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Stories from the valley

Radiant Raptors

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

I was recently face to face with a raptor.  Luna, a great horned owl with enormous yellow eyes and a constantly rotating neck, was only an arms reach away.  She was breathtaking. Where was I? The California Raptor Center fall open house.  Here visitors got a close up look at various Sacramento Valley birds of prey.       

The center, located on the UC Davis campus, works to rehabilitate injured and orphaned raptors from near and far.  Nearly 350 birds are brought in annually with about 60% successfully returning to the wild.  The birds that can’t be rehabilitated stay and live out their lives at the center.    

“I like how they take birds in and try to give them a chance,” said 11-year old Louisa Aue, who along with her mother and younger siblings, attended the open house.    

Visitors observed golden eagles, barn owls, Swainson’s hawks, peregrine falcons and more.  As cameras clicked and questions were answered, people were enamored with the sheer beauty of the birds, perched on an expert’s gloved arm.  They were also curious as to what brings birds to the center. Reasons vary, from a baby barn owl that tumbled from her nest as tree trimmers unknowingly cut the branches of the palm tree she called home, to an eagle found by good Samaritans who was too thin and weak to fly.  

Raptors are vital to our region.  Many species call the Sacramento Valley home, where they fly and hunt among our fields and orchards, providing much needed natural rodent control.   It seems only fitting that place that caters to the care and concern of these flying friends be situated in our valley as well.    

Want your own close up with a raptor?   The next open house is May 2, 2020. Save the date to see some beautiful birds.