“Winged Wonders” come to OWEL

Summer school wraps up

By Nicole Rogers
Posted 6/26/24

On June 21 the Owen-Withee School District concluded three weeks of summer school. The bus service picked up students for the summer school classes which focused on fun and exploration. The kids were …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

“Winged Wonders” come to OWEL

Summer school wraps up


On June 21 the Owen-Withee School District concluded three weeks of summer school. The bus service picked up students for the summer school classes which focused on fun and exploration. The kids were given breakfast and lunch and were either bused back home or to swimming lessons at the Colby School.

 As a special treat to wrap up summer school, “Winged Wonders” a raptor presentation by Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) was presented to students and the public. Several parents, the summer school students and several community members attended this hour-long presentation sponsored by the Withee Public Library and the Owen-Withee School District.

Samantha Brooks, Director of Education at the Raptor Education Group introduced herself and explained a little about this group and the birds they had brought. “What we do is we take any birds that need our help, maybe they're sick or they're hurt or there's something happening with their parents, and they're orphaned and need our help,” she said. “We take them in, and we do our best to rehabilitate them or make them all better so they can be released back out into the wild, which is where we always want to see these birds.”

 She went on to say that they keep some birds that cannot be released into the wild and use them as education ambassadors. She warned that the five birds that they will bring out are not pets and they are illegal to possess unless you have special permits from the federal and state government. The kids were also told not to pet or touch the birds.

The first bird to meet the crowd was not actually a raptor, it was a raven named Eclipse. Eclipse was brought to REGI on the day of the eclipse hence his name. He was found as a chick and was raised as a pet, but the owners soon realized wild birds do not make good pets. She said that a raven is as intelligent as a 6- or 7-year-old child and went on to rave about the raven. “They are incredibly intelligent so they can do things, like if there's a nut they can't crack open, they'll put it out in a road so that a car will run it over and crack it open for them. So that way it's very easy for them to get their food. They also can mimic other animals. They can make themselves sound like other birds. They can mimic humans as well.”

Next on the leather glove was a red-tailed hawk, which is the most common raptor in North America. Samantha noted that a raptor has three common characteristics: they have incredible vision, they have sharp curved beaks and strong feet or talons. These traits make these carnivores able to hunt their prey.

REGI educator Lindsay Uzarski brought out an American Kestrel and shared information on this breed of raptor. “They have some cool features, one of those features is called the terminal tooth, a sort of sharp lip at the end of their beak which helps them tear apart their prey and eat their pray easier.” She explained that they have black stripes under their eyes much like a football player would have to enable them to see in bright sunlight. A male has the blue wings, spotted chests and a black stripe at the end of their tail and the females have reddish brown wings, several black stripes going down their tail and more streaks on their chests.

Andrew Baughman presented a raptor that is now extinct in Wisconsin, a barn owl named Storm. Storm was born in captivity and is used as an educator.  Andrew explained since barn owls eat rodents such as mice, rats, and voles and many rodents are poisoned, this led to the decline of barn owls in Wisconsin.

The next was the largest owl in Wisconsin that does not migrate – the great horned owl. Samantha shared a lot of interesting facts about this owl. “They can turn their heads about 270 degrees. For reference, we can turn ours about 90 degrees each way. They can do this because they have seven extra bones or vertebrae in their necks. We have seven bones in our neck. A giraffe has seven bones in its neck. Owls have 14. They can turn their heads for a couple of different reasons. One is that incredible sense of hearing,” she explained. “Sounds are being directed to their ears. They turn their heads towards where the sound is coming from so they can figure out exactly where that noise is. Again, this is how they catch things that are under a foot of snow. But they can also turn their heads because owls have huge eyeballs. If we had the same eyeballs to head ratios, our eyes would be the size of grapefruits in our skulls. So in order for them to have these huge, huge eyes, they're basically held in place by these bony structures, which means they can't move their eyeballs. They have to turn their head to look at things.”

She added that great horned owls live pretty much everywhere in the U.S., they really like forested areas and will eat anything from a wild turkey to a skunk.

As the raptor presentation wrapped up, Samantha thanked all for coming and said, “You guys are the most important people when it comes to protecting these birds in nature. It's up to you to do things like….not trying to keep baby birds as pets or not use poison that will save these birds lives. If you’re interested in visiting REGI, we're open in the summertime for our summer raptor tours and we are doing those Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.”