A Place for Learning

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.

  • Free self-guided tours Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for groups of six or fewer visitors
  • Schedule a guided tour or offsite presentation by calling
    530-752-9994.
  • Share the following: Your name, organization, phone number, class grade level or adult group, number of attendees and 2 or 3 possible dates.
  • There's a small fee for scheduled tours and presentations. All proceeds benefit the raptors.

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 Raptor Center, 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 camus, 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 Raptor Center schedules a visit to a school, library, or club, our docents can tailor presentations to the needs of specific groups, from birders to young kids. These presentations also emphasize a hands-on approach. Young children can search photographs for an owl camouflaged in a tree or match feathers to images of birds of prey, or admire the feet and skulls of various raptors. Of course the most popular attractions 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 Sullivan, a Golden Eagle.

"One of the things that is so rewarding about the program is how much the adults enjoy and learn from the presentations," said Jo Cowen, co-ordinator of the On-site programs. "For on-site visits, these parents and teachers are doing their duty by driving kids on a field trip, but they are always blown away by the quality of the presentation and how much they have learned from it." At schools, the teachers often learn details that they can pass on to their students long after the official visit is over. “The Raptor Center's birds provide a kind of education that can't be found in a textbook,” Cowen said.

Liz Williamson, who has volunteered at the raptor center for more than six years, says she loves “seeing the faces of little kids when they see a bird up close. These birds are an important part of the environment, and they're just fascinating."

Support the education program by donating to the California Raptor Center

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.

Photo: Boy examining feathers