Way back on March 20th, before Jack's 14th birthday, Team Odette was invited to visit The World Center for Birds of Prey in order to learn about the important work being done by The Peregrine Fund. I feel absolutely awful about not posting this up before then, but my health took a nosedive shortly after that, and my good days have been fewer and farther between than ever. By never mind that; no more whining. Onward!
[Full Disclosure: We received complimentary passes to the Center in exchange for this post. All opinions are, as always, my own. No other compensation was received.]
On our way to the Center, we already started spotting several species of raptors, but since I am no ornithologist, I hesitated to venture a guess as to what they were - other than beautiful, incredible creatures of the wild, of course.
I thought this one might have been an actual Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), but I wasn't at all sure.
Since we had just moved to Boise, Idaho, ten days earlier, the soaring birds against the stark, still wintery backdrop, reminded us that we were in entirely different territory than the flamingos, sea gulls, and of course plenty of migratory birds that visited us in Miami.
At last we arrived at the World Center for Birds of Prey, which houses and supports the crucially-important work of The Peregrine Fund. Speaking of Peregrine Falcons, they were eventually taken off the endangered species list in 1999 after they started disappearing in the 1970s, thanks largely in part to the work of biologists at The Peregrine Fund, as well as other organizations and individual contributors. This news is important for humans as well, because scientists realized that DDT pollution was contaminating insect populations, which in turn led to the pesticide's effect on birds and species higher in the food chain - including us. With the EPA eventually banning DDT in 1972, and through important conservation work, not only did the Peregrine Falcon population make a comeback, but food for humans was positively impacted as well.
The beautiful landscape as we made our way into the sanctuary
Aside from raptors, plenty of other birds make their homes in and around the World Center for Birds of Prey. Here, you can see the abundance of diversity in songbirds [click to embiggerate] present here in Boise.
After a volunteer started showing us around outside, we were treated to a viewing of the majestic United States symbol, Skye the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). (Forgive the blurriness, please.) It's not often I've seen one up close, and they are just as breathtaking as I expected. Amazing creatures, which you can learn more about here. Like the Peregrine Falcon, DDT and lead poisoning diminished the population of Bald Eagles, and they were placed on the endangered species list in 1973, finally being removed in 2007 after many efforts to protect them and their habitat.
We also visited with Fancy, an Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), but I just couldn't capture anywhere near a good photo of it. You can learn all abut this species here.
Ah, Lucy the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), which we've seen plenty of in our former home of South Florida. Also affected by the use of DDT, largely in the 1950s and '60s, the Turkey Vulture population is now considered stable and moving northward in habitat. That may be due to global climate change, so please learn all you can about what you, personally, can do to effect positive environmental change where you live. In the meantime, you can learn more about Lucy and other Turkey Vultures on the Peregrine Fund's page, here.
The next bird we visited was Stoffel the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus). Native to Africa, this species is currently "near threatened," but their numbers continue to be at risk due to habitat loss, poisoning by eating toxic carcasses from ranching practices, and accidental drownings. Learn more about this beautifully-colored creature here, and what The Peregrine Fund is doing to help.
As you can see, there is a lot we can learn about birds of prey and how human intervention can both harm and help their populations and diversity in nature.
Many contributors, including those listed on the rock here, help The Peregrine Fund continue its important work in bird conservation. If you feel like making a donation, too, you can help this 501(c)(3) nonprofit by contributing here - and thank you!
Finally, the last birds we were treated to viewing up close were the California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus). One of the largest birds in North America, males of the species are visibly indistinguishable from females. The largest threat to these giants is lead poisoning, making them critically endangered. The work that The Peregrine Fund is doing to restore wild populations of this amazing creature is fascinating, so take a look over here to learn all about them and this important work.
As the Center's volunteer took her leave of us, we were joined by Education Coordinator Curtis Evans. The depth and breadth of Curtis' knowledge about the important work being done by The Peregrine Fund was astounding, and we really enjoyed chatting with him to glean just a tidbit of information about birds of prey.
The view as we headed inside to the education center
Cameras keeping track of all the inhabitants at the World Center for Birds of Prey
As you can see, there were plenty of exhibits to teach visitors all about the important work needed to be completed by The Peregrine Fund.
Meanwhile, I was delighted to see that my kids were getting involved in the exhibits, educating themselves without my having to "encourage" it. ;)
Sophia enjoying puzzling out matching the proper eggs with their corresponding nests in the Discovery Room
The size- and shape-comparison of eggs (the bottom left one being from an extinct Madagascar Elephant Bird, middle Ostrich, and bottom right Hummingbird) fascinated me.
Seriously, I loved all the exhibits. Maybe it's me just missing my pre-motherhood biologist days, but I felt they were really well thought out and executed. What a cool and simple way to make the point about egg shapes!
They may be tween/teenagers now, but clearly the Odettelettes are still young children at heart when it came to dressing up like the birds about which they were learning! The costumes smartly taught them a thing or two while providing fun at the same time.
Awesome work being done by The Peregrine Fund
Embryonic Development of the American Kestrel
Kinda like The Butterfly Effect, we must all think about the choices we're making for ourselves which also affect our local - and distant - wildlife.
Lastly, we trekked over to the Tom Cade Theatre, where Curtis was waiting for us with an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) to demonstrate.
She was a beautiful bird, and we were glad to be able to see her up close.
While Curtis was feeding the American Kestrel some "mice krispies" (heh heh heh), she rewarded him - and the rest of us - with flights around the room. At one point, she perched up in the AV equipment cubby right above our heads and would not be coaxed out! Stubborn as a... kestrel?
As we were leaving, we stopped in the gift shop and peeped these stuffed owls. See what I did there? So cute! And I have an owl fan (Harry Potter-crazy Chloë) on my Christmas list.
Heading back to our vehicle, we spotted a bunbun up close! I don't know about you, but seeing rabbits (or hares, in this case? I don't rightly know) in the wild is always exciting. Or deer, or moo-cows on a farm, or... okay, so I just like all animals, all right?
And off we went. We give our many thanks to Curtis and the rest of the staff and volunteer team at The Peregrine Fund for hosting us (and for their patience in waiting for my post) - and more importantly, for all the work they do to ensure these beautiful birds are protected, conserved, and educated about so we can try and do the same.
Again, if you want to make a donation, click the logo above. It will be greatly appreciated and definitely put to good use.
And thank you, as always, for stopping by my humble space on the 'Net.