Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Raptor brings talons, beaks to Howard Lake
Feb. 22, 2010

By Lynda Jensen

HOWARD LAKE, MN – Sharp talons and beaks were in plentiful supply in Howard Lake Feb. 13.

Kelly Scott of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center brought four birds of prey to The Country Store – an owl, a bald eagle, a falcon, and a red-tailed hawk.

Samantha, a grey horned owl, stole the show when she ate two mice, one after the other, in short gulps.

Owls in general have incredible hearing, and can hear prey moving around under more than a foot of snow. Using hearing, they can dive into snowbanks and emerge with a lunch.

The bird cannot see in total darkness, but would need only a candle inside of an area the size of the Metrodome in order to see, Scott said.

Owls are known for their silent flight, having wings that are specially tailored for quietness. On the other hand, their sense of smell is poor. Their heads can swivel 270 degrees around, and they have double the neck bones of other animals.

The bald eagle also impressed the crowd, weighing 8 lbs. Minnesota has the highest number of bald eagles in the lower 48 states, Scott said.

Some bald eagle nests reach a massive size, since they build bigger each year. The biggest one found was 9 feet wide, 20 feet deep, and weighed two tons.

The falcon, or merlin, was also featured during the program. Merlins are known for quickness, and have the signature tapered wing.

A red-tailed hawk was also on hand, which was 25 years old, which is very old for a hawk. Hawks are known for their soaring techniques, appearing to float in the sky, Scott said.

All of the birds shown by the Raptor Center in Howard Lake sported permanent injuries that prevented them from being released back into the wild.

The owl likely was hit by a car, which is a common malady, Scott said. The bald eagle had a wing injury, which prevents it from hunting properly. The hawk had a hurt collarbone, likely from a collision with a car or power line.

Another common problem is lead poisoning, which accounts for about 30 percent of injuries the center sees, Scott said. It comes from lead tackle or from lead shot, such as when a hunter shoots an animal and then leaves part of the carcass in the wild, where birds of prey will take advantage of the free meal.

In general, the Raptor Center sees about 700 to 800 injured birds per year.

The Raptor Center was started in 1974 as a clinic that tends specifically to birds of prey. It is associated with the College of Veterinary Medicine on the St. Paul campus, but is a separate non-profit entity.


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