The Pacific Northwest Raptors Centre located at 1877 Herd Road, in the beautiful Cowichan Valley just north of Duncan. PNWR is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey, and through education, strives to raise awareness for birds of prey and wildlife, protect their habitats and inspire awe in visitors.
When we pulled into the parking lot, two horses were standing at the fence, looking lovingly at the grass just beyond their reach. Madison was gone like a shot, being a lover of all four legged creatures. The horses enjoyed her handfuls of grass and became fast friends when she shared her own snack of apples from the cooler. While we were waiting for our hawk walk, we enjoyed talking to Sarah, one of the staff enjoying the sunshine with an injured male Harris Hawk on her gloved arm. The hawk had been shot in the wing and was there for rehabilitation. Sarah had lots of interesting things to tell us about hawks and we got a great chance to get up close and personal with him. Ready for an even closer encounter, the hawk walk with Robyn, we each wore a protective leather glove. When Robyn placed a piece of fresh meat on the glove, the hawk flew down for its treat, landing on the glove. When we were ready, we raised our arm in the air and the hawk flew off into the trees. Knowing where the next treat was coming from, the hawk watched carefully and reacted instantly. It was hard not to flinch but we all found that a wild bird landing on our arm was incredibly exciting. Madison had this to say, "It was so awesome! I got to hold a hawk! There is nowhere else where I can see birds so close. The hawk flew right to me from so far away. I loved Robyn and her name. She is perfect for that job!" Add a few more exclamations marks to get a sense of how excited Madison was.
Captive birds bred on site like eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, and vultures are allowed to fly free every day. They return to the Raptor Centre as it is their home, and these flights make for thrilling, exciting and entertaining flying demonstrations. As Robyn our host told the audience, “if you were getting free room and board, free medical care (this is Canada after all) and lots of love and attention, would you want to leave?” During the flying show, the birds perform within inches of the audience. They seem to love brushing the viewer’s hair with their wings as they fly over the audience. The flight show that day featured a mature bald eagle, an owl, a hawk and a falcon. The eagle was majestic and to our surprise weighed only 7.5 pounds. Their feathers make them appear much larger. Females are usually 30% heavier than the males. Linda and Madison thought that was justice. Owls have very sensitive hearing and can hear the heart beat of a mouse from a kilometer away. They can hear voles rustling underneath snow. Did you know they turn their heads to see because their eyes don't move in their sockets? The hawk was funny to watch running along the ground after its prey. When Robyn let the falcon loose, every bird in the neighbourhood started up a cacophony of distress calls. The falcon flew amazingly fast and high. Being one of the smaller birds of prey, falcons knock their prey out of the air by hitting them at high speed and killing them. Robyn does a great job narrating the show. Lots of information and lots of humour make it a great show for all ages. The centre is just 5 minutes off the Trans Canada Highway. We have been several times and keep going back just for the entertainment value.
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