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Boise State is for the birds.

  • Golden Eagle nest, Dr. Marc Bechard, Raptor Research

    Biology professor Marc Bechard affixes a golden eagle with a transmitter in the Malad Gorge.

  • Burrowing Owl Field Research

    Undergraduate students band burrowing owls in the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area.

  • Bucket of Owls!

    A bucket of burrowing owls awaits banding and tests to monitor their health.

  • Standing on a hill top

    Researchers from Fundación Migres, Intermountain Bird Observatory and the Boise State Raptor Research Center discuss raptor migration.

  • REU-Raptor Research field trip to Lake Cascade

    Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students and researchers approach osprey nesting platform at Lake Cascade, Idaho

  • Kustra holding a bird_bird

    Boise State President Bob Kustra visits the Intermountain Bird Observatory.

  • Golden Eagle Nest

    A research team readies to return golden eagle nestlings to their nests in the Malad Gorge.

  • REU-Raptor Research field trip to Lake Cascade, Dusty Perkins

    Osprey in flight over Lake Cascade, Idaho.

  • Raptor Research trip

    Boise State graduate Rob Miller observes wind speed above Tarifa, Spain.

  • REU-Raptor Research field trip to Lake Cascade, Dusty Perkins

    REU student Skyler Wysocki holds osprey fledgling at Lake Cascade, Idaho.

Bird’s Eye View

For three years, Boise State has sent past and current students to Tarifa, Spain, to volunteer with Fundacion Migres for four months. Students participate in daily count activities as well as learn techniques for trapping and banding migrating birds. They are immersed in Spanish culture and must learn to communicate in Spanish while traveling, making it is not only a scientific experience, but a cultural one as well.

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The Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area is home to the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America, and Boise State University is home to the nation’s only master’s program in raptor biology.

The nearby natural laboratories provide rich research opportunities for Boise State faculty and students. This summer, graduate student Rob Spaul conducted his second season of golden eagle research in the Owyhee Front, where he is investigating the impacts of off-highway recreation on golden eagle breeding ecology and nest success.

The program is enhanced by the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State, a trapping and banding station that offers opportunities to study raptor migration.


See a Boise State student release an owl after doing research.

Boise State is the only university in the United States with a Master of Science in Raptor Biology



Undergraduate Raptor Research

For the first time, Boise State has launched a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site in Raptor Research. Students from around the country are staying on campus this summer, each pursuing a different research project focused on raptors. Alongside Boise State biology professor Jim Belthoff and other raptor biologists, they are in the Birds of Prey area studying burrowing owls, at Lake Cascade working with ospreys and eagles, in the South Hills with northern goshawks, and a student is even heading to Panama to research harpy eagles.



Burrowing Owl Field Research

Jim Belthoff, professor of Biology and principle investigator for “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” explains his NSF-funded project which brings 8 students to Boise State during the summer to study raptors. In this video, they share the kind of work they do at the Birds of Prey area studying burrowing owls. Using motion-sensitive cameras they observe the behaviors of both ground and air predators, along with tagging and measuring the birds they encounter. Students then presented their findings at the undergraduate research conference held at Boise State.



Golden Eagle Field Research

In this video, Boise State University raptor biologist Marc Bechard helps U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers Matt Stuber (who also is a Boise State student and is shown rappelling) and Steve Alsup attach radio transmitters to golden eagles in Malad Gorge State Park. The USFWS is conducting a five-year western region study of the movement ecology of immature golden eagles. Bechard demonstrated the method he uses to attach transmitters to turkey vultures that he tracks on their annual migration from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Venezuela.

Blue Birdy