Monday, October 22, 2007

Canadian Raptor Conservancy

Barn Owl

At the opening of the Huron Natural Area this past weekend, the Canadian Raptor Conservancy held a demonstration. I visited a raptor rehabilitation centre at the Mountsberg Conservation Area earlier this year, but the birds were caged and only one Barn Owl made an appearance at a small show.

Red-tailed Hawk

The birds in this demonstration were not injured or rescued, but had been captive bred. The wind was strong and gusty, but the hawks and falcons were able to do some free flying. James Cowan is the director of the conservancy and he did the demonstration with some help from his young son. It was an educational and entertaining show and I enjoyed seeing these beautiful birds at close range.

Juvenile Bald Eagle (2 years old)

Earlier that morning I met a birder along the Grand River who was eager to tell me that he had just seen an immature Bald Eagle in a tree on the opposite bank with his scope. Bald Eagles do not nest in our region, but increasing numbers of them are wintering along the river. This man was part of a group that monitors their movements and reports sightings to the Ministry of Natural Resources. James Cowan showed the audience a juvenile male Bald Eagle. I really hope to see one this winter.

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is a very beautiful falcon. I remember it being called a Sparrow Hawk, but it is not a hawk and has been renamed. The flight feathers are brilliant. We had one in our neighbourhood this spring, but I have not seen any around over the summer.

Harris Hawk

This last bird is a veteran and has starred in several Hollywood movies. The Harris Hawk is not found in Canada, but is native to the American south-west and Mexico. This bird was a seasoned performer. But an unexpected gust of wind carried him off into a bush in an adjacent property. The director's young son went running across the field and over a fence and coaxed the bird back with some meat.

The Harris Hawk sat on the head of this young father in the audience. Apparently, their stance is very gentle and light as they are accustomed to standing on spiny cactus plants.

The shows were repeated hourly throughout the afternoon and many children and adults had the opportunity to learn about birds of prey. After the show, someone pointed out a Sharp-shinned Hawk overhead in pursuit of a small bird. That hunting display was for real, and the hawk did not gain a meal that time. The presence of these birds of prey is an indicator of the health of the local environment. The Barn Owl is now extirpated in Ontario due to loss of habitat. It is unable to hunt for small rodents in fields that are densely planted with corn and soybeans. The more we see and learn about these magnificent birds, the more we should care about preserving their habitats.


  1. Birds of prey, with their forward-facing eyes--looking right back at you with the same intensity with which we look at them!
    Such lovely birds and pictures of them.

  2. Wonderful pictures. Do I change the name of my winter visitor Sparrow Hawk to Mexican Kestrel?
    Mexico Mom

  3. Barn owls seem to be having a hard time of it everywhere.


    So these birds are captive bred and kept just for educational purposes? Or are they used in hunting by falconers?

  4. We are fortunate to have lots of eagles in our area - love to sit on the deck and watch them soar, then spiral downward.

  5. Nina- Their gaze is very intense and intimidating to prey, I am sure. It was easy to take pictures with the birds a few feet away from me! :-)

    Mom- Well, we call it the American Kestrel in Canada. I assume America refers to the continent.

    Laura- Here is a quote from the website of the CRC.

    "Canadian Raptor Conservancy is one of the largest captive breeding projects in the world. We have over 200 captive-bred birds at our facility. We regularly breed over 15 different species each year. Many are endangered species and some of their offspring are sent back into the wild through organized release projects around the world."

    I think some must go to zoos too.

    Jean- Maybe they will recover here to the point that we will find them common place. Hope so!

  6. What magnificent birds! Thanks for sharing this Ruth. Love the cute barn owls.

  7. Ruth, this post is wonderful but what I enjoyed the most was the last photo - the laughter and smiles on the crowd's faces for the brave soul with a hawk on his head.

  8. Great pictures and story, Ruth! I really liked seeing all of the different raptors up close. It must have been so fun for you to view this presentation.

  9. Great stuff. A few winters ago, we had a hawk take a bird from our backyard feeder.

  10. The photos of the birds of prey are awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like you had a terrific time.

    We have golden and bald eagles in our area along the Grand. They were almost wiped out here, but are making a comeback.

    Have a blessed Tuesday. I enjoyed my visit.


  11. Jayne- Owls are so unique...another bird I have never seen in the wild.

    Mary- I too was impressed with the audience reaction to the show. People were very interested and enjoyed it very much. Good looking Canadians, eh?

    RuthieJ- Thanks. I have so many pictures! the joy of digital photography.

    AC- I know hawks have to eat too. And winter must be a hard time for them (as well as the feeder birds!).

    Mary- I am guessing you live to the south of us. There is a nesting pair of Bald Eagles at Dunnville.

  12. Anonymous6:23 am GMT-4

    I love the looks on the faces of the people behind the Harris Hawk on the man's head. People love to have close encounters with wildlife. May we continue to have these kinds of opportunities.

  13. Jennifer- You are fortunate in being able to bring people close to nature in your job. I hope you have many more opportunities to do so.


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