Raptor Inventory Nest Survey seeking volunteers to help birds of Utah

CEDAR CITY — The Raptor Inventory Nest Survey is offering a volunteer training next month for Cedar City community members interested in helping collect data on the nesting of raptors such as owls, eagles, falcons, hawks and osprey throughout Southern Utah.

RINS has relied on volunteers to collect information used for land management, trends in raptor behavior and the protection of raptors, habitat and nesting areas since 2000.

“The goal is to keep tabs and collect data on nesting raptors — eagles, hawks, ospreys, falcons, owls — keeping tabs on them and making sure we that have good numbers,” Robyn MacDuff, a RINS volunteer since 2001, said. “… It serves to give us an indicator of how well all of the birds are doing. Raptors are all an apex predator, they are at the top of the food chain, so if anything starts getting off base at that level, we’ll know it. It gives us an idea of what’s happening with the landscape, how the prey are doing, how the vegetation is doing. It gives us an indication on how good things are.”

RINS is a privately operated nonprofit organization, but volunteers frequently work with agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, providing the data collected so agencies can manage lands appropriately.

“They’ve been tasked with taking care of the land,” MacDuff said. “They’re tasked with keeping (the lands) healthy, keeping damage at bay, recovery from fire cycles. … It has been a really good relationship, it’s helped the BLM.”

Volunteers will be extensively trained, starting with a four-hour workshop and moving into field training. They will also have access to data collection tools to be able to document and monitor the birds and nests.

The Swainson hawk is one the raptor species RINS monitors, date and location not specified | Photo Courtesy of Robyn MacDuff, RINS, St. George News

“We ask for people to commit 10 days, from February to June, in the south,” MacDuff said. “We just ask them to go out two days a month on their schedule, and visit their area and look for the birds.”

MacDuff said in addition to helping take care of the raptors, RINS offers volunteers a chance to get acquainted with the outdoors.

“I do believe that people who participate in RINS really have an extra amount of fun in their life,” she said. “It’s a really enjoyable thing to do. There is a definite commitment of time and effort, but most of it rewarded by just being outside, enjoying the birds, the reptiles, the small mammals, the sunsets, the weather. It’s just a really fun thing to focus on, be able to participate in, and share it with other people.”

MacDuff added that RINS provides an education component that can be beneficial outside of the survey efforts.

“There’s time where I hear that people are not really understanding of how to live around a raptor that’s nesting,” she said. “We can bother them and irritate them, and they’ll actually abandon (their nest), so if they have young in the nest, the young are at risk of not making it. … I think (RINS) really helps people know what to do and how to just manage that so we can help the birds be successful.”

Event Details:

  • What: Raptor Inventory Nest Survey Volunteer Training.
  • When: Tuesday, Feb. 4, at noon.
  • Where: Bureau of Land Management, 176 DL Sergeant Drive, Cedar City.
  • Admission: Free.
  • For more information, contact Robyn MacDuff at info@rins.org or 801-554-0807.

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