didn’t try to kill us.”

“Thank you,” a group of students chanted once the birds were gone.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist Nancee Goldwater said these raptors were too young to be on their own when delivered to Washoe Valley’s Wild Animal Infirmary about four months ago.

The red-tailed hawk was found in a Reno back yard.

“Once a red-tailed hawk leaves the nest, it spends about a week on the ground,” Goldwater said. “The homeowners said they couldn’t keep the area safe for the bird.”

Typically, the infirmary keeps these raptors for two to four months, until they are feeding and hunting successfully on their own, Goldwater said.

Swainson’s hawks have the second longest migration of all raptor species, from its breeding grounds in North America to its wintering grounds in South America. When not breeding they feed mostly on insects, primarily in Argentina, Goldwater said.

“From Douglas County the Swainson’s hawks will travel east to Texas, then south to Argentina,” Goldwater said.

The bird is in decline due habitat destruction, a reduction in its main prey, and pesticide use, according to the Audubon Society.

The red-tailed hawk ranges throughout North America, including central Alaska and northern Canada, and south as far as the mountains of Panama.

Although not truly migratory, the birds adjust seasonally to areas of the most abundant prey. In winter many of the northern birds move south. The Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada is a nonprofit, educational and charitable organization chartered in July of 1978 to care for ill, injured and orphaned wildlife.

When the birds and animals have recovered, they are returned to the wild.

— Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.