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Davis, California

Thursday, July 18, 2024

California Raptor Center to hold open house, “Hawk Walk”

UC Davis’ California Raptor Center will hold its free open house Saturday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., featuring a “Hawk Walk,” special presentations, museum tour and self-guided tours of the center.

“The open house is a method to bring the people from the outside who would not likely go the Raptor Center,” said Jo Cowen, head of the education department for the center.

The California Raptor Center (CRC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of raptors and education of the public.

The first event is the Hawk Walk, which will take place from 8 to 9 a.m. at the CRC gate. Cowen will give a walking tour along the levee road beside Putah Creek, just outside of the CRC. The public is encouraged to bring binoculars to scout the different wildlife that lives in the area.

“People see things in the sky, but they do not know what it is,” Cowen said.

During the Hawk Walk, Cowen will explain to the visitors how to identify different species of raptors in the wild by their shape, wingspans, flying style, special feather markings or sound.

Raptors can be hawks, eagles, kites, falcons, vultures or owls.

Hawk Walk participants might be able to see White-tailed Kites, Turkey Vultures, Northern Harriers and Red-Shouldered Hawks in the wild.

“But we sometimes get a surprise,” Cowen said.

Two presentations will be held after the Hawk Walk, one at 10 a.m. and the other at noon, each lasting about an hour.

At the presentations, special education raptors will be presented on leather gloves of the center’s volunteers. In addition to learning about raptors, the public will get to be a few feet away from the birds and are allowed to take pictures with these “Masters of the Sky,” said Christine Adams, a six-year volunteer at the center.

“A lot of the taming birds are not in the cages,” Cowen said. Some raptors are held in special areas that are not open to visitors.

This Open House will be the debut for “Sophie” and “Baggins.” Sophie is a Saw-Whet Owl and Baggins is a Burrowing Owl. The two are among the birds that are not available to be viewed by the public throughout the year. The open house is likely the only time that the public will be able to see these raptors, among others, Adams said.

“The open house is only held during the spring and fall, so if you miss this one you have to wait till spring for the next one,” Adams said.

Thor, a Ferruginous Hawk that is not normally available for close interaction with the public, will be among the education birds out of their cages at the open house.

Thor was hit by a train and carried on its grill for four-and-a-half hours into California. He was rescued and treated, but his fractured right wing did not heal properly so he is unable to be released. Thor is now an education bird for the CRC. The open house is a chance for the public to learn about the Ferruginous Hawk, which is the largest hawk in the country, said Omar Cabrera, a UCD veterinary student and a CRC volunteer.

Preserved talons, beaks, skulls and specimens will be showcased at the presentations and the museum throughout the morning.

After the presentations, the visitors are welcome to stay and walk around to view all the raptors at the center.

The CRC began in 1972 as a center for raptor research and education. It grew from its original facility, a small house near the university airport, to its current location on Old Davis Road, which can house more than 160 raptors, according to the CRC’s website.

The center gets approximately 200 injured or orphaned raptors a year, mainly brought in by the public.

“We have about a 65 percent release rate,” Adams said.

The raptors that are unable to be released back into the wild, due to injury, become education birds. The birds are trained and taken to offsite visits to educate the public about raptor biology, preservation and rehabilitation.

To get to the center, head south on Old Davis Road, cross the train tracks near the Sewage Treatment Facility and turn left before the bridge. There is a sign for the California Raptor Center on Old Davis Road.

For more information about the center, visit its website at vetmed.ucdavis.edu/calraptor.


MINH PHAM can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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