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Birds of Prey Presentation

By Jamie Ratchford

Did you know that peregrine falcons are the fastest animal on Earth and can fly over 200 miles per hour?

Jennifer Purcell, an Environmental Science major and volunteer at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center shared this and other information to the Lipkin Theater audience on April 17 at the annual “Birds of Prey” event hosted by the Science Club.

Purcell brought along props like feathers and life-sized cutouts of raptors, but best of all, she brought birds.

An audience, made up mostly of students from NCC’s Children’s Center, were thrilled, giggling as Butler, the screech owl let out a chirping hoot. They pointed and bounced in their seats as Lazarus, the red-tailed hawk, flapped his wing.

The birds in the presentation were all rescued and now live permanently at the education center where they were rehabilitated after various ails.

Butler had been stolen from his nest when he was an owlet. A thief mistakenly thought that he would make a good pet and soon abandoned him.

Lazarus was hit by a car and suffered a partial amputation of one of his wings, losing sight in his one eye.

There was also Foster, the barred owl with dark, immense eyes. He, too, had lost part of his wing in an accident.

The naturalists and volunteers at CCEEC work with the birds in order to give them a new life because they would not survive in the wild.

The children asked a lot of questions like, “Are their beaks sharp?” and “What do they eat?”

Purcell shared facts about the eating habits of birds of prey. They eat rodents like squirrel and mice and some are strong enough to catch skunks.

The barred-owl, we learned, has the squeezing strength of 250 pounds in its gripping talons. Yes, their beaks are sharp. Owls have no sense of smell but have keen vision and impeccable hearing, she explained.

“They can hear mice underneath the snow,” Purcell said “they can even hear your heart beating.”

Spring is when many birds of prey are building nests and mating, including red-tailed hawks which mate for life. They can be seen throughout Pennsylvania, some even perching on street lamps in search of prey.

“Look up and listen closely for the hawks, you might be able to see one,” Purcell said.

The education center opened in 1983 on a 60-acre Mauch Chunk lake property, an area of woodland, wetland, and meadow that is recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a “Backyard Habitat.” The center advocates conservation through education.

Summer internships are available to NCC students. The application can be found online at www.carboneec.org/volunteers-interns