Over the past three months the Reintroduction of the Ridgeway’s Hawk has continued to make significant strides in reestablishing a sustainable population in Punta Cana. The first year of their life is naturally the most critical for the hawks because during this time they have to fully adjust to their new setting, find suitable food sources and struggle through their most vulnerable year of life. Fortunately, the recently reintroduced hawks are now fully independent and are defining their territory. Juvenile Ridgeway’s Hawks spend their first few years investigating territories to mark as their own. Once they have found a suitable location they will settle in a single area, roughly 3 kilometers in diameter, defend that area, and ideally mate there.
Having successfully cared for the hawks and carefully monitored them for the most delicate six months of the operation the Hispaniola Ornithological Society’s onsite conservationist returned home to England, leaving the continued monitoring efforts in the capable hands of trained local volunteers. Thus far the hawks have begun to localize themselves to particular sites throughout Punta Cana including the areas surrounding: the construction of the Hacienda Golf Course, Playa Blanca beach and restaurant, the meteorological station, the water treatment plant and the undeveloped, forested land behind the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation.
The Hispaniola Ornithological Society’s volunteers serve not only as scouts to monitor and report on the well being of the Hawks but they also help to raise awareness about the critically endangered species. The volunteer’s excursions places them in contact with the local community and workers of Punta Cana (after all, people walking around with a radio antenna and GPS are not common sites around Punta Cana). These interactions make for invaluable educational components of our program and many of these informed residents of the local community have become invaluable in helping us locate the hawks.
In May 2010, the Ecological Foundation and project partners Peregrine Fund and Hispaniolan Ornithological Society conducted the second reintroduction of Ridgway's Hawks in Punta Cana. After months of monitoring nest sites in Los Haitises National Park, an additional five juvenile hawks were transported to Punta Cana. Rigorous examinations were conducted to insure the health of the juvenile hawks and then they were introduced to a hacking box in the PUNTACANA Ecological Reserve. Scientists from SOH regularly brought food to the hawks and they were monitored constantly. After a week, the hacking box was opened and the hawks began to adapt to the area. After another week, the hawks began taking test flights and familiarizing themselves with their new surroundings. One male hawk left the hacking box completely and became established in a tree nearby. The scientists continued to bring him food separately. The other five hawks remained near the hacking box for several months, until they too dispersed to look for new habitat.
To date, all five hawks are healthy and have become established in the area. All five hawks are fitted with radio collars and tags so they can be monitored using radio telemetry. Two scientists are still on site monitoring the hawks daily. The Ecological Foundation has built an observation deck for the scientists to monitor the hawks and eventually visiting guests and tourists will be able visit the site as well.
The project gas attracted attention internationally and was recently featured in the program "Birding Adventures with James Currie" on Fox Sports. The videos can be seen in the news section of the Ecological Foundation website www.puntacana.org or at http://www.puntacana.org/news58a.html.