An educational experience, teaching awareness and respect for wildlife using live, native birds of prey

SUMMER

2009

NEWSLETTER

Dear Friends of Sky Hunters Environmental Education:

I can’t believe it has been a year since I put out the last newsletter! So much has happened in the past 12 months.

For our long-time supporters – thank you for all your emails and continued support of our move to Oregon. We miss you and hope you will continue to share your ideas and resources for bringing environmental education to your communities. I still receive calls and program requests for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and I would love to pass on your newly discovered local option to others.

For our new supporters – we are loving our move to Oregon and finding the communities here just as receptive and in need of our programs as in California. Thank you for giving us a try; we hope to be meeting more of you in the new school year. Please feel free to pass this newsletter on to other interested parties.

Sky Hunters Environmental Education strives to provide a helpful, informative electronic newsletter on a quarterly basis. Please let us know if you would rather not receive the electronic notice when each newsletter is put up on our website by sending an email to accipiter@sky-hunters.org. Sky Hunters was founded to teach respect and awareness of wildlife and wild places, using live birds of prey to emphasize our message. We take great pride in providing small group presentations geared toward enlightenment, enrichment, and empowerment. Experience has shown us that the personal introduction to these wild creatures will capture your imagination, and hopefully your heart, and our conservation message will be delivered with wildlife and wild places in mind. Find out more about each program offered on our website: http://www.sky-hunters.org/Presentations.html

Now for an update:

The Birds

Below you will find updates on each of the individual birds that go out on Sky Hunters programs. The move to the Pacific Northwest has been good for the birds. Changing from a small suburban backyard in Los Altos, California to a country farm in Oregon has allowed all of the birds to unwind and get back to their natural pace with the environment.

The fall was extraordinarily beautiful with the mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and even the vineyards adding color to the landscape. Moving when we did allowed the birds to adjust to the weather in a slow, natural way. The winter was exceptionally snowy; we were actually snowed in for ten full days with up to 4 feet of snow accumulating on the property, including the barn roof. All the birds’ caging is under that same roof. The snow did help to insulate the cages, keeping the birds warmer than if they were in free standing cages, and they survived the winter weather just fine.

Spring was welcoming with many surprises of spring flowers and the birds started getting out to programs again. It seemed they all missed their routine and were very willing to head out. Things slowed down again with the ending of the school year, just in time for all the birds to go through the most intensive molt that I have ever seen. Feathers everywhere!

We are hoping the fall and remainder of the year will bring many more opportunities for our birds to get out into the community. Sky Hunters is starting to line up school programs, environmental fairs, and presentations to gardening clubs and other groups. Let us provide your organization with an informative and enjoyable introduction to one of our many programs.

As you can imagine, moving the birds, rebuilding cages, and starting over in a new community has depleted our funds. Please remember Sky Hunters Environmental Education with your tax-deductible donations.

Contact Karen at: accipiter@sky-hunters.org or

home phone: 503-852-7829

**All the photographs in this newsletter were taken by Brian Gaunt, a local wildlife photographer who spent a morning with the birds.

Red-tailed hawk – (Buteo jamaicensis) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might remember that our Red-tailed hawk came into captivity in her first winter of life after being hit by a car. A shoulder injury grounded this lovely soaring hawk, but a balance problem has kept her in captivity. She came to Sky Hunters in May 2006 at the age of five after spending three years in rehabilitation and then an additional two years with a falconer, who was also an elementary school vice-principal (she lived at the school).

Once we got her the view she wanted, she settled into her cage comfortably and attracted the attention of a local male Red-tailed hawk. He came courting last September, well after the breeding season. He was a regular visitor all of last fall and we would see him sitting outside of her cage most mornings. Spring brought serious breeding urges and off he went to find a lady who could truly join him.

As we changed climate significantly from the warmer California winters we installed heated perches in all cages and sheltered areas. Even this large, tough Red-tail used her heated perch during the long cold nights. Spring’s extremely heavy molt showed that Mother Nature knows how to protect her creatures.

Our Red-tail continues to be a wonderful ambassador to the public and impresses all who see the spirit and pride she exhibits. A full year sponsorship of our Red-tailed hawk is $150, which provides food, medical care and housing upgrades (such as her heated perch). Sponsors receive a beautiful picture of the Red-tail and a certificate of sponsorship—a wonderful gift for anyone!  

Great Horned Owl – (Bubo virginianus) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our young Great Horned owl is six years old this year and continues to thrive. He is full of attitude and demands attention everywhere he goes. He has actively participated in with the local, wild, Great Horned owl calling contest that went on most of the fall and winter here at Sky Hunters Farm. Many nights we could hear him adding his hooting voice with up to four other Great Horned owls. Some nights his wild counterparts would sit on the house and “talk” with him for hours.

He has adapted well to Oregon and loves to sit on the highest perch overlooking the forest. But, even his “tough guy” attitude couldn’t keep him off his heated perch this winter either and he also went through a heavy molt this spring. His cage was so littered with feathers that I gave him a close physical examination to make sure he was doing all right. As you can imagine, replacing all of his feathers in the spring molt has given him fresh feathers to show off at his best. Even on his worst ‘feather day’ he impresses the audience with his demeanor.

