Front Matter

Rationale for the book

Raptors—the eagles, hawks and falcons of the world—are secretive and difficult to identify.  The “bird continent” of South America is home to 96 species of raptors.  In some places in South America 40 or more species occur together at the same time in the same area.  This diversity presents a challenge for field researchers, conservationists, birdwatchers, and others who are trying to identify these birds in the field.  To date, no book deals specifically with field identification of raptors in South America at a continental scale.  The new work will be a comprehensive, compact-formatted volume, that will accurately depict, both perched and in flight, all 96 species of raptors in South America, indicating their field marks and other key information to allow identification to species, and in many cases sex and age.  Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the oldest and largest member-based raptor-conservation organization in the world, is the Conservation Sponsor of this work.

Audience for the Book

A steadily growing number of birdwatchers travel into South America every year, but are often discouraged when trying to identify raptors using existing field guides.  User-friendly illustrations and maps will facilitate the use of this new book.  The book will be referenced thoroughly and will incorporate detailed unpublished results of recent research.  Confusing jargon will be avoided throughout to make it easy to read and reference.  Biologists, ecologists, students, birdwatchers, and within the latter group, hawkwatchers, will appreciate a practical tool they can take and use in the field. The same is true for environment officers who need to identify raptors as part of their law enforcement duties; and rehabilitators and zoo staff who often are faced with birds that they cannot identify properly.  Wildlife photographers also will benefit from the new book by learning where to see and how to identify the raptors they photograph.  The quality of the plates and photographs in the book will make it an important library holding and a treasured item for bird-book collectors.  Only 6 out of 62 species of raptors that occur in Central America (south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) and the West Indies are absent from South America; thus this new book will prove most useful there as well.

Conservation Implications

Land is being transformed for human uses in many regions of South America.  Such changes induce variations in the numbers and distribution of living organisms, and raptors are no exception.  The inherent difficulties in identifying hawks in the field make it extremely challenging to study these birds and understand their population dynamics.  Raptors of South America will make possible confident field identification of these birds.  This book also will allow greater public appreciation of these rare yet awe inspiring birds.

Species List

All species of raptors recorded in the continent will be listed in this first section of the book with their scientific, English, Spanish, and Portuguese names, with a reference to specific plates, and species account’s page.  This will help users to find the information efficiently and will provide educators and conservationists a list of names their target audiences can become familiar with.


The introduction will summarize the goals of the book; define the group of birds treated; provide the rationale for the book; outline the research undertaken to gather the information; and define the geographical area of interest. I also will include:  “Plates,” which will explain the different kinds of plates, the principles that determine their organization, and the reference material used to produce them, “Range maps,” which will explain the meaning of colors used on the maps, the data and the criteria used in their production, and acknowledges range map’s advantages and limitations, “Species Accounts,” which will detail the kind of information each species account includes.  “Photographs,” which will illustrate what techniques—including digiscoping—and equipment were used, and advise on how to use the photographs to improve the reader’s skills in raptor identification, “Raptor topography,” which will introduce all anatomical nomenclature needed for field identification and show—with color illustrations—examples of variation on anatomical structures (e.g., tails, beaks, crowns, bare skin pattern in face, etc.),  “Moult and Aging, ” which willdiscuss the basics of feather molt in raptors and its use in aging immature birds, “Behavior and Identification,” which will review behavioral traits useful in identifying perched and flying raptors, “Taxonomy,” which will explain the approach to species and subspecies recognized in the book and why, “Common Names” will indicate the importance of common names, detail the sources used, and explain why these sources were selected, “Glossary” which will list all technical terms used throughout the book (this section may as well be placed at the end of the book), and “How to use this book,” which will suggest users ways to make the book most useful.

Climate, Geography, and Vegetation in South America

This section briefly describes climatic variables (rainfall, temperature, prevailing winds, etc.) in the continent and their relationship with raptor distribution, migration, breeding cycle, and timing of molt.  Accounts will list major topographical features and their influence in raptor migration and distribution.  Finally, major vegetation types will be described, mapped and illustrated with color photographs (some of them including raptors in typical habitats).