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Stories from the valley

Rescuing Raptors

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

On a recent Friday, raptors were putting on a show. Or at least one was. Kalli, an American Kestrel, the smallest and most common type of falcon in the United States, was flying and then inching towards me as if to say hello. The California Raptor  Center, where I met Kalli, is Sacramento Valley institution. This place has been rescuing and rehabilitating injured, ill and orphaned raptors for fifty years. It’s open to the public and a fascinating find if you’re interested in a close-up look at birds of prey. Here’s what to know if you go.

American Kestrel

Serene Setting

You’re not lost!  Tucked along a levee road on the outskirts of UC Davis, the California Raptor Center and neighboring UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital receive 300-350 injured or ill raptors annually. The goal is rehabilitation and returning birds to their natural habitat, which can take anywhere from weeks to months. Birds that can not be rehabilitated stay and become Ambassador Birds and permanent residents. 

bald eagles metal sculpture

Self-Guided Tours

Twenty-three different birds call this place home. From owls and hawks to eagles, falcons and many more, these birds reside in large cages within the Raptor Center. The bird’s name and specific circumstance are highlighted on information cards outside each cage, giving visitors a glimpse into the world of raptor rehabilitation. As for Kalli, she’s a recent addition, arriving in 2017, some birds, such as Buddy, the Great Horned Owl have been here since 1994!

great horned owl perched on person's arm

When to Go

The California Raptor Center is open Monday through Friday 9 am-4 pm and 

9 am -12 pm on Saturdays. Groups of less than six are preferred, to minimize stress on the birds. In addition to the self-guided tour there’s a museum with additional resources and information on the wide world of raptors. These top of the food chain creatures are a sight to see. It’s worth the drive to take a look.