Sponsorship of our Great Horned owl is $250. Even a partial sponsorship, $50, $75 or $100 will go a long way in keeping this guy fed, and provide up to date medical care and housing upgrades. With your sponsorship you will receive a professional picture and certificate of sponsorship. All sponsorships are tax-deductible. 

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit that I use our young Barn Owl to charm a nervous audience. She has a way of making the most frightened child want to reach out to her as well as getting the attention of even the most cynical adult. She came to Sky Hunters as a nestling due to a fractured hip that might cause egg binding (eggs breaking inside of her instead of passing through the hips). In captivity we have the chance to prevent serious injury with good veterinary care.

Our little Barn owl was the one I was most worried about in the cold weather, and the one to get the first heated perch in her cage. She did seem to live on the heated perch all winter, but would not tolerate being kept indoors at night. She wanted her space! She, as the other birds, has attracted the local inhabitants and had several visits from a male suitor at the barn where she is housed. Returning from an evening program, we found him waiting for her inside the barn. She is very content with her new, larger cage. Sponsorship for our Barn Owl is $100 and will go a long way toward providing food and care.  

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Peregrine falcon, at the ripe old age of 19, is doing wonderfully. He came to Sky Hunters due to a wing injury in June 2007 after surviving for 16 years in the wild. As he was banded with Fish and Wildlife aluminum identification bands, his age was determined, and it was judged that he would not survive long if reintroduced into the wild with a compromised elbow joint. He has added grace and a positive message of conservation to our programs. We can make a difference in the outcome of a species’ survival if we care enough!

As an older bird who survived as a wild individual for so many years he has adapted well to captivity and handling. He has formed an unusual attachment to our Red-tailed hawk and they can be seen daily sitting close to each other at a common wall in their cages. We hope he continues to thrive and do well in programs.

Being a large falcon, his food intake and requirements are the most demanding of all our birds. Annual food costs add up to $750 for this individual. Your sponsorship of $300 would go a long way to making sure he has the best we can provide for him. Partial sponsorships are always welcome.  

 

Introducing Sky Hunters’ newest addition: American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little female American kestrel came to Sky Hunters in July 2009 as a first year bird almost right out of the nest. She is blind in her left eye and is the smallest female kestrel I have ever seen. Our new kestrel is expected to do very well in programs, especially with the little children. Cascade Raptor Center in Eugene, OR http://www.eraptors.org/ took her in and realized right away that she would not be released back to the wild. We are very happy to have her join our program.

Many of you remember I lost our original male American kestrel the end of June 2008, just before we started to relocate. I was having a very difficult time thinking of replacing him, but knew that a kestrel was important for our small children programs. I am glad this little girl became available when she did. Watch for her debut this fall. Sponsorship for our American kestrel is $50, and like the others, you will receive a beautiful, professionally taken picture of her as well as a certificate of sponsorship.  

 

Featured Species: Turkey Vultures 

One of the fascinating observations here on the farm is the arrival and departure of different raptor species. Winter is the time to look for hawks, falcons and harriers, while summer is the time for turkey vultures. While vultures are not raptors in the true sense (they do not catch prey with their feet) they do serve a very useful purpose and shouldn’t be overlooked in the balance of the environment.

In a recent campfire talk at Champoug State Park, the rangers asked me to specifically talk about the turkey vulture, a highly visible and very misunderstood, but fascinating bird.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photograph by Tom Grey

The turkey vulture is a carrion-eating bird that shares a common ancestor with storks and ibises. The American, or New World, vultures are in the Ciconiiformes class and the Cathartidae family, while the old world or European, African and Asian vultures are in the Accipitridae family (the same family as most of our raptors).

Part of the vulture’s appearance, its bald head and neck, are unique adaptations to suit their lifestyle as carrion eaters. Just imagine how they would keep head and neck feathers clean while cleaning up dead bodies. Like all of our New World vultures, and unlike our true raptors, turkey vultures have weak feet, more suited to running than for carrying food.

Vultures have excellent eyesight, but they are also known for their exceptional sense of smell. Studies have shown that they can smell meat buried up to two feet under the ground. On the other hand, most of our raptors have a very poorly developed sense of smell, relying upon vision and hearing to locate food.

One of the most distinguishing features of the turkey vulture is its graceful, almost effortless flight. Holding their wings in a dihedral or V-shape, they can soar for long periods without flapping their wings. They accomplish this by waiting until the morning air has warmed before taking off from their nightly perch, then searching for thermals (rising columns of air) that allow them to rise easily in increasing circles.

When viewing a large raptor-like bird overhead, you can distinguish the turkey vulture by the silvery sheen to the flight feathers and the almost headless appearance due to lack of feathers on the head.

There are many places to learn more about these fascinating birds, and this is the type of information that Sky Hunters offers in our programs. Besides meeting two unforgettable raptors up close you will gain valuable knowledge about our local environment and learn ways to protect the creatures and places that should be dear to all of us. Check out the different presentations offered on under Programs on our website: http://www.sky-hunters.org  

Thank you for supporting Sky Hunters Environmental Education, we hope you will continue to do so in the future. Our mission of teaching respect and awareness for wildlife and wild places continues to drive us in our new community. Feel free to drop us a note at accipiter@sky-hunters.org or send your sponsorship requests or tax-deductible donations to:

Sky Hunters Environmental Education

PO BOX 342

Carlton, OR 97111  

 

For past newsletters click here!

 

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