hawkwatch international

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Staring Into the Eyes of a Hawk with @floatingfeather

To see more fiercely beautiful raptors, follow @floatingfeather on Instagram.

“You can disappear into the fire and magic of the eyes of a hawk,” says Mike Shaw of HawkWatch International (@floatingfeather). He would know: The non-profit organization leads regular wildlife trips in Nevada, where visitors can come face-to-face with apex predators. Recently, Mike took a high school class to a hawk migration site located on a steep, windswept bridge. “The students got to the top, some close to tears, and immediately wanted to go home—until hawks started zipping past their heads,” he says. “Suddenly, they never wanted to leave.”

HawkWatch’s Instagram features piercing, up-close-and-personal photos of hawks and other birds of prey, with one goal in mind: inspiration. “It would be great if a picture prompts someone to turn their eyes to the sky for a couple of minutes a day, to put up a nest box, to volunteer somewhere,” he says. “Or to just realize how fiercely beautiful raptors are.”

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Here’s Kotori the Great Horned Owl, an education bird from Hawkwatch International, showing off his amazing head-turning skills. Contrary to popular belief, owls can’t turn their heads ALL the way around, but many species can manage an incredibly impressive 270 degrees in each direction.

They’re adapted to do this because unlike humans, owls can’t turn just their eyes to look at something. Their eyes – which are huge in relation to their body size and help them with things like their excellent night vision – are actually kind of tube-shaped and are fixed in their skulls, so if they want to look at something they have to turn their whole head. They have about twice as many vertebrae as we do, and the physiology of their necks and spines have all sorts of special adaptations that allow them to turn their heads so far without cutting off their own blood supply.

Hawkwatch does a ton of very important work for raptor conservation, including monitoring migrations, setting up and maintaining nest boxes, banding and studying birds, and a variety of education programs for the public, which is mostly what I help with. If you enjoy my raptor posts, please consider following @hawkwatch on instagram (they post beautiful photos, you won’t regret it :D), and visit hawkwatch.org to sign up for the email newsletter or make a donation to help keep these kids supplied with mice. :D

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