Monday, April 11, 2011

Visit from the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program

This morning, as part of our current unit on birds, the children received a visit from the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program rescues, rehabilitates, and (when possible) releases injured birds of prey. They also offer a comprehensive educational outreach program which teaches young children about the importance of preserving wildlife and wild spaces for future generations. With great anticipation, our little ornithologists convened on the lawn to have their first up close peek at these amazing birds.

Carin Avila, the Educational Director of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, began by asking the children about their favorite animals. In what would prove to be a harbinger of the day to come, many of the expectant children told her that owls and Peregrine Falcons were their favorite!

Carin also asked the children what they liked to eat and explained that raptors like to eat snakes, rodents, and small birds. The children learned the difference between "predators" and "prey," and were visibly amused to find that animals could be both! For the rest of the afternoon, they inquired about what different animals ate and what animals ate them!

The children were introduced to two native Colorado raptors, beginning with a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk. The children learned about the basic characteristics of raptors (their sharp hooked beak, sharp talons, and excellent eye sight). They got to examine hawk feathers, see how owls use camouflage to blend into their surroundings, and heard about how birds' hollow bone structure enables them to fly. The children watched with rapt attention, and a surprising amount of amusement, as the voracious hawk used it's sharp beak to devour a large piece of a jack rabbit (fur and all!).

Then, the children were introduced to an exquisite Great Horned Owl. They learned about the difference between nocturnal and diurnal raptors and about the special adaptations the owl has which enable it to see in the dark and to fly quietly so that is can use its stealth to sneak up upon unsuspecting prey.

Our knowledgeable hosts also explained that they care for hurt raptors; both birds had arrived at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program because they had been injured by automobiles. The children learned that the owl had injured it's wing severely and the hawk had one eye which no longer worked.

After viewing the birds, our hosts led the children in some fun role playing games to help them process the information they had learned. The children practiced walking around like birds,

learned a fun song about raptors,

and experimented with how many children could fit in an eagle's nest.

As always, the children were the model of grace and courtesy. At the end of the program, the inquisitive children inundated our guests with questions ("Why do short eared owls come out during the day?" "Why didn't you bring a Bald Eagle?" "Can we see the raptors fly?").

and politely thanked them for coming to visit.

For the rest of the afternoon, the children pretended to be raptors catching prey and many chose to write and illustrate raptor books during the independent work time.

We would like to sincerely thank Carin Avila and the Rocky Mountain Raptor Society for coming to share their expertise with us. They provided an unforgettable experience, that I know inspired many of our children's interest and curiosity about these amazing animals.

For more information about the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, please visit their website at

Additionally, as you can see on their website, that they are having a special Mother's Day Celebration on Mother's Day, May 8th from 11-3, where they will be celebrating baby raptors. The public is invited to bring baby shower gifts and visit the orphaned raptor chicks who got bumped from their nests or tried to fly too soon.

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