The invitation caught my attention as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed. Pay a few dollars, hold an owl. Make that three owls. Ooooooh. Who could resist?
We met the organizers and other participants at the American Wildlife Refuge headquarters Saturday afternoon. The organization is located in a small, out-of-the-way office in south Raleigh, but they do big things. Their volunteer staff has rescued over 600 raptors in and around the area.
Most are successfully rehabilitated, but not all the birds can be released back into the wild. Some of those become ambassadors for the cause.
After our training and education session on the great horned owl, Rasputin, Forest, the barred owl, and Speedy, the tiny Eastern screech owl, we were invited to don a glove (on our non-dominant hand) and take turns meeting each owl.
Rasputin looks a little scary, but he was the bird I met first. His eyes are large and clear, and, yes, his claws are big! He was a little wary, but he has not been an educator bird for long. He was fairly comfortable with his trainer, though.
At about four pounds, Rasputin is a heavy bird. Four pounds is not a lot, unless you balance that weight on your hand and wrist for a few minutes!
Barred owls, in contrast, are not hard to hold. But, they have quite a grip! Each owl requires its own specialized glove, depending on what kind of protection the owl-handler needs.
Forest, whose dark eyes were at half-mast for most of the presentation, looked so soft. But petting was off-limits. So I respected the rules.
A tiny screech owl (see top photo) caught our attention before we met the other birds. He was perched on a pedestal when we walked in. He stood so still, we weren’t sure he was real. Then he moved. The eyelashes on owls are quite incredible! Like many birds, they also have an extra eyelid to protect them while hunting.
The raptor volunteers said if this fundraiser went over well, they would schedule others. More, please!
To keep up with the activities of this dedicated group, log onto their website, their Facebook page, or join their Meetup Group.