August 18, 2018: Dale Arrowood and Daniel Hall brought the “Winged Ambassadors” to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Quasimodo, a black turkey vulture, warmed up the crowd with his antics and attitude. Quasi would listen to commands and bow his head and respond like a dog to commands to fly and count, all in return for a treat.
Dale took the audience through each bird’s history and characteristics, using each as an illustration of adaptation and abilities to survive in the world. His presentation was colored with stories about the cultural significance of each bird. In August, most of the birds were undergoing the annual molt when they replace their feathers. This has a detrimental effect on their flight efficiency and performance and can make them grumpy. All performed quite well for us, however.
Next out was a Barn owl, which is relatively common to open agricultural areas. Barn owls have keen hearing with a dished shape face to focus sound which is especially efficient for detecting mice, their principle prey. Next was a bird of the southern swamps and wood – the Barred owl. The Barred owl calls out in the southern night reciting”who cooks for you who cooks for you all.” and can sound like a monkey in the night. Next was the common Raven one of the world’s smartest birds. Found in the north Georgia mountains, Ravens form lasting social bonds and can use tools to procure food.
Then Dale pulled out a 32 year old Harris hawk. Native to the desert southwest, these birds hunt in packs very similar to wolves. This Harris hawk was able to demonstrate a “stoop” where a bird of prey identifies a prey from up high and pitches off the roost in a steep dive to capture their prey. In this case, the bird flew to a perch in the tall trees above our heads and swooped down to his handlers for his “prey”.
Throughout his talk Dale related many stories of falconry, one of the most ancient of sports. He brought out a Saker Falcon, a bird cultivated by the pharaohs and one of the fastest birds in the world. This falcon demonstrated its flying abilities as well as its behavior as it captured and consumed its prey. As is common for larger birds of prey, such as the hawk or falcon who must often eat their catch on the ground, this bird mantled its food reward, spreading its wings about the “prey”.
Finally Daniel and Dale showed the group a 3 year old bald eagle named Libby. Libby was the basis for Dale’s relating of the eagle story as a lesson of successful conservation. These birds were on the endangered species list not so very long ago, but through public resolve, wise decisions and careful management, their populations have grown and they have spread throughout their former range. They are now considered recovered. Dale concluded with the exhortation that we continue to teach the younger generations that each species of plant and animal has its place in our world and we would all be less for its loss.
To learn more about the Winged Ambassador program: