URI Wildlife Society brings birds of prey to campus

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 25, 2014 – On Wednesday, April 2, the URI community will be able to get a closer look at some real birds of prey including, owls, Harris Hawks and ravens at the “Talons! Birds of Prey” event on the Quadrangle from 12 to 4 p.m. During the free event, there will be two interactive flight shows, a “meet and greet” with the animals, and plenty of chances for great photo ops.

In this Q&A, we asked junior and URI Wildlife Society President Lauren Gerraputa to tell us more about the event and the birds that will be featured. A wildlife conservation and biology major, Gerraputa has previous experience working with owls and other species at a wildlife rehab center on Long Island, N.Y.

URI: Why is the URI Wildlife Society hosting the “Talons! Birds of Prey” event on campus?

Lauren Gerraputa: One of the reasons we are bringing birds of prey to campus is because they have made an appearance here in the past and everyone had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a student at URI the last time they were here, so I wanted to bring them back so everyone can enjoy what they have to offer or be amazed.

Another reason we’re hosting this event is because these birds of prey are so fascinating and since they can be so mysterious, people have a hard time finding a connection with them. I want to show people, up close, how incredible these creatures really are.

URI: What types of birds will be featured at the “Talons! Birds of Prey” event?

LG: There will be a total of five birds. One will be a raven which looks like a crow, but is a lot larger. Another will be a Harris Hawk which is not native to New England or the East Coast, so they are not a species we would normally see. The last three will be owls. Talons! did not tell me which three owls they’re bringing, but I have my guesses!

URI: What kinds of things can people see and do at the event?

LG: All of the birds will be brought out for a “meet and greet” where we will be able to learn about the specific bird and its species. Talons! told me to tell people to be sure to bring cameras because there will be photo opportunities, as well as an opportunity to hold a bird with a gloved hand.

Also, at two separate times during the event, there will be an interactive flight show featuring the birds. Talons! did not give me details as to what the show will entail, but I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. Also, the weather is supposed to be snowy and windy so please everyone be prepared for that!

URI: The event is free, but donations are being accepted. What do the donations support?

LG: The donations will support Talons! and their continued efforts to travel and show people these amazing creatures. The donations will also support them and their care of the birds as well.

URI: What are some interesting facts about the birds appearing at the event?

LG: As I previously mentioned, the Harris Hawk is not native to the East Coast so it will be a bird not many people around here have seen. If my guess about the owls is correct, they will most likely be species commonly seen around here, but not typically seen in person. Ravens are also commonly mistaken as crows, but they are very large and have a harsher call. There are actually two ravens right now who are calling URI their home over by the North Woods and Wiley Hall!

URI: Why are birds of prey important?

LG: They are a predator species that help keep our ecosystems in check by eating mice, rats, and other rodents, as well as fish, insects, amphibians and reptiles. Birds of prey help to balance the size of these species’ populations when their numbers explode due to good weather and extra food.

When the pesticide DDT was in use raptor populations were rapidly declining. There was a serious public outcry, which eventually led to the chemical’s ban in the United States.

URI: What is your favorite bird of prey, and why?

LG: This is such a difficult question… I love all birds of prey including hawks, eagles, falcons and owls, however, I have to say owls are my favorites. I’ve always had a soft spot for Barred Owls mostly because of their large, dark eyes, which are just beautiful. I’m always told I have big eyes so I feel a connection to them in that way. My other favorite would have to be Eastern Screech Owl, specifically in their red morph. Back on Long Island, I volunteer for a wildlife rehab center and we took in a baby Eastern Screech Owl about two years ago, which was non-releasable. I watched this little owl grow up into a beautiful bird and he is just the cutest thing. So, mostly I love Eastern Screech Owls because of this one sweetheart named Einstein!