Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Mexico Raptors

Raptors are birds of prey, the ones who swoop down and snatch a fish out of the water or a mouse from a field. They all have sharp talons used for the snatching, along with a hooked beak for eating their prey, plus great eyesight to see their dinner from high above. These birds include eagles, ospreys, hawks, owls, falcons, as well as the turkey vulture.

I've been at Pancho Villa State Park in New Mexico and noticed a poster on the bulletin board, a program about these birds, with an up-close introduction to some of them. The woman who was handling the birds and giving the presentation is a wildlife educator and has adopted these birds because they had handicaps that prevented their release back to the wild after healing. Two of the birds had lost an eye and two had wing problems and couldn't fly properly, all of which seriously prevented them from successfully living on their own. Permits are necessary to legally handle any of these birds.

The first bird out of his wooden box was a Great Horned Owl, a magnificant animal with big round eyes. The little tufts on his head that look like ears are not - she explained that they are mood indicators, if they're upright, he's not stressed or nervous. If he lays them down, he's not happy. This bird can turn his head around 260 degrees, and kept looking around the room at everyone and everything.

The Red Tailed Hawk was next to be presented, very pretty bird. I had seen one last month on a hike through a canyon. I had heard a bird call, looked up to see a bird soaring from the cliff and could tell it was a hawk. Since the light was just right, could tell that the tail was a reddish color. It was a real treat to see this one so close.

I would imagine everyone has seen a Turkey Vulture. They clean up road kill, but sometimes they have to find their own food and soar through the air looking for something tasty on the ground. They got their name because their heads are red, while their feathers are black.

The last specimen was my favorite, maybe second after the owl. She was a Swainson's Hawk ands he seemed to have more personality than the others. She kept opening his wings and looking around at everyone. Her coloring was very pretty, she was more animated than the others and seemed to have a friendly, outgoing personality. She was also the oldest one at 20 years old. These birds all looked quite large, but none of them weighed over 4 pounds.


We all learned new facts about birds during this presentation. The old advice about not touching a baby bird out of the nest is not true - the mother can't tell if it has been handled. If it can be safely put back in the nest, it would be best. Otherwise, try to locate it safely as close to the nest as possible.


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