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Celebrating the Year of the Bird

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Casa Rondeña Winery in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque always has gorgeous scenery and wine available for tasting.

On Saturday, though, the whole place was for the birds as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife hosted a “Year of the Bird” event there, bringing light to the incredible variety of birds Albuquerque is home to and the efforts of the city and its residents to welcome them here.

“We get thousands of birds who come through here,” Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Aislinn Maestas said. “We’re here at this winery because this is a place where they actually encourage birds and try to make it a bird-friendly place to be.”

From left, Joan Kenney, Amanda Byers, Frank Sankot and Reileigh Sankot get a closer look at a Cooper’s hawk at Casa Rondeña Winery in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque on Saturday afternoon. This Cooper’s hawk was rescued after it was hit by a car and suffered a wing injury. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

So patrons who may have just been interested in a glass of the winery’s 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon also got the chance to meet seven members of species that call Albuquerque home.

Volunteers with the local Wildlife Rescue Inc. brought along a red-tailed hawk, barn owl, turkey vulture and a tiny American kestrel, among others.

“You never get a chance to see a bird like this close up,” said Frank Sankot as he examined a Cooper’s hawk held by volunteer Cecilia Castillo.

Inside, experts spoke on a variety of topics for backyard birders, including on hummingbirds, wildlife-proofing homes or businesses, and the benefits birds bring to agriculture.

The event also commemorated the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a piece of legislation that protected migratory species, some of which were nearing extinction.

“The treaties themselves came out of widespread slaughter of birds not just for good but primarily for ladies’ fashion,” said Kristin Madden, the deputy chief of migratory birds for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region.

A 4-year-old great horned owl watches over the proceedings during Saturday’s “Year of the Bird” event at Casa Rondeña Winery in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Feathers and entire taxidermied birds were popular fashion accessories in the early part of the twentieth century, often adorning women’s hats.

The act came too late for some species, like the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in 1914 due to overhunting.

Albuquerque is situated along the Rio Grande Valley, an integral habitat for many migrating species.

Madden said one bird enthusiast she spoke to at the event had observed over 300 species of birds in his backyard.

“We’re really lucky to have such great bird diversity,” she said. “We’re a big city, but we have these little urban sanctuaries and green spaces that restore your soul, reduce your stress a little bit. And birds contribute to all of that.”

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