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Autumn Lecture - Rooks: Rendez-vous with a South Atlantic Raptor

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Former conservation trainee and current Hawk Mountain research associate Katie Harrington will discuss her recent and extensive work studying the charismatic and Near-Threatened striated caracara in the Falkland Islands.

Katie is a graduate student from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (California, USA) and for her Master’s thesis has partnered with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (Pennsylvania, USA) to research the Near-Threatened Striated Caracara (Phalcoboenus australis) in the Falkland Islands. There are only an estimated 4,000 individuals globally and three quarters are thought to inhabit the outer islands of the Falklands.

While this historically persecuted species is now protected, very little is known about how human actions may continue to affect their conservation status. Caracara populations swell at farm settlements in the northwest of the islands during winter. This is especially true on privately owned Saunders Island, where up to 150 caracaras have been seen gathering at the pigpen when the owners feed their two pigs on winter afternoons. In other words, one human action can draw in roughly 5% of the entire estimated global population. She is studying what this seasonal attraction might mean for the caracaras and their energy use. Of course it can mean a free meal, but it could also mean increased competition or increased flight time between predictable, human-provided food sources. Energy is the currency of life and any change in how it is spent could have implications for survival.

For Katie’s graduate research, she is using tail mounted data loggers to collect high-resolution 3D body movement data that will allow her to calculate daily activity budgets and a proxy for caracara’s daily energy use. She will deploy the loggers at two distinct locations on Saunders Island, a seabird colonies site and the farm’s headquarters 16 km to the southwest, and then compare how caracara time and energy use differ between the two. Katie will be talking about what she has learned about striated caracaras through her master's and what could be in store for this rare and gregarious species.