Nonprofit teaches about birds at museum

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — Children and adults alike crowded into a room at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park today to see several birds during an educational event.

An American kestrel named Clark Kent makes the rounds during a presentation by the Hawks Aloft organization on Saturday at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Hawks Aloft Inc. — an Albuquerque-based nonprofit organization that focuses on avian rescue, education and research — brought four birds to the museum for a presentation. The birds included Malary the prairie falcon, Clark Kent the American kestrel, Indigo the American crow and Harlan the Harlan's red-tailed hawk.

The presentation was one of the educational events tied to the museum's new predators exhibition that focuses on peregrine falcons and wolves.

Adrienne Boggs, the education coordinator at the museum, said the exhibition is important because predators are at the top of the food chain, and when their numbers start dwindling, there is a trickle-down effect in the ecosystem.

Farmington resident and avid birder Alan Nelson was one of the dozens of people who attended the presentation. He wore a shirt with illustrations of different birds of prey on it. While he was excited to see the raptors and crow, he said he doesn't necessarily have a favorite bird.

Malary, a female prairie falcon, gets a lot of attention during a visit by the Hawks Aloft organization on Saturday to the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

"I'm always appreciative of what I see," he said. "I find every one I have a chance to deal with miraculous."

While the birds helped educate the audience, they also served as an example of the threats birds face from humans.

Indigo had been taken from her nest before hatching, and she imprinted on people.

"She thinks that she is a human," said Gail Garber, the executive director of Hawks Aloft.

Indigo also has a bone condition because she was kept in a small cage and was only fed scrambled eggs before Hawks Aloft rescued her.

Michelle Robbins and her son, Blake Robbins, 5, react to the call of a prairie falcon during a visit by the Hawks Aloft organization on Saturday to the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Harlan's wing was broken and healed incorrectly after he was hit by a car, and Clark Kent also had a broken bone either from a collision with a car or a building.

In addition to dangers from vehicles and buildings, the birds also face poaching threats and loss of habitat.

Garber used the Aplomado falcon as an example of habitat loss. The bird used to be prevalent in southern New Mexico but disappeared from the United States after the 1930s as cattle and sheep grazing led to habitat loss. In 2006, scientists began reintroducing the falcon to New Mexico, and earlier this week, an unbanded juvenile falcon was seen at Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico. Because it did not have a band on its leg, the surveyors who spotted the falcon knew it had been hatched in the wild.

While Garber talked to the audience about the beauty of the birds of prey, she said she thinks "it's important to talk about the hazards that birds face, as well."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.