For the first time in 27 months, Seabrook Island Birders had an in person presentation at the Lake House. Stephen Stephen Schabel, Director of Education at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw joined us for the evening and we are glad he did. Stephen indicated it was only the second time in two years that their birds have been able to fly in a room full of people. It was therefore somewhat of a training experience for some of the birds.
Stephen once again used the birds to educate us about various features on the birds, some of the challenges birds in the wild may face plus the variety of activities the Center for Birds of Prey conducts. The program began with the return of a Harris’s Hawk that was bred in captivity and has been working with Stephen to educate people since 2005. This species is native to the dessert regions of New Mexico. So even though not from our region, this bird was a great example of how family of birds working together can accomplish things a single bird cannot. A Harris’s Hawk family can succeed in capturing and devouring a Jack Rabbit that a lone bird would not be able to. Stephen also explained that breeding then training birds such as this in captivity provides experience to the staff before it is needed for an endangered species. It is likely this could be the same Harris Hawk that visited Seabrook Island Birders in 2018. The SIB members were so engaged and asked so many great questions that Stephen diverted from script and answered with his expertise and enthusiasm.
The second bird was an American Kestrel which can be seen in the Low Country, usually in an open expanse and often on power lines. This bird is a small falcon that feeds mainly on insects and small mammals. Like all falcons, American Kestrel will fly at great speeds as it swoops down to capture its prey. Stephen rewards the birds with food for responding to his signal to fly. This lucky American Kestrel was very satisfied with the large morsel provided after his initial flight so he was happy eating his snack on his stand but also sought the higher perch of the punching bags in Live Oak hall.
A Eurasian Eagle-owl was our third avian visitor for the evening. This large owl from Eurasia has a wing span of over 6 feet. Although the large crowd was a little overwhelming, he did fly a few times upon request. Stephen explained how owl flights are quiet which makes it easier to swoop in and surprise their prey. Most in the audience were surprised to learn the tufts of feathers at the top of his head were not his ears but a camouflage. His ears are really closer in to his eyes.
Next came a gorgeous white bird that could have been found in our area but no one recognized. It was a leucistic Red-tail Hawk. This bird came to The Center of Birds of Prey after a park ranger saw it being attacked by other Red-tail Hawks. This shows how the coloration can help protect birds in the wild. This leucistic bird, while primarily white in color, has color variations each time it molts.
The final bird was an adorable 10 week old Spectacled Owl originating from the Amazon River area. Due to loss of habitat, this species is endangered. This chick is being trained to be part of the education and breeding program. It remained very calm as people came close to see him after the program. This bird was bred in captivity and due to its human interaction, it has imprinted on humans. Therefore it could never be released back into it’s native habitat. Interestingly, it could be bred and could raise its young that then could be released back in South America. At the Center of Birds of Prey, they have a female owl that was injured and unable to be released back into the wild. She still lays unfertilized eggs and sits on nest, expecting it to hatch. If an owlet is admitted to the medical facility, the egg can be removed and be replaced with the owlet. The captive mother happily raises the owlet until it can be released back into the wild.
The SIB members were thrilled with being back together again and seeing this informative program. Thanks to our members, we can share these pictures and videos from our evening.
To see some of the action, click on the video(s) of choice.