In order to protect raptors, the first thing you have to know is how to identify them. You cannot protect a species when you don’t know how to tell it apart from other species. Substantial progress has been made in the field of raptor identification over the last decades, and for many parts of the world, dedicated field guides are now available.
And although it is still hard to tell a Greater Spotted Eagle from a Lesser Spotted Eagle, or a Sharp-shinned Hawk from a Cooper’s Hawk, it can be done thanks to several high-quality guides for Europe, and North America.
For South America, home to many amazing raptors including the Harpy Eagle, there are no field guides dealing with birds of prey. There are several bird field guides which cover all species occurring in specific countries – like Peru or Venezuela – but none of these are raptor field guides. And a field guide that covers more than the 1.500 species that can be found in some South American countries cannot devote sufficient detail regarding how to tell a Montane Solitary-Eagle from the very similar Great Black-Hawk. Many raptor species in South America are difficult to identify. And even if a species can easily be identified, telling the sex or age of a bird is often still very difficult – but this information in crucial in doing surveys of rare and endangered raptors.
This is about to change thanks to the effort of raptor identification experts Sergio H. Seipke, Frederick Pallinger, and Darío H. Podestá who have been working on the first field guide to the Raptors of South America with support from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the world’s first raptor conservation organization. The book will cover all the plumages known for the 96 species of raptors occurring in the sub-continent and would arguably be the definitive work for the region. Materials to be included in the book range from 100 color plates, over 250 photographs of wild raptors in their habitat, detailed range maps and detailed species accounts, as well as an extensive bibliography on the subject.
But producing such a book takes a lot of time and resources. It is necessary to spend many hours in the field, in museums, looking at photos, and communicating with raptor experts.
You can help support the production of this book and so help future raptor conservationists and bird-watchers to better identify the Raptors of South America. Telling a Montane Solitary-Eagle from a Great Black-Hawk will still be difficult – but when the book is published, it will be possible much more often.
To learn more about the Raptors of South America book project visit:
You can support the book by making donations to the project (tax deductible within the USA), sponsor the Art Collection Series or sign up for a raptor tour with the book authors (I myself am already planning such a trip in the not too distant future).
And what is better than to spend some time in the field with great experts, watching a Harpy Eagle and doing something for conservation?
Please visit the link below and support the project: