Thursday, March 3, 2016

Native Bird Connections - Our Founding Principles

Most of the time when you see one of our programs or see us present you will hear us talk about Respect, Responsibility and Reverence.  These three words, the three R's, are the founding principles of our organization and they perfectly describe our core philosophy.  We want our supporters, audiences and followers to understand our approach to not only how we handle, manage and care for our program birds but also how we view these amazing animals in the wild.

We frequently ask our school age audiences if they know what the word respect means or what it means to them.  Their answers are typically clear, honest and quite on point with what we view respect as.  When we talk about respect we are talking about respect to the animals in our care as well as animals in the wild.  Our birds did not choose to live a captive life and in fact, they would never choose this life.  You may ask, why wouldn't they be happy?  They have all the food they want, they are "safe", they have shelter and are well cared for, all they have to do is go and sit on your glove for a program.  The truth is that a captive life is a huge gift to give and it is not for all animals.  These are not social animals nor are they captive bred which means that they have no interest in us, as companions whatsoever.  They have lived a wild life and had no choice but to lose that. They do not view us as their "friend" or owner, however, our goal is to build a cooperative working relationship with them where we, the handlers and caretakers, become a familiar and trusted safety zone.  We need them to be relatively comfortable with us coming into their enclosures, feeding them, cleaning up their space, putting equipment on them, handling them and moving them around. We believe in giving the animals choice and allowing them to be themselves while still agreeing to a working relationship with us.  Out of respect to the animals we do not pet them or touch them other than to have them on the glove or handle them as necessary to examine them, change equipment or perform husbandry care.  To pet them would be something that we, as humans might want to do because we would enjoy it, but the animal wouldn't enjoy it, so we don't do it.  When we bring out a bird at a program we ask children not to laugh or scream if the birds flap around or bate (jump off of the glove), because again, this isn't fun for the animal.  They are doing us a favor by being an education animal and allowing people the amazing opportunity to see a bird of prey up close. We owe it to them to show them the upmost respect and to realize the value in being able to learn from them.

Additionally, we want to encourage people to have respect for the wild raptors and other animals who we share the world with.  We want to inspire others to realize that these birds are important to our environment. And, to spread the word that in order to help these wild birds we first have to understand them, respect what they are and who they are and be okay with the fact that they are magnificent and amazing creatures even with their differences to us.

The next word we use to convey our message is responsibility.  If we truly care about these animals and want to see them be a successful species we have to also take some responsibility in making that happen and creating change.  Change is not easy and many people view issues or problems as so big and monumental that they won't be able to do anything to change things so why even try.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  There are many things that people can do in order to promote change and support these birds. here are just a few things that are very important and impact the lives of raptors everywhere.

  • Support organizations such as ours so that we can continue to educate the public about raptors. Support can come in different ways such as donating money, sharing the information, attending programs or volunteering.
  • Don't use rodenticides (poison) for rodent control.  Wild raptors from the tiny American Kestrel all the way up to the Great Horned Owl will eat rodents.  Rodenticides cause rodents to die slowly becoming weak and slow making them easy prey for a raptor.  The poisoned rodent becomes a deadly risk to the raptor who has taken this easy prey.  Rodenticides put cats, dogs and other animals at risk as well.  Share this information and encourage your friends and neighbors not to use rodenticides.
  • Consider putting up a barn owl or kestrel nest box.  Some of these animals can benefit from a habitat to raise a family.
  • Try to see things from the animal's point of view.  Realizing that while raptors are not cuddly and interested in our affection, they still need to eat and are important and they matter.
Reverence is having a deep respect and admiration of someone or something, even being in awe. That is how we view these animals.  Even handlers and caretakers that have been handling birds of prey for many years are grateful every day for the opportunity to be able to work with these birds, to handle them and to care for them. Reverence should encourage us daily to continue to try and see things from the animal's point of view and to appreciate them deeply for who and what they are. We try to always remember that a captive life is not the life these birds chose, it isn't how they were meant to live and doing so is an amazing gift to those of us who get to learn from them. Just their presence and seeing an eagle, a falcon, an owl or a hawk up close can inspire people in a way that they never felt when just seeing the birds in a photograph or soaring above them in the sky. We should all be as impressed and in awe seeing them in the wild and we hope that our birds and our organization inspires people to do that and to gain a new appreciation for raptors in the wild.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Raptor Cuisine

Presentation is everything! These two GIGANTIC gophers came from local high schools where the maintenance staff has committed to using zero rodenticides and now only uses traps. They are kindly donating the trapped gophers to Native Bird Connections to use as food. Since gophers have a relatively small foraging range they are a safe and natural food item to offer our raptors.

