We’re raising money for transmitters – Support the Red-tailed Hawk Project!

This fundraising campaign ends on 15 November, 2020. Make a contribution today!

Make a one-time contribution of any amount

Help us purchase additional GPS transmitters! To make a contribution* of any amount, select the number in dollars below (e.g. selecting 70 will equal a $70 contribution). This one-time contribution* will be put towards the purchase of additional tracking devices, which cost $790 per transmitter.

1.00 $

Or, select a support level and get one, or all of the following items if you contribute!

Why are we asking for your support?

As you may know, we currently have two birds that are transmitting data to achieve two objectives: connect their phenotype and genotype to a breeding location and resolve the status of polymorphism in the subspecies abieticola. At this point we need to get many more transmitters out, because two birds is not enough to understand to what population these types belong. We also want to add more birds carrying transmitters as a strategy for obtaining breeding locations for population genomics work, while developing a growing dataset to answer questions including, but not limited to, the timing of movements, differential movements between and within populations, and to better understand plumage type as an indicator of geographic origin.

We need your help to do this! Our strategy is costly, because it requires a great deal of money and time on our part. Despite these costs, this strategy is the most efficient and effective method for achieving our research goals, because by approaching the sampling with transmitters we will avoid the challenge of international permitting, and the cost of travel to difficult areas to access such as the remote forests of boreal Canada. In other words, by tackling this research in this way, we will save both time and money!

The Plan

We plan to begin an ambitious effort for deploying transmitters starting this coming winter. Below is a detail of our plan, and how the money contributed by you will make this happen:

  • We plan to use the money from this campaign to purchase at least 10 tracking units to deploy this coming winter in the northeastern U.S., and the Great Plains. Even if COVID 19 limits this effort, we will be able to at least deploy units in New York and Kansas. 
  • We will make the money you contribute go the farthest it can. To do this, we will target wintering subspecies that breed in regions that are logistically difficult and expensive to access, such as Boreal Canada and Alaska. These include B. j. harlaniabieticola, and a dark non-harlani (potentially abieticola) type that winters in the Great Plains, and on occasion parts of the east.
  • If we deploy these ten units this year, and obtain photographs and blood samples from each bird, we will have a solid start to the sampling for the evolutionary research, as well as for building an extensive dataset of full cycle movements for these enigmatic subspecies. 

What We Need & What You Get

To get the sampling started to achieve all of our research objectives, we need to purchase transmitters. Below is a summary of how much these transmitters cost, and how the money you contribute will be applied.

  • Cost of transmitters –  One unit =  $790 ($500 per unit, plus $100 for insurance, $120 for yearly data fees, and $70 for shipping from the company in Europe). We would very much like to deploy at least ten of these units this winter, so we hope to raise as much as $10,000! 
  • A contribution from you is not just generosity. There is a perk! You can choose to make a contribution of any amount, or you can choose support levels that include perks the following perks: $20 – Red-tailed Hawk Stickers; $30 – Dark Morph Red-tailed Hawk Tee; $60 – a limited archival giclee print of a Western Red-tailed Hawk plate, illustrated by Bryce W. Robinson; and for $100 you receive all three! To claim these perks, click on the photos above! All orders will be filled after the campaign ends on 15 November, so you will receive your order sometime before December.
  • We’ll regularly post updates on the birds that are carrying transmitters purchased by this campaign. These updates will be on the project website, as well as our Facebook page. If you choose to contribute, please let us know where you heard about the campaign so that we can be sure you will see these updates.

The Impact

We are creating a research program that will grow, enabling an increased understanding of this widespread and beloved species. But the data we gather from our effort will also go beyond understanding the Red-tailed Hawk alone. Here are a few examples of the impact we think our program will have:

  • At the most fundamental level, our work will provide insight into Red-tailed Hawk subspecies that have been an enigma for so long. By attaching genetic samples to the breeding locations we obtain with the transmitters, we will be able to put genetic context to subspecies concepts, which might help us understand why harlani appears to be so different, and if subspecies such as abieticola truly are a distinct population.
  • Our work will also help us understand the evolutionary history of this species, which will be extremely informative for understanding the diversity we see in the species today, as well as providing yet another perspective on how geologic history can shape the process of speciation.
  • Connecting year round movement patterns to plumage and genetics will strengthen our ability to monitor Red-tailed Hawks, and enact conservation efforts if these are ever necessary. Even more, by doing so in Red-tailed Hawks, we can continue to refine this technique for use in other species. 
  • We also hope that by crowdfunding for transmitters, we can involve the community in this research, and expand our collective understanding of this beloved raptor. Through this, we also hope that anyone involved will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for how this type of research is conducted. 

Risks & Challenges

Transmitters can fail, birds can die for many reasons, natural and human caused. It is possible that some of the transmitters we deploy will not provide movement data, or a breeding location. But, we have a plan in case this happens!

  • We plan to purchase insurance on the transmitters, so that in the event that a unit stops working for any reason, they will be replaced and we can try again. 
  • If a bird dies, we can follow the signal of the unit to its location and assess the cause of death. Many studies use this technique to track hawks, and birds alike. Deaths from transmitters are extremely rare, so the likelihood of the transmitter harming a bird is very small. But birds still die from natural causes, or they get shot, hit by a car, or a wind turbine. We’ll know if this happens, and we’ll learn a lot if it does.

Other Ways You Can Help

We understand that you may have a keen interest in this work, but can’t donate any money. Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:

  • Regardless of whether or not you contribute money, please follow us on Facebook, and share the project with your friends. Please encourage others to follow along, and to help us out!
  • Make sure to regularly check in on the website to follow along on our progress on the blog. We’ll post regular updates here, as well as discussions on subspecies identification, and more.

Thank you so much for your help! We’re excited to have you along!

*It’s important to note that unfortunately, a contribution to our effort is not at this time tax deductible. If this impacts your decision to contribute in any way, please contact us!

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