What Are the Threats to Raptors?
Raptors are sensitive to stressors such as habitat loss, disease, pollutants, climate change, and disturbance by people.
While RMNP continues to provide good raptor habitat, human activity in the park can cause raptors to avoid establishing nests or to abandon nests. Human activity also can temporarily flush, or startle, adult birds away from their nests, leaving eggs or young birds vulnerable to predators or weather; young birds may miss essential feedings.
Flushed adult birds may also inadvertently knock eggs or young from the nest or ledge. Additionally, disturbed young may attempt to fly prematurely, resulting in injury or death.
Reproductive rates are low in most raptor species, with breeding pairs producing 1-2 offspring (also known as fledglings) per year. Repeated breeding failures can cause declines in raptor populations overall.
Raptor Conservation - How Are We Working to Help Protect Raptors?
Raptor species are afforded protections to ensure their longevity within the park’s borders and beyond. Federal protections, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act protect raptors across the country.
Within Rocky Mountain National Park, many different people have worked over time to help contribute to the park's rich history of raptor preservation and protection. This has included the work of park staff, volunteers, and members of the rock climbing community.
- 1970s – After Peregrine Falcon populations crashed by as much as 90% due to DDT, scientists, conservationists, and rock climbers released more than 6,000 captive-bred falcons across North America. As part of this effort, RMNP served as the first “hack site” for Peregrine Falcons in the Western United States. Raptor “hacking” entails raising and releasing young raptors from artificial nests. In total, 58 peregrine falcons were hacked successfully from 1978 until 1990.
- 1988 - Rocky Mountain National Park began enacting temporary closures to protect raptors during their roosting, breeding, and nesting seasons. The park adaptively manages these closures using monitoring program data.
- 1989 - Rocky Mountain National Park began monitoring raptors to track raptor occupancy and biodiversity, breeding activity, and nesting locations, activity, and success. Continuous monitoring since then has produced a 30+ year dataset used to inform decisions about raptor management, including the timing and extent of temporary closures.
- Today - Park volunteers, climbers, and hikers all play important roles in helping to protect raptors. Skilled raptor monitoring volunteers observe known nesting sites and contribute observations to the park's database. Trailhead volunteers provide information about raptors to visitors at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. Climbers and hikers do their part by respecting temporary closures.