You haven’t lived until you have had a conversation with a spectacled owl, or watched a bald eagle swoop for a fish at close quarters, or seen the huge black sweep of a turkey vulture’s wings as it heads (gulp!) straight towards you. We experienced all of that and a lot more on a recent visit to Duncan’s famous Raptors centre.
The Raptors have been located on Vancouver Island for 13 years. The staff and volunteers there are devoted to the concept of educating the public about these most remarkable birds and I must say, they do a stellar job.
The layout of the centre encourages guests to visit the birds – everything from owls to turkey vultures and eagles – in their confinement quarters, where they have access to perches in outdoor areas. We were fortunate enough to arrive at that part of the centre as one of the employees was working with the birds, so there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions and learn much about the magnificent creatures.
Virtually all of the birds of prey at The Raptors are hatched at the site – they are not taken from the wild. In addition to helping to educate the public about their huge importance in the natural world, they all also have jobs. Wildlife management at airports, construction sites and farms plays a central role in the lives of the impressive creatures from The Raptors.
We learned so much just talking to the staff and volunteers prior to the 45-minute flying demonstration. A massive bald eagle that was on display, for instance, weighed only 11 pounds thanks to his hollow bones. That’s a hard fact to believe when you see these magnificent birds up close; and when you see the massive wing span that detail becomes even more difficult to digest.
The highlight of the afternoon was the flying demonstration, conducted by operations manager Robyn Radcliffe. Her tremendous sense of humour, obvious affection for the birds and incredible depth of knowledge made the 45-minute demo fly by. We were treated to the aforementioned ‘fishing’ demo by a bald eagle along with flying and prey hunting demonstrations by owls, gyrfalcons, a golden eagle and…a turkey vulture, which was not the most lovely thing on wings but was clearly Robyn’s sentimental favourite.
The flying demonstrations are conducted in a large open area, backdropped by fields and forest. Bench seating allows visitors to sit comfortably while watching the amazing feats of the birds and a question and answer format added even more to our knowledge and appreciation of these incredible winged creatures.
For those who seek more contact with and information about the raptors, the centre offers a wide variety of hands-on programs, summer camps for kids, corporate retreat activities – and even wedding experiences. The whole afternoon at The Raptors was such an exhilarating visual experience that I am going to rely more on photos than words this week. This is a wonderful program for all ages – a must-see that will put you in touch with the natural world and the impressive birds of prey who inhabit it.
Further information on The Raptors can be found at the website:
The Raptors is located at 1877 Herd Road, Duncan
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 48.820224 Long. -123.659307
N 48 49.213 W 123 39.558