Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bald Eagle Watch, an indoor sport

Our trip to Starved Rock State Park at the end of January was occasioned by Bald Eagle Watch: A Celebration of Nature, sponsored by the Illinois Audubon Society and several other august organizations. In particular, the Raptor Awareness Program offered by the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis, MO, was a real treat.  Raptors are birds of prey, including the eagle, hawk, falcon, osprey, and owl families, and carrion-eaters like vultures and condors. Demonstrations of North American varieties are always interesting but are relatively easy to come by. Events featuring raptors from around the world are rarer opportunities. The World Bird Sanctuary's program was held indoors in a basketball court-sized room in Starved Rock Lodge; the birds are in captivity only because, for a wide variety of reasons, if released they would not be able to survive in the wild. The following wonder-birds were featured:

American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) "Patriot"
Patriot weighs 12 lbs. and is clearly big enough to grab and carry large fish and other prey such as rabbits and small children.
Long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) "Zeus"
The long-crested eagle is a South African bird, more petite than the bald eagle, but still a large bird, and sporting a particularly nice top-knot.
Tawny owl (Strix aluco) "Buzz"
Tawnies are small owls, widespread inEurope, Britain to Scandinavia, North Africa and North and West Asia.

Barn owl (Tyto alba) "Minerva"
Barn owls are utterly silent fliers. One handler went to back of the room and held up her hand. Minerva flew to  her fist on cue. The audience was told to close their eyes and listen. When we opened our eyes, Minerva was back at the front of the room on the hander's fist, but there was no sound of wingbeats what-so-ever. It was a funny mind-trick.
American kestrel (American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). I didn't get his/her name, but let's hear it for the little guy!
These colorful little falcons are also known as sparrow hawks for one of their favorite meals. I've been fortunate to watch them hunt, and also once in a blue moon they land on my window sill at home where I can observe their glorious gray and copper coloration. If the cat doesn't notice them first!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful. They are all neat but I'd love to see a Barn Owl in the wild. They're is something strange and exciting about they're appearance....