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Raptors

 Why do we have Raptors?

All birds are on display under an educational permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Each bird has a disability that prohibits it from being released into the wild (see stories by each photo). We think of these birds as winged ambassadors for their species and feel that each of their stories can help people learn how to better conserve raptors. Seeing such amazing creatures, up close and personal, is a valubale learning opportunity that leaves quite an impression!

Learn more about our Raptor Center.

 What is a Raptor?

While distantly related to dinosaurs, raptors are actually birds of prey. There are three identifying features that classify a bird as a raptor and distinguish them from other flighted birds:

1) Raptors have binocular vision which allows for accurate depth perception. There is a rhyme that can help us remember this: "Eyes in front like to hunt, eyes on the side likes to hide".

2) Raptors have sharp, hooked claws called talons. They use them capture and kill their prey.

3) Raptors have a hooked beak they use to rip apart and eat their prey.

If you see a bird with all of these characteristics, you have spotted a raptor!

Golden Eagle (female)

GE.JPG.jpgThe Golden Eagle was born in 1979 and arrived at Sierra Outdoor School in December 1995. Looking at her right wing, you notice a tuft of feathers where her wing was broken when hit by a truck. She was taken to the San Diego Zoo where they tried unsuccessfully to fix her wing so she could fly again. She weighs about 9 pounds and likes to feed on rabbits and rodents, but can also kill prey as large as coyotes, mountain sheep, and caribou. Golden Eagles are found in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They prefer lightly forested areas with mountains where upwind drafts help them take off and soar. They can live up to 35 years in the wild. After 5 years, they are mature and find a mate. 

Western Screech Owl (female)

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The western screech owl arrived at SOS in May 2014. When she was young she was taken in as a pet. She was raised in captivity so she lacks skills needed to be released into the wild. She weighs less than 0.5 pounds and likes to feed on small animals including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Western screech owls live in western North America. They can live up to 13 years in the wild. After one year, they are mature and will find a mate. 

Turkey Vulture (male)

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The Turkey Vulture was born in 1998 and arrived at Sierra Outdoor School in December 1998. If you look at his left wing you will see he cannot fully extend it. When he was young he was hit by a car and broke his wing. He weighs about 3.5 pounds and his diet consists of dead animals which he can find by following the smell. He will eat just about any meat but prefers freshly killed herbivores. Turkey Vultures are found in North and South America and can be seen gliding through the air or roosting in trees in groups up to 100 birds. They can live up to 21 years in the wild. After 2 to 3 years, they are mature and find a mate.

  

Great Horned Owl (male)

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The male Great Horned Owl was born in 2003 and arrived at Sierra Outdoor School in February 2008. When he was young someone found him on the ground and took him in thinking he was injured. He was raised in captivity so he lacks skills needed to be released into the wild. He weighs less than 2 pounds and likes to feed mostly on mammals but will also eat reptiles, birds and sometimes animals as big as porcupines and skunks. Great Horned Owls live in North and South America.  They can live up to 13 years in the wild. After 2 years, they are mature and will find a mate. 

Red-tailed Hawk (female)

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The red-tailed hawk was born in 2009 and arrived at Sierra Outdoor School in October 2010. On her right wing you can see a tuft of feathers where it was broken when hit by a car. She weighs about 3 pounds and likes to consume mostly rodents, but will also feed on small mammals, birds, and snakes. Red-tailed hawks are probably the most common hawk of North America and prefer to live in open wooded forests by fields. They can live up to 15 years in the wild. After 2 years, they are mature and will find a mate. 

Great Horned Owl (Female)

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The female great horned owl arrived at Sierra Outdoor School in March 2013. She was found in Stanislaus County in September 2012 with a gunshot wound and dropped off at the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center. The gunshot injured her stomach and eye, causing complete blindness in her left eye. She weighs about 3.5 pounds and feeds mostly on mammals but will also eat reptiles, birds and sometimes animals as big as porcupines and skunks. Great horned owls live in North, Central and South America. They can live up to 13 years in the wild. After 2 years, they are mature and will find a mate.

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