Millions of hawks, vultures, and other raptors migrate between North and South America every year. Because they avoid flying over large bodies of water, Panama acts as a bottleneck for these migratory birds, concentrating huge numbers of these birds in certain areas and creating a unique research opportunity.
While monitoring migratory songbirds as part of another project, ADOPTA's field team noted exceptionally large concentrations of raptors migrating above Bocas del Toro. This inspired us to start looking for an ideal location to establish a long-term monitoring project for raptor migration in the area. In early October 2021, Karl Bardon, an experienced hawk counter from the United States, accepted an invitation to start monitoring the raptor migration in Bocas Ridge.
Almost 2 million raptors were observed in the first Hawkwatch of fall 2021, confirming the importance of this area.
After the success of the first HawkWatch, we have expanded the monitoring to include three counting sites: Bocas Ridge, Valle de Agua, and Gavilán hill. Together with our research team, we have been training local interns – including young indigenous women – how to help with the monitoring. The income paid to the interns participating in the HawkWatch directly support the local economy, many members of which do not have electricity or running water, and provides individuals the agency to take an active role in the protection of their local environment.
Community Outreach & Education
Most of our volunteer hawk counters are women from the indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé people. By assisting in this project, they are both being empowered to contribute valuable scientific insights and helping to support their families with the humble stipend we are able to give them.
Additionally, many members of the local community – including one of the families who hosts our team – have no electricity or running water. The income from this project directly helps support the local economy; helping the people living here and increasing support for conservation at the same time.
Thanks to the kind support of Ing. César Romero of Bocas Ridge Hotel & Residences, Environment for the Americas, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and the Partnership for International Birding (PIB), our main sponsors for the Bocas del Toro Hawkwatch.
A special thank you to Karl Bardon, a hawkwatching specialist, for helping us begin and continue this monitoring program.
Additionally, we must recognize the hard work of every staff member, volunteer, student, and intern who has worked with this project.