baby barn owls

baby barn owls at The Raptors

Last Sunday, in the rain, I visited The Raptors in Duncan again for a second time.  If you’re at all interested in birds, and specifically birds of prey, it really is worth a visit, especially because of the flying demonstrations and all the information on these birds they share at that time.  At the entrance where you pay admission, they had a plastic bin on the counter with 2 several-days-old barn owls.  Hard to believe these ugly little things become such beautiful owls!

The staff handed out rubber mats to sit on during the flying demonstration, so you don’t have to sit directly on the wet benches, which was a relief!

Some random facts I learned on my trip to The Raptors this time:

  • birds don’t like to fly as much in the rain – the great horned owl was not that interested in flying, and they used the great horned owl that day because the barn owl that was scheduled to fly is even more susceptible to the rain
  • raptors SIT about 90 – 100% of the time
  • all raptors have in common large eyes, a sharp downward curving beak, and strong talons
  • male bald eagles are considerably smaller than female bald eagles
  • one of the heaviest owls in the world is the Eurasian Eagle Owl, while the largest owl in the world is the Great Grey Owl (although a lot of its size is comprised of its fluffy feathers and large head)
  • turkey vultures, while not raptors, are very interesting birds – they can only make hisses and grunts as they have no vocal organ
  • to keep cool, turkey vultures will urinate on their own feet
  • if they’ve been gorging on carrion, their main food source, and feel threatened, turkey vultures will vomit to make themselves lighter so they can take off in flight – and the vomit smells absolutely foul, not surprising considering the source!
  • turkey vultures can smell carrion through the forest canopy – they fly low to the ground and their sense of smell can pick up a gas that is released at the start of decay of a dead body
  • falcons are one of the fastest birds in the world, catching their prey in the air
  • they also have a marabou-stork at the centre, a very interesting looking bird from Africa
  • birds trained by the staff at The Raptors are working at YVR to help control flocks of birds that could collide with planes on the flight paths
best falcon upright

Falcon during flying demonstration at The Raptors

It was a fascinating afternoon.  The Raptors is one of the great attractions here in the Cowichan Valley, with a primary focus on education.  For more intimate and up close encounters with some of these incredible birds you can also take a “hawk walk” or an “owl prowl” or book a day class or an even more comprehensive course to learn about hawks, eagles, owls, falcons and turkey vultures and have a chance to work with them.  I’m certainly hoping to do that sometime in the near future.

Cobble House is less than half an hour away from The Raptors, so centrally located for a visit there and to the many other attractions and activities here in the Valley.  Come and stay with us to explore all that the Cowichan has to offer!


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