Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools' and Raptor Misconceptions

On this day, famous for telling some “untruths” , we wanted to set the record straight with a few facts about raptors.

Q: How much can a raptor carry?  Most raptor species can only carry away prey that weighs ¼ of its body weight. (For perspective, red-tailed hawks or great horned owls weighs 2-4 pounds.  Bald eagles weigh 8-11 pounds.)  Birds must be light in weight in order to fly.  Hollow bones, feathers, air sacks, and beaks make birds look much larger than they actually weigh. 

Q: Do raptors make good pets?   No. Raptors are wild predators. Raptors have a temperament that is not suited to close human companionship. They are by nature very solitary, shy, timid creatures, and if frightened or mishandled they may panic. A terrified, panicking bird can injure an untrained handler and itself. Trained education birds will tolerate contact with their human handlers and will allow the public to observe them at a closer distance than wild birds will.

Raptors also have special dietary and environmental needs. Even though it is legal to keep birds of prey for the sport of falconry (hunting with raptors), people in this sport need to learn a great deal about the care and management of raptors and they need to pass a test before they receive permission from the government to possess a raptor. Also, it can be very expensive to provide the proper housing, food and equipment. 

Many raptors that are kept in captivity are living in rehabilitation facilities, zoos, nature centers, and educational facilities, under the care of individuals specially trained in the care and management of raptors.  The first priority of these wildlife rehabilitators is the rehabilitation and successful release back into the wild of as many animals and birds as possible. The only animals given permanent homes are those who would be unable to survive in their natural environment, AND who can have quality of life in captivity.  The Raptor Center also has state and federal permits that allow us to keep raptors in our care.  

Q: Can owls turn their heads all the way around?  An owl can turn its head up to 270 degrees left or right from the forward facing position. An owl cannot turn it's head full circle from a forward facing position as is the common belief. There are several adaptations that allow this:
1) An owl's neck has 14 vertebrae, which is twice as many as humans.
2) Owls have only one occipital articulation with the cervical vertebrae. (There is only one bone situated on top of the backbone.) Humans have two articulations. This allows the owl to pivot on the vertebrae column much like your body can pivot on one foot. Their muscle structure is arranged in a manner that allows this movement as well.
3) Owls have a special arrangement of the jugular veins with associated bypass connector blood vessels, to ensure that blood supply (and return) are not impeded as the neck is rotated. (This information is from the Owlpages.com)

Raptor vs Rapture

noun \ˈrap-chər\
(From Merriam-Webster
) Definition: a state or feeling of great happiness, pleasure, or love; an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion.

rap·tor    noun \ˈrap-tər, -ˌtȯr\

(From Merriam-Webster) Definition: a bird (such as an eagle or hawk) that kills and eats other animals for food.

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