Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Birds of Prey

 A couple of years ago I posted about meeting Sweetpea, one of the feathered ambassadors from the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, at the North Texas Irish Festival.  You can read the post about that meeting here.  In May of 2011 and again in 2012, I had the privilege of meeting many of her fellow ambassadors and learning more about the important work carried out by the staff of the raptor center.  I love helping charities and conservation groups so after visiting and learning about their work and their financial and material needs I decided to do what I can to draw attention to them and help as much as possible.  To begin, please visit their website where you may learn about the residents of the center, see the schedule of upcoming events, read about many types of raptors, peruse their list of needed items, and make an online donation.  Also, please visit my Zazzle shop if you find yourself in need of prints, canvas prints, and a variety of products such as calendars, greeting cards, keychains, mousepads, cell phone cases, and much more, printed with photos of the birds from the raptor center.  We even have cases for laptops and tablets.  A portion of the sale of these products is donated to Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in support of their mission.

All of the birds living at the center are non-releasable due to injury or as a result of being raised by people.  Birds raised by people have been imprinted by humans rather than their species and cannot properly care for themselves in the wild.  The directors and volunteers at the raptor center provide excellent care for the birds, they rescue birds of prey that are in need, and they educate the public about raptors and about the importance of protecting them and respecting their place in the world.  They stress the importance of letting the birds stay wild whenever possible instead of trying to raise them as pets.  Too often, when a bird of prey is found in need, well-meaning people pick them up and try to keep them, only to learn that it is much more difficult than keeping a dog or cat.  These birds are wild creatures with very specific dietary needs, as well as exercise and medical needs that would be difficult for most people to meet.  If you find a raptor in need of help, please contact someone who has the facilities and expertise to take proper care of them.

Each year the center holds a photography day for anyone wishing to learn about the birds and photograph them in a natural setting.  The human ambassadors do a great job and the feathered ambassadors really seem to enjoy showing off..  One particular show-off was the young, male red-tailed hawk.  His age at the time of the 2011 photo day was the equivalent of a human teen and he was every bit a teenager - strong, handsome, confident, believes he is in charge and wants everyone to know it.  Like all hawks, he loves facing into the wind and spreading his wings.  He lives at the raptor center because he was found with both wings broken when he was younger.  He is able to fly but not well enough to survive in the wild.  Just don't tell him that.

Red-tailed Hawk (male)

The Great Horned Owl is a particularly endearing creature.  He has all the fearsomeness of a great predator but speaks to his handler in baby talk - tiny, adorable chirps and squeaks.  He was found as a baby and raised by people and as a result he never learned the vocalizations of an adult.  As a human imprint, he is, as I said earlier, non-releasable, so he lives in raptor luxury at the center.

Great Horned Owl

The center's three Eastern Screech Owls also charmed us all.  Red phase screech owls are more common in the eastern United States, the gray more common here in Texas.  There are also variations of those colors seen across the US.  The raptor center has a male red phase, a female gray phase, and a male brown phase.  They look somewhat like tiny great horned owls.  I think it's safe to say the screech owls are the cutest creatures I've ever seen in person.  The little female was raised by a human family who found her as a baby and she is completely at ease around people, which of course makes her non-releasable but exceedingly appealing.

Eastern Screech Owl (Red-phase)

Eastern Screech Owl (Gray phase)
Eastern Screech Owl (Brown phase)

 There were several other birds for us to see on this visit, all of them knowing full well how awesome they are.  No matter the size, cuteness, or age of these birds, they all have that look of a fearsome raptor.

American Kestrel
Mississippi Kite
Peregrine Falcon
Barred Owl

Red-tailed Hawk (female)
Barn Owl
Red-shouldered Hawk

I'll leave you with one last reminder to visit the center's website.

I hope you enjoy seeing these wonderful birds.  Keep well everyone, and enjoy life.

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