The Center maintains a group of 18 non-releasable birds (primarily hawks, owls and falcons) for use in educational talks and outreach events. These are usually birds that have recovered from an injury but have sustained permanent damage, making them incapable of surviving in the wild.
Volunteers with the Raptor Handling Program are responsible for handling the birds, keeping them fed, cleaning their aviaries, performing weekly health evaluations and maintaining equipment. Volunteers learn how to safely handle the birds on their gloved fist, tie them to a perch, box them for transport to public events, and much more. Once they become competent in these necessary handling skills, volunteers are eligible to participate in our Educational Program with the public.
Participants in this program have a uniquely rewarding opportunity to closely work and interact with birds usually observed only from a distance. This work requires a certain level of physical dexterity and conditioning (e.g., the ability to hold a 3-pound bird for an hour or more on one hand, bending down to perch a bird, standing for an extended period, etc.). The hands-on instruction is extensive, requiring several months of weekly, 2-hour+ training sessions, and covers not only the care and handling of these birds, but also the study of migration, avian anatomy, bird identification and other topics commonly part of our Education Programs.
Once formal training is completed, handlers are expected to work with the resident raptors a minimum of 2-3 hours each week, and to present birds to the public during at least one Visitor Day per quarter. Attendance at occasional guest lectures and study groups may be required from time to time.
Raptor handlers are also required to undergo the one-day Field Rescue training. All volunteers are required to become BRC members, have health insurance coverage and be up-to-date on their tetanus booster, and anyone transporting birds to education programs or other events needs proof of current auto insurance coverage as well.
The next training will begin in Fall 2019. See the Raptor Program page for more details.