Duncan’s Raptors centre offers a close-up look at birds of prey

 

 

Bald eagle alighting during flight demonstration at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A Bald Eagle alights on Robyn Radcliffe’s arm during the flight demonstration

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.

Turkey Vulture in flight at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Turkey vulture demonstrates its flying prowess

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.

Weldome area at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia 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.

Golden Eagle at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Golden Eagle

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.

Talons of Golden Eagle at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…and Golden Eagle talons….

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.

Barn Owl at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Barn Owl

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.

Robyn Radcliffe and gyrfalcon at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is a great educational component that mesmerizes visitors of all ages

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.           Robyn Raqdcliffe and gyrfalcon at The Raptors, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia 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:

http://www.pnwraptors.com/

            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

Shirley

About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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