Our Education Birds

We would like to introduce our education birds.  These birds and their handlers provide a valuable service to all that come into contact with them. Our education birds will visit any venue they can and all our bird handlers give willingly of their time to talk to people about birds and our group.  We do not charge for our programs.

image011You are welcome to contact us via email: info@juneauraptorcenter.org to request a program.  If you do this via email, it’s good to have at least two weeks advance notice, how many people in the group, participant ages (if the program is for younger children) and how much time is requested for us to be there.  It’s also good to know which bird is being requested or if any bird is acceptable!

Many of our bird handlers work Monday through Friday, 8AM – 5PM, but we will always be as accommodating as possible.

You’re also welcome to call and request a program via our message phone: (907) 586-8393.


Phil (Gyrfalcon) (Falco rusticolus)

philPhil is an adult gyrfalcon born in 2006.  He became a JRC education bird in 2006.

He was found in the Yukon Delta by U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFW) researcher Travis Booms as a fledgling.  Travis was studying nesting habits of gyrfalcons.  This bird had been one of three siblings in the nest.  The other two siblings were feathering out normally but Phil did not seem to grow any tail or wing feathers.

After long discussions with USFW and having obtained the correct permits and permissions, Travis collected Phil from the nest.  Phil stayed with him for three weeks out in the field.  After their return to Anchorage, the bird was cared for by the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC).

Bird TLC conducted multiple tests on Phil to attempt to determine why he failed to retain any feathers necessary for flight.  The end analysis was that it is either an autoimmune problem or a genetic abnormality.

Bird TLC then asked JRC if we would like him as an education bird and when all the necessary paperwork was finalized, Phil was placed with JRC.

Phil is very social, unafraid of humans and this makes him an ideal education bird.


Blueberry (adult raven) (Corvus corax)
 May 25, 1996
blueberry
The brilliant summer sky was blocked by a broad shadow and rapidly descending, grasping yellow feet. As the parents screamed in alarm, the raven chicks huddled in their nest, ragged pink mouths calling helplessly into the air. The eagle swooped away, talons empty. Its target, the biggest chick, lay on the pavement 40 feet below the nest. The chick’s wings, though fully feathered, were not yet capable of lifting him into the air and he could only wait for fate to bring him rescue or death.

“Blueberry,” as we named the chick (for his deep blue baby-raven eyes), was about three weeks old when he arrived at the Juneau Raptor Center. Hatched from an egg about the size of a domestic chicken’s, he was already close to full-grown. We were able to pin his fractured left leg and the fix “took” – a month later Blueberry was good as new.

Ravens are among the smartest animals in the world – they can solve puzzles, play games, manipulate other animals’ (including humans’) behavior, and they have a sense of humor. However, as intelligent creatures, they need to learn a lot to prosper. Parents continue to mentor juveniles for several months after they leave the nest and family and flock are critical to a healthy, long life. Blueberry missed baby bird school and he was unable to fend for himself when we released him. After the fourth release and eventual return to JRC, we decided Blueberry’s best prospects were as an educational bird.

Blueberry is an active participant in educational presentations. He vocalizes, sometimes using human-speak, “How are you?” makes a variety of raven calls, and provides a few antics. While at home, he’s often visited by other ravens in the downtown Juneau flock, especially the pair that nests each year in the nearby forest. In addition to his favorite foods (hard boiled eggs, watermelon, beef bones, raw quail – and, yes- blueberries!), we provide a variety of toys and activities to keep him challenged and entertained.


Lady Baltimore (adult bald eagle)(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

ladyb

In May of 2006 Lady Baltimore was found injured on Juneau’s Douglas Island. She had been shot in her beak and the wrist of her right wing. Also, her left eye is completely blind from a detached retina . The impact of the bullet through her beak may have been the cause of the detached retina. With only one working eye, she doesn’t have depth perception. Because of this, she has a tendency