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Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
An eastern screech owl is one of many birds at the Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab’s annual raptor expo Saturday at Franke Park’s Pavilion 1.

Birds of prey take center stage

Rehab center shares raptors’ stories at expo

Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Sandy Moore shows off Jefferson, an immature bald eagle, during Saturday’s raptor expo. Its wings were broken when it fell out of its nest as a baby.

Every year, as many as 140 injured birds of prey – known as raptors – are brought to Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab after flying into buildings or being hit by cars or suffering some other serious injuries.

More than three-quarters recover from their injuries and are released into the wild, said Sandy Moore, a bald eagle trainer.

Some, though, are too seriously injured to survive in the wild.

On Saturday, the chapter brought 13 of the birds, ranging from tiny screech owls to a massive bald eagle, to Franke Park to give the public an up-close look at birds they rarely get even a glimpse of otherwise.

Kathy Magana, a volunteer with the organization, showed off Houdini, a screech owl with a damaged eye and that can’t fly. The bird, which calmly rested on her gloved hand, has coloration that lets it sit on in a tree and blend in like a branch, she said.

The bird was found inside the grille of a car that had hit it, said Teala Hellwarth, also a volunteer.

While some volunteers stood in the background holding three different tiny screech owls, others paraded through the pavilion like models, each carrying a different bird.

Aimee Nelson slowly walked down the aisle carrying a kestrel as people snapped pictures with their cellphones.

The kestrel, an announcer told the audience, is the smallest falcon in America. This bird has an injured wing that hangs low, Nelson said. It could fly, but it wouldn’t have the stamina or strength, so it’s now used for educational purposes.

There was a red-tailed hawk that got an infection in its crop, a part of its digestive system, that spread to its eyes, leaving it unable to hunt.

The crowd of more than 100 visitors saw great horned owls, short horned owls, medium horned owls and other birds that posed, mostly calm, for swarms of curious humans seeking pictures.

Moore showed off Jefferson, an 11-pound bald eagle that has yet to reach adulthood. It had fallen from a nest as a baby and had broken both of its wings. It has recovered but is suffering from arthritis in its wings.

Holding the huge bird on her arm was hard enough, but when it periodically spread its wings and tried to fly, it appeared to be ready to lift Moore off the ground.

The eagle, by the way, eats fish, and the raptor rehab will accept fish from local fishermen, Moore said.

Many of the injured birds that arrive at the raptor rehab are injured by cars, and Bob Walton, founder of Soarin’ Hawk, blamed people, saying they are slobs. They throw food out of car windows, and when wildlife comes to eat it, birds swoop in to catch prey and fly in front of cars.

The expo is meant to become an annual event to draw attention to the raptor rehab, find more volunteers and bring attention to its efforts to raise money to find a larger center for its operation.

It started last year when the company that secretary Barbara Hathaway works for held an employee picnic at the pavilion at the park. Hathaway asked if she could bring some birds in, and the result was a large number of new volunteers.