The California Raptor Center's Education Program seeks to introduce people of all ages to raptors and their habitats, and to encourage appreciation, respect, and protection of these magnificent birds.
When a bird of prey is sick, injured, or lacking the ability to survive in the wild, it can often mean the end of its life. Damaged wings and blindness compromise core survival skills needed for hunting and procreating. Even after receiving the best of care, some birds can't be released.
Hatchlings born in captivity can face similarly troublesome circumstances: If they imprint on humans, it hinders their ability to connect with their own species, making life in the wild nearly impossible. At best, a chamber-raised bird lacks the vital survival information it would get from a parent in the wild, from hunting refinements to protecting itself from predators.
Many rehabilitation centers, including the California Raptor Center at UC Davis, have programs that allow unreleasable birds to serve as tools to educate the public about science and conservation. At the CRC, these program include both public outreach classes and on-site educational tours.
The California Raptor Center provides a home for 35 to 40 non-releasable birds and uses them as educators. Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and American Kestrels can almost always be found in our enclosures. Some of them also serve as "taming birds," birds that have been trained to the glove and are comfortable enough to be held by volunteers during tours and presentations. Small groups, under six people, may choose self-guided strolls through the center, reading about the birds in each cage at their own pace. Larger groups are asked to schedule a class and guided tour. Schools, clubs, tribal groups, libraries can schedule a visit from our Off-site Education teams.
In addition to a formal talk, all these events emphasize a hands-on approach to learning. In the museum on campus, young children can search photographs for an owl camouflaged in a tree or match feathers to images of birds of prey while older kids admire the feet and skulls of various raptors.
When the CRC schedules a visit to a school, library, or club, our docents can tailor presentations to the needs of specific groups, from birders to young children. Of course the most popular attractions for these visits are the birds who accompany us. Grasshopper, a Swainson's hawk, is one of our traveling ambassadors. We also travel with great-horned owls, American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and sometimes even Sullivan, one of our resident golden eagles.
The California Raptor Center focuses on outreach to the Greater Sacramento area and surrounding counties, and has hosted groups from as far as Los Altos, California.