The Raptor Center was at Sibley Park Thursday as part of the Summer Reading Program hosted by the Blue Earth County Library.
Over 265 children watched and listened as presenter Amylyn Thovson showed a red-tailed hawk, an American kesteal, a great horned owl, and finally a bald eagle.
Thovson presented each bird one by one to onlookers, sharing tidbits of the habitat, mannerisms, and characteristics of each raptor.
For example, the great horned owl has 14 neck bones, twice as many as most mammals have, including giraffes. It’s those extra bones that allow the owl to turn its head three-quarters of a full turn, says Thovson.
She got a gasp out of the child-dominated audience when she fed a whole, dead mouse to the owl, who wolfed it down in a single bite.
The 21-year-old owl is one of the raptors at the center long-term. He never learned how to hunt for his own mice, or how to search for a mate. Many of the long-term birds at the center are generally there because they cannot survive out in the wild or have developed a dependence on humans.
The bald eagle is also one of those raptors. The particular eagle shown at Sibley Park had been initially rehabilitated by the Raptor Center. But after being released into the wild, he was seeking human companionship and surprising people on golf carts. The now fully-grown male was recaptured and is used for education.
The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota takes in over 1,000 injured raptors a year.