Students attend raptor program at Clanton Middle

Published 7:10 pm Friday, February 22, 2013

Amy Williams of the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Zoo holds the golden eagle, War Eagle VII (above), that flies at Auburn football games, during a raptor program at CMS.

Amy Williams of the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Zoo holds the golden eagle, War Eagle VII (above), that flies at Auburn football games, during a raptor program at CMS.

Raptor Specialist Marianne Hudson asked students at Clanton Middle School to listen with “rapt” attention Friday as she and her assistants introduced seven birds of prey from the Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn University.

The birds, or “raptors,” were part of a program presented to Chilton County students in third, sixth, seventh and eighth grades to allow them to learn about the carnivorous creatures while seeing them in person.

As Hudson talked about each raptor’s feeding patterns and physical characteristics, Raptor Specialist Andrew Hopkins of the SRC at Auburn, along with Amy Williams, Krissy Hamilton and Katie Barry, all of the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Zoo, took turns holding the raptors and walking them around the gym to give students a closer view.

Hudson said the barn owl, great horned owl, screech owl, red-tailed hawk, falcon, vulture and golden eagle they brought for Friday’s program are rescue birds that reside at Auburn’s raptor center.

“All of these birds had a problem,” Hudson said. “We did not catch them. They were sick or injured.”

Hudson said the center houses and cares for hurt birds people find in the wild and bring in for rehabilitation.

Most notably, the center is home to the eagles that fly around Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to football games.

War Eagle VII, the golden eagle that currently flies at the games, was the final raptor to be shown to students Friday and was met with loud cheers.

With the Board of Education’s permission, the Chilton Auburn Club facilitated the program to be held for local students as the club’s annual community service project.

Glenda Mims, who is on the club’s board of directors, and her husband Joe Mims attended the raptor program at the Southeastern Raptor Center in 2012 and suggested it to the club as a potential service project.

“We would probably like to do it every few years,” Chilton Auburn Club President Toni Miller said.

Hudson said the center holds close to 300 raptor shows every year, many of which are at schools.

Dr. Jimmy Milton started the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center—now the Southeastern Raptor Center—in the mid-1970s when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought six injured birds to Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine with the vision that the school would become a rehabilitation center for the region.

Since its founding, SRC has treated and released back into the wild thousands of raptors, while offering educational programs like the one coming to Chilton with non-releasable raptors for schools, civic and community groups in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.