A REAL HOOT: TES students learn about ‘raptors’

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

How far can an owl see? Can a falcon be kept as a pet? How do hawks talk?

All these questions and more were answered by specialists from the Southeastern Raptor Center of Auburn University at Troy Elementary School Thursday.

Owls actually can’t see very far, said specialist Rhett LaPorte; instead, their eyes are built for better night vision, picking up trace amounts of light and amplifying it so that trees, structures and prey are easier to see.

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The wide-eyed first grade students had plenty of questions to ask about the birds throughout the demonstration, which principal Teresa Sims said is one of the best things about having the raptor center come and visit each year.

“It’s always better to have a live presentation than just reading about it in a book or seeing it on a screen,” Sims said. “The kids get the opportunity to see the animals live and up close – they’re not in a cage or in a pen.”

During the presentation, the birds of prey were brought out so the children could see the animals while the specialists described their diets, flight and other special characteristics.

The birds included multiple owls, a red-tailed hawk, a falcon and a bald eagle.

They learned that Eagles can make out the text of a typical book from a mile away and that falcons can be kept quiet simply by covering their eyes with a hood.

They also learned that, while the animals are majestic to see up close, they don’t make good pets.

“These birds eat meat, and what are your fingers made of? Meat,” said specialist Andrew Hopkins. Even when two of their famous eagles, Nova and Spirit, soar around Jordan Hare Stadium before Auburn University football games, Hopkins said they are coming for a lure that they know will bring a snack; they aren’t coming back to their owners like a dog or cat might do.

“The handlers do a fantastic job explaining the characteristics of animals like why beak might be shaped a certain way,” Sims said. “They just really do a very good job of making it interesting for boys and girls.”

Sims thanked the Troy City Schools Education Foundation, who provides the funding to make hosting the event possible each year.