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Sullivan, the Golden Eagle, Wows Duck Day Visitors

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Volunteer Brenton Pierce, Sullivan's main trainer/handler, brought him to Duck Days for a special presentation.

This first-hand account is provided by Sallie Reynolds, a volunteer at the California Raptor Center since 2002. 

Feb 25, 2014

This past weekend, the school’s California Raptor Center took part in the Duck Days Festival, a popular annual event organized by the Yolo Basin Foundation. Duck Days is attended by nature buffs of all ages, celebrating the glorious wetlands around Davis. The Foundation offers tours of local wildlife habitats, special presentations, and exhibit space for many wonderful groups. This year's highlights, in addition to CRC's presence, included a baby-duckling petting station – great “awww” factor; local wildlife organizations discussing area species, habitats, and upcoming educational events; artisans teaching audiences how to make owl boxes and Native American reed decoys; and a wildlife art exhibit created by the high-school students of Yolo County. Diana Munoz, one of CRC's volunteers and an Outreach team member, gave drawing lessons to young artists. 

This year more than 600 people attended, and since our tables were near the entrance, we attracted enthusiastic audiences from 10 in the morning until closing time. We took Grasshopper, the Swainson's Hawk and a veteran crowd pleaser, who preens on the fist and takes naps when he isn't showing off his lovely wings; Jack the Red-tail, who also shows off well (the two together illustrate how to tell the difference between these two local species); Spar the American Kestrel, always the quintessential ham; and Sophie, the Northern Saw-whet Owl.   

Our “biofacts,” a fancy term for bones, wings, feathers, skins, feet, help us answer questions about raptors and the Center: Yes, we take in and successfully treat many injured and orphaned birds of prey. And no, sadly, not all can recover. Some who do not survive we respectfully prepare as specimens in order to provide vital hands-on experience for children. They long to pet Sophie, but instead get to love Vanilla, our Barn-Owl-on-a-stick, who is so soft, and touch the Turkey Vulture, Stompy the Garbageman, who is so “weird.” (Both specimens were named by the Harvest Ridge School's imaginative third graders, in Newcastle.) 

Our photos and diagrams of skeletons and arm/wing anatomy made it easy to illustrate the similarities and differences among vertebrates, and the find-the-owl camouflage photos were, as always, a big hit with keen-eyed students. For their “you have completed these stations” card, which festival groups give out to young attendees nowadays, the kids had to answer the question: What is a raptor? Volunteers Julia Cotton, Racine Barton, Liz Williamson, and Adilla Fauzi were excellent guides.

But the star turn of the day, of course, was Sullivan the Golden Eagle, who made his off-site debut. Volunteer Brenton Pierce, Sullivan's main trainer/handler, brought him for a special presentation at noon. Sully traveled, hooded, in a dark carrier to keep him calm on the road, and Brenton carried him like a football into the roped-off area inside. There, he was transferred from Brenton to Racine to be unhooded and leashed, and then transferred back to Brenton's fist. 

He was spectacular! Regal, calm, alert – Sully is a true champion, and we hope this is the first of many such off-sites for him.  

About the California Raptor Center (CRC): The CRC is an educational and research facility dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned birds of prey. Each year, the CRC takes in more than 300 sick, injured, and orphaned raptors, successfully returning about 60 percent to the wild. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine supports the medical needs of these birds and offers a broad spectrum of care, from advanced imaging capabilities to surgical expertise. The museum and permanent collection of living, non-releasable raptors are open to public view on weekdays and Saturdays.

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