Raptors Strike Awe

Jim Parks of the traveling raptor education program WINGMASTERS kept the audience perched at the end of their seats Friday.

The show’s stars included the fastest animal on the planet.
The stars were raptors.
Birds of prey stood face-to-face with their human audience Friday in a room at the in Swampscott.
Jim Parks of the traveling raptor education program WINGMASTERS presented the hawk, falcons and owls.
Each bird got a proper introduction.
Parks then brought the sharp-beaked birds from their wooden boxes to a perch on his arm — attached to a leash — and the two of them worked the room.
Imagine climbing one mile high then dropping to earth.
This is the route the noble peregrine falcon takes to feed itself and its young.
It reaches speeds beyween 100 and 200 miles per hour as it dives to earth, Parks said.
Hurtling at speeds three times those clocked by the earth-bound cheetah, the falcon strikes a pigeon with its clenched peregrine toes and knocks the unsuspecting  bird to the ground.
The peregrine, by the way, was nearly knocked from existence in the 1960s due to the pesticide DDT which depleted calcium in its eggs.
Their numbers plummeted to just 39 pairs in all of North America, Parks said.
Today, long after DDT pesticides have been banned, falcon numbers have rebounded to about 3,000 pairs in North America.
Parks’ Kestrel, a 9-inch falcon, and his 3-ounce saw-whet owl, drew ooohs from the crowd for the raptors’ cuteness.
Cute, yes, but fierce and strong.
The kestrel hauls away prey larger than itself.
And in the strength department, the mighty great horned owl is one of the most powerful and aggressive owls in New England.
The bird’s size, puffed body and intent gaze drew gasps from the room.
Parks says these owls can kill a bald eagle.
Perhaps its greatest featrues is its magnificent camouflage.
It is virtually impossible to see against the backdrop of a white pine.
Your best bet for spotting a great horned owl or other owl is to listen.
Listen for birds screaming.
If you hear a tree full of birds screaming there maybe an owl nearby.
Noises from Friday’s crowd expressed appreciation.
The raptors struck awe, their stature magnified by Parks’ straightforward and energetic presentation.


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