Raptors amaze Chilton County students

Published 10:59 am Friday, March 3, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County third-grade students from every public school, Chilton Christian Academy and those who are homeschooled had the opportunity to see magnificent birds as a part of the Southeast Raptor Program (Auburn University) presentation.

The presentation was held at Clanton Middle School on March 2 and was sponsored by the Chilton Auburn Club.

A bald eagle, falcon, red-tailed hawk and white barn owl were among the raptors featured in the program. Each was described in detail and many showed off their wing span, while perched on the hand of their handler.

Chilton Auburn Club president Nyra Luster said the children are captivated and amazed by the program each year.

“Any bird she brings out today you’ll see. In the wild, even the bald eagle. On Lake Mitchell and Lake Jordan there are several bald eagles,” Luster said.

The club has sponsored the event for the past five years, making the event free of charge to the students.

Luster said the event was a good opportunity to be involved in the community and have Auburn in the community.

“Raptors are animals that grab. in the wild, they grab other animals because that’s what they eat,” presenter Mary Ann Hudson said. “Raptors are hunting birds.”

Hudson gave some good news about the bald eagle.

“Bald eagles used to be endangered, which means there were hardly any of them left,” Hudson said. “But now, they are found all over Alabama and all over the U.S.A and there are plenty of them.”

The falcon is the fastest bird.

“Falcons can fly 200 miles per hour [in a dive],” Hudson said.

Other birds presented included a screech owl, barred owl and vulture.

“There are eight different kinds of owls in Alabama,” Hudson said.

Hudson explained that although the screech owl looked small, it was actually full grown.

She also cleared up a few common misconceptions. She explained that the sound a screech owl makes is closer to a whiny than a screech, and the sound used for an eagle in most movies is actually a hawk.

The presenters told the students where they might find each type of raptor. Hudson said barred owls and bald eagles are usually found near water. The wings of raptors are designed for silent flight, so that they can sneak up on their prey.

Hudson said although raptors such as owls and falcons look different they each have a beak designed for tearing food and long talons.

Students also learned that many raptors are nocturnal, and some have the colors they do to be camouflaged in the forest.

Rhett LaPorte of the Raptor program explained raptors can move their heads 170 degrees because of the number of vertebrae in their necks.

The Southeast Raptor Program works with raptors that have been hurt.

“They do rehabilitate birds to the best of their ability,” Luster said.

If the birds reach a point where they can take care of themselves, then they are released back into the wild.