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Kin Quitugua, Master Falconer Raptors at HawkQuest

Kin Quitugua, master falconer and long time ecology and environmental educator

Some people have trouble remembering what movie they last saw while others like Kin Quitugua gets inspired from a movie scene by improving the ecology, and the environment we live in.

Growing up in Guam, the then nine-year Kin watched Richard Fleischer’s 'The Viking.' A swashbuckling historical fiction starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and many other legends. In the movie, Eric’s (Tony Curtis) bird, a Goshawk swooped a pheasant in midair stoking the wrath of Einar (Kirk Douglas) because his bird failed the same attempt. The falconry scene in the movie remained forever etched in Kin Quitugua’s memory.

Impressions of the past reemerged when Kin was studying engineering as a young man at Boulder, Colorado. Through an acquaintance of a red-haired date, he connected with a full-fledge falconer, but only after numerous unanswered and unreturned phone calls.

Earning the trust of his mentor, Kin held his first hawk after an hour and a half during his initial interaction. The experience instantly elevated him to “Hawk Heaven". Kin's passion and eagerness later gain him a sponsor in a two-year apprenticeship program learning about the ecology of raptors, the health, care and regulations that guided the sport of falconry.

Along the way learning about Raptors, Kin encountered numerous birds that were shot, run down by a chain of fence and even electrocuted. Kin's passion continued as he then taught in several elementary schools in and around Arapaho county, Colorado.

HawkQuest

By 1986 Kin Quitugua, a master falconer and long time environmental educator, founded HawkQuest, a tax-exempt 501(c)3 charitable organization based in Parker, Colorado. HawkQuest's education goal was to allow its audience to experience Raptors at close range.

Birds up close

HawkQuest gives importance to environmental awareness and educating youths in many unique programs including 'Classroom-in-the-Wild'. Kin serves as a consultant to many organizations. He has traveled world-wide to spread his message promoting the welfare of birds of prey.

HawkQuest is strictly an outreach group and in 2018, they reached close to a million people in audience.

HawkQuest conducts ongoing training classes throughout the year to teach volunteers to interact with their magnificent raptors.

Mic, a Systems Engineer and volunteer bird handler
Tina has been handling birds for almost 17 years.
Joe and the Horned Owl with the wink! 😉

Birds at HawkQuest

HawkQuest has close to 40 different and various species of Raptors. They have the largest raptor group in the neighboring 5 state area.

The majority of the birds at HawkQuest are ‘imprints’ or what is known as ‘imprintations,’ meaning someone may have taken these birds as pets (some illegally) and then gave up ownership later. Some are sent to HawkQuest from rehabilitation centers.

None of the birds from HawkQuest are from the wild. It would defeat the purpose to have them. Some of these birds are physically and mentally impaired.

The two criteria’s of having a large quantity of these birds at HQ in the state of Colorado are determined by the ability to feed and to house these birds.

They need a natural diet and mice are considered vitamins for these birds. Peregrine and Falcons have to eat birds. They are fed quials. Eagles are fed fish twice a week. They need the oils in fish but are also fed rats and mice.

Red-tail Hawk

Raptor Photo Shoot with HawkQuest at Walking Mountains Campus.

Walking Mountains Science Center coordinated with HawkQuest to arrange a photo shoot with members of the Vail Valley Art Guild Photographers (VVAGP). Six raptors were brought in and set up at different stations in natural settings within the Campus.

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General information and introduction
A good turnout at Walking Mountains
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Hannah Rumble, Community Programs Director with Kin Quitugua and the majestic Bald Eagle from HawkQuest
Kin and his team of volunteer bird handlers brought 6 Raptors; a Red Tail Hawk, a Barn Owl, a Great Horned Owl, a Bald Eagle, a Peregrine Falcon and a Harris’s Hawk.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Owls can hear a mouse step on a twig up to 75 feet away or detect a lemming burrowing under the snow.

This Horne Owl came to HawkQuest from a rehabilitation center in Cody, Wyoming.

Typical length: 22 inches, typical wingspan: 44 inches

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Kin and his volunteers divided the photographer audiences in five groups. Each group transitioned into a new area after 20 minutes of so to observe and do their photo shoot.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The native Americans of the Ojibwe Tribe calls the Bald Eagle ‘Migizi’

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Barn owls have rounded wings and a short tail that is covered with white or light brown, downy feathers.

The Barn Owl can hunt by sound only, usually in the dead of the night.

Typical length: 16 inches, typical wingspan: 42 inches.

Owl's eyes are like humans' in that they have binocular vision.

“The Barn Owls are the hardest of bird to find” - Rick Spitzer
Owl's facial discs help to funnel sounds into the ear openings.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

A Red-tailed Hawk can spy a meadow mouse from 100 feet

Red-tailed Hawks are adapted for soaring and will spend long periods riding thermals, looking for prey or migrating.

The red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey that breeds throughout most of North America, from the interior of Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine falcons are among the world's most common birds of prey and live on all continents except Antarctica.

This female Peregrine was born in 2001 and was brought to HawkQuest in 2014.

Typical length: 16 inches, typical wingspan: 41 inches.

The Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of up to 240 miles per hour while diving!

Peregrines are the world’s fastest flying bird.

Harris' Hawks (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Kin planning the flight run with Mic.
Coming in
These bird typical length are 20 inches and a wingspan of 42 inches.

Falconry

As a Falconer, Kin Quitugua has 9 Harris’s Hawk and he would take five to six of them out at a time to hunt Cottontail or Jack Rabbits. These birds have to eat a natural diet.

Colorado has better relaxed laws on how falconry are regulated. There is no limit to how many birds you can have as long as you can feed and house them.

These group of birds have a matriarchal structure where one stands out as the leader. They are trained to follow Kin with a wave of his hands. Ultimately, he is their Master Falconer.

"Horses are the Sport of Kings and Falconry is the King of Sports." - Kin Quitugua
Created By
Raj Manickam
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Credits:

©️2019 Raj Manickam | Content: HawkQuest • Wikipedia • Birdweb.org • National Geography • Animaldiversity.org