ELY– City Hall’s council chamber was transformed into a raptor chamber last Friday when four feathered residents of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, accompanied by interpretive …
ELY– City Hall’s council chamber was transformed into a raptor chamber last Friday when four feathered residents of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, accompanied by interpretive naturalist Kelsey Griffin, visited here for a unique show-and-tell event.
Dozens of children and parents were treated to a lesson in the characteristics and behaviors of birds of prey during the hour-long program, sponsored by the Friends of the Ely Public Library.
Griffin showcased a red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, great horned owl and a bald eagle. “Hawks are the best at hunting ground animals,” she said. “Kestrels are the smallest of the falcon species and their specialty is catching their prey in mid-air. Owls have extra-fluffy feathers so they can fly silently. Minnesota has the largest population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.”
The Raptor Center, part of the College of Veterinary Science at the U of M, specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation and conservation of raptors.
“At the Raptor Center, we will come in contact with as many as 1,000 raptors a year and help in rehabilitation efforts to return them to the wild,” Griffin said. “Some of them stay with us as raptor ambassadors because they can’t be returned to the wild. We then use them in our educational programming.”
Raptors have existed in some form for 50 to 75 million years. There are approximately 482 species of raptor worldwide, 304 diurnal (day-active) species and 178 nocturnal (night-active) species, Griffin said.
A raptor is a carnivorous (meat-eating) bird. “All raptors share at least three main characteristics: keen eyesight, eight sharp talons and a hooked beak,” she said. She held her clenched fist up to her eye to illustrate the comparative size of a raptor’s eye.
“And raptor poop, oops, I meant to say bodily waste, is called mute,” Griffin said. “The liquid and solid wastes are all mixed together, and they shoot it out, away from the nest, to keep their house clean.”
Some of the birds enjoyed a snack of mouse parts during the program. The eagle ripped apart and consumed an entire rat. Many squeamish members of the audience averted their eyes during this display. After the birds were back safely in their cages, Griffin showed audience members a variety of raptor feathers.
For more information on raptors, go to www.theraptrocenter.org.