We are very grateful for this arrangement and applaude the Acalanes School District! They should be a great example for other areas with gopher issues, especially places like golf courses. Although we cannot predict the number of gophers we will receive, it will help offset the cost of purchasing food for the birds

Note the quarter as a size reference; these gophers are in the 10 ounce range, literally double the size of normal gophers. Obviously they were getting a bountiful diet. Now they will benefit captive raptors and become part of a win-win situation

Monday, November 4, 2013

Feathered Enrichment

Every once in a while wild turkeys wander this case, they were directly in front of a few of the aviaries in which the raptors reside. Probably a very entertaining sight! The turkeys had no idea of the proximity to predators and continued scratching away and preening, completely at ease.



Oh YUM!! I made arrangements with the Ca Dept of Fish and Wildlife to have them save some Kokanee (land locked salmon) when they went to spawn them at Taylor Creek near Tahoe. They kindly brought back 5 buckets full of perfect sized fish that I now can feed out to the Bald Eagle.

This is a huge deal to us, as acquiring food is a full time pursuit, and anytime we can find food sources for free, it is a bonus. For many years we were able to get free rodents in a program started as a partnership with a huge rodent-grower in the central valley. 45 different non profits reaped the benefit, using the rodents for rehab, zoo collections and non releasable animals such as our birds. The program was suddenly terminated however, since the company decided to sell the "culls" that they had previously donated. Along with all the other non profits, we have been scurrying to find low cost or free sources of appropriate and clean food. We have had to buy rats, mice and quail...and shockingly the price tag is close to $1,000.00 per month.

Now that we can use the kokanee (and salmon we can get from the Nimbus Hatchery when they spawn there) it translates to one less rat daily that we would have to buy. We nevertheless still require quite a few rodents daily and continue to look for funding in order to purchase food.
We would welcome your financial help in order to meet the daily needs of our amazing birds.
Go to to donate

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cal Academy Night

We were at the California Academy of Sciences for their SuperNatural Halloween event, and the white Red tailed hawk was a super hit! She fit right in, as folks all came in costume..and she seemed like a ghost-bird. Amide the gasps of admiration, the bird was stellar, giving the audience an unprecedented view of a true rarity

Monday, October 21, 2013

Festival Fun

Here we are at the Optics Festival. We saw about 1000 folks and had a great time!! As usual the eagle owl was a huge hit. She, however was entertained by the display of large snakes next door!
The rough legged hawk also came along and transfixed the birders of the crowd with a close up glimpse of a winter visitor. Our taxidermied Great Horned owl also engaged people with the "Is it real?" dilemma

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Optics Fair

PLease join us at Cornerstone Sonoma this Sunday October 20 from 9-4:30. We will be at the Wine Country Optics Fair along with a couple of live raptors. We would love to see you there! It's free!
23570 Arnold Dr. Sonoma.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Full Circle

This is Susan Ahalt from Ironside Bird Rescue in Cody, Wyoming. The white Red tailed hawk is a former patient of hers, found hit by a car with a fractured wing. The attempt at repair failed, so this unusual and magnificient bird is now a permanent member of the NBC collection.Susan spent 10 days in California visiting us and seeing the sights. This was a wonderful moment to reunite the two under less anxious circumstances.
Susan has placed 5 birds with us , 4 of which continue to be active ambassadors in our educational programming. Ironside Bird Rescue is one of only TWO rehabilitation centers in all of Wyoming, and Susan is a real pro. We are very lucky to know her.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Bald Eagle's Day

We were at Wild Birds Unlimited today with our Bald Eagle. She had a great time in the pleasant weather, and we visited with a lot of wonderful folks

Thursday, October 3, 2013