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Birds of Prey

January 30, 2013

Immature Red-tailed Hawk, (c) Badjoby, courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Lots of local stories about sightings of raptors these days! We’re lucky in DC to have populations of these amazing animals, thanks in part to our widespread park system. A gorgeous barred owl was spotted in the fairly urban area of Dupont Circle a couple of weeks ago, and DCist carried another story about hawks and falcons last week (spolier alert: they eat rodents and pigeons).

One of the stories mentions The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, which is a rehab and educational non-profit based in Falls Church, VA (close to Washington, DC). If you ever have the chance to visit them or attend one of their educational programs, I highly recommend it. The Audubon Naturalist Society, also right outside of DC in Chevy Chase, MD, periodically offers classes and workshops about our local raptors (one recent class discussed owls).

My personal favorite story about a raptor involves a red-tailed hawk named Blizzard. Bliz was injured when he was hit by a car in a snowstorm one night, and ended up at a local wildlife rehab center. Although he somewhat recovered, he suffered some neurological damage and was not a good candidate to be released back into the wild. Basically, he lost the reflex to grasp with his talons, which would have prevented him from being an effective hunter, to say the least! So Bliz settled down to be an educational bird. I was fortunate enough to get to take him to a classroom once, and it was an amazing experience. The kids in the class were just in awe of this beautiful bird. Unlike other raptors, his injuries made him very easy to handle, and he took his celebrity status in stride. I’ve always loved and been fascinated by raptors (which goes along with my general love of predators), but my experiences with Blizzard really helped to solidify that.

And here’s a video of a flying owl that still blows me away every time I see it!

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