The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 25, 2013

Birds of prey come out to play

Audubon Society sponsors avian wildlife program

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — A falcon, owls and even a bald eagle are sure to captivate audiences during an annual program that has become a community favorite.

This year’s eagle day program, presented by the Office of Wildlife Learning World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis, will be offered twice on Wednesday, Feb. 6 — at 9 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. — in the Mary Miller Gymnasium on Danville Area Community College’s campus.

This year’s morning session will start an hour earlier to accommodate Danville District 118’s students who have an abbreviated school day.

The free event, which is co-sponsored by the Middlefork Audubon Society, is in its 14th year.

The program showcases birds of prey — such as the peregrine falcon — and nocturnal birds — such as screech or barn owls.

Handlers allow the birds to fly free over the heads of audience members to demonstrate the inherent grace and agility of the display birds. Each year, the highlight of the event is the appearance of the national symbol, the bald eagle.

Kathy Sturgeon, dean of DACC’s math and science, who attended eagle day for the first time last year, said she ended up interacting with one of the birds — the recycling raven — that landed on her and removed a soda pop can from her hand.

“It (event) was extremely educational,” she said. “I didn’t realize there was such diversity with the birds of prey.”

The informative program is open to the public and appeals to all ages.

“It’s a great event for grandparents to bring their grandchildren to and for home schooled children” she added. “We like to bring science to the community as much as we can.”

All area fourth-grade classes are invited to the event. Nearly 1,000 area fourth-graders attend the event annually.

“You could hear the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ as the birds flew over the young children’s heads,” Sturgeon said. “It was rewarding to see the students really enjoy it.”

However, Sturgeon said she was surprised by how popular the vulture was last year with the children.

“I was shocked that the vulture was the most popular, after the eagle, with the little kids,” she said.

The World Bird Sanctuary, located near St. Louis, has a captive breeding program of endangered birds. The sanctuary rehabilitates injured birds, conducts many avian field studies and educates more than 2.5 million people across the country on bird characteristics, behaviors and habitats.

More information

For more information about Eagle Day, contact the Danville Area Community College’s math/science division office at 443-8805.

An extensive website featuring the World Bird Sanctuary may be found at http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org.