Raptors and rehabilitation & lt;br & gt;Introduction to native birds leaves student aflutter with excitement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

Students watched with excitement as Heather Merewood from the Carolina Raptor Center took a very special guest out of his carrying case.

Children were eager to try to answer Merewood’s questions about raptors as Skoshi, a red tail hawk, perched on her protective glove.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students from Overton Elementary were introduced to five birds from the Raptor Center Monday during a presentation sponsored by the Catawba Overton Partnership for Excellence (COPE).

Before showing the birds, Merewood told children about the rehabilitation work that goes on at Carolina Raptor Center and went over some of the reasons birds end up there.

She also talked about animal adaptations and asked children to name adaptations that help birds survive in the wild.

Feathers was the adaptation students cited most, saying they help birds fly and keep them warm.

“What makes a raptor, a raptor?” Merewood asked students.

Talons, one student answered.

Merewood pointed out Skoshi’s talons and told children, “This is how they catch their food, with their feet.”

She also pointed out that raptors have a curved beak that comes to point. The birds use it as a built-in knife, she said.

Another very important adaptation that helps raptors survive in the wild is their excellent eyesight. “It’s almost like they have binoculars built right in,” she said.

She told children that Skoshi is a permanent resident at the Carolina Raptor Center. He got his name, the Japanese word for little, from the difference in his left and right eyes.

Skoshi’s left eye is smaller than his right. “We think that was a birth defect,” Merewood said. Experts at the raptor center think Skoshi can’t see very well out of his left eye and that, combined with a broken left wing, is why he can’t survive in the wild, Merewood told students.

After introducing students to four more raptors including Jake, an American Kestrel, Dumbledore, a great horned owl, Jessie J., a barred owl, and Hermes, an Eastern Screech Owl, Merewood talked to students about what they could do to keep raptors from getting injured.

Out of all adaptations raptors have, “There’s one thing they don’t have adaptations to protect them against. People,” she said.

She told students there were many things they could do to keep raptors safe. Recycling and not littering were two of the easiest.

Litter on the sides of the roads draws mice towards roadside as well. Raptors eat mice and go to roadside to hunt for them. In this process, raptors can get hit by cars, the No. 1 reason raptors are injured and have to come to the Carolina Raptor Center.

“Thank you for learning about these birds. That’s the best way to help them,” Merewood said.

To learn more about the Carolina Raptor Center visit their Web site at www.carolinaraptorcenter.org.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com