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Watters: Up Close With Birds of Prey
Featured

08 March 2017  
Charlie, an American Kestrel, makes himself at home perched on a hat. All photos by Lynne LaMaster

Raptors come to Watters Garden Center.

On Saturday the Watters Garden Center Nursery Greenhouse was full of fun, feathers and photographers as Arizona’s Raptor Experience brought their road show to Prescott. Based in Chino Valley, the Raptor Experience is an amazing and educational program that brings its audience up close and personal with some of the most fascinating birds around. Paul and Anne Schnell are raptor experts with many years in falconry and handling birds of prey. The Schnells emphasized that they are not rehabilitators, Arizona Raptor's Experience is an education and research business. 

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Emily, a Swainson's Hawk

At Watters they began with a small Saw Whet Owl, proceeded with a Screech Owl, a Kestrel, a Swainson’s Hawk, Harris Hawk and ended with a magnificent African Hawk Eagle. Paul and Anne spoke eloquently, covering the diets of each bird, their capabilities, their habitats, and their life histories. 

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Stihl, a Saw-whet Owl, weighs only about 2 oz.

The Schnells described at length the Kestrel study they are participating in along with the Arizona Fish and Game Department. 

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Charlie, an American Kestrel

Kestrels are the smallest member of the falcon family. Weighing only a few ounces, they like to live in open, grassy areas (Chino Valley!) Like so many other birds their habitats are shrinking and suffering degradation as a result of the increase in human activities. The open areas they favor seem perfect for housing development. Also pet cats prey on their young. Many times the first flight for these birds of the open plain ends on the ground. If cats are around the young Kestrel has no defense. Poison meant for rodents and insects also takes a toll on raptors.  They do sometimes eat freshly poisoned rodents, meaning they also consume the poison that killed them.

Arizona Raptor Experience offers plans for Kestrel nesting boxes (also used in winter by small owls as a roost.) They will help site the boxes and provide instruction in maintenance. In return the Kestrels will eat small rodents and insects such as grasshoppers. The Schnells are helping Game and Fish collect data about the Kestrels through bird banding and research. If you are interested in Kestrel boxes and have a suitable site, they would love to hear from you.

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Smokey is a Western Screech Owl. Screech owls also utilize nexting boxes.

The Schnells also spoke about what to do to help encourage wildlife to come to your backyards. On the Arizona’s Raptor Experience website, they offer 7 really useful things you can do for wildlife:

1. Keep a journal about the wildlife you see in your backyard.

2. Keep your bird feeders filled year ‘round.

3. Build and erect bird boxes, and keep note of the occupants. Clean them every fall.

4. Plant native trees and shrubs. Watters Garden Center can help here!

5. Let dead trees stand if it is safe to do so.

6. Create brush piles and mow your lawn less frequently.

7. Keep your cats indoors, and remove free roaming cats. They note that outdoor cats are estimated to kill more than 3 billion birds and small mammals annually. Birds may abandon their nests and young if they sense just the mere presence of a cat.

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Hilda is a magnificent African Hawk Eagle. 

To end the event, a few people in the audience were offered the opportunity to help with flying Coda, a Harris’s Hawk.

If you would like to have Arizona’s Raptor Experience provide a program for your group or if you would like to join them for a photo shoot, owl encounter, falconry lesson or customized adventure, contact them through their website,http://arizonasraptorexperience.com/contact-us/

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Coda the Harris's Hawk

Wish you were there? Watch below as kids provide a perch for Coda:

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