Saturday’s ornithology class that I attended at a local science and nature center was all about raptors. This nature center houses previously injured raptors that have been rehabilitated but can no longer live in the wild. I visit these raptors all the time as the center is within walking distance of my home, but getting to see the raptors out of their enclosures is always a special treat.
This Kestrel has always been one of my favorite birds. The markings and color of the feathers are so beautiful. Kestrels are the smallest of the North American falcons. I have never seen a kestrel in the wild, although other people I know have seen them many times in my area. I think I need to go on a field trip to find some.
This is a Peregrine Falcon. If I remember correctly, this bird did not have a previous injury but instead was raised by a falconer. After a few seasons of not catching anything, the falconer passed the bird on to the nature center. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest member of the animal kingdom and can reach speeds of over 200 mph while diving from great heights. They catch their prey in the air.
One of the more recent residents at the nature center is this Broad-winged Hawk. I first became familiar with the Broad-winged Hawk last summer when one took up residence in the woods behind my house. I noticed a very high-pitched call and wasn’t quite sure what kind of raptor it was, but with a little help I was able to identify it as a Broad-winged. These hawks migrate from our area in the winter so the nature center takes particular care to keep the bird warm in the winter. I’m hoping they come back to my woods this summer.
This Red-tailed Hawk was so beautiful up-close. I often see these birds in the wild, but seeing them right in front of you is thrilling.
Is this not the cutest bird you have ever seen? The Northern Saw-whet Owl is one of the smallest owls in North America. Several years ago, my daughter had the fantastic opportunity to help researchers capture and tag these adorable owls. I have never seen one in the wild, and I believe they are not easy birds to locate as they are strictly nocturnal and very secretive.
I love this Barred Owl. I believe the injury to the beak came about when s/he fell out of the nest for some reason. This owl can eat normally, but my understanding is that, if not cared for at the nature center, the beak would grow funny and the owl wouldn’t be able to make it in the wild.
The last bird we looked at was the Turkey Vulture. This poor bird has such a reputation for being ugly. Poor thing. OK, I agree the head is a little freaky, but the feathers on this bird are truly stunning. And that bald head serves an important purpose–pieces of the dead meat they feed on would stick to any feathers that would be on the head.
I love raptors and we were so fortunate to be able to see so many of them up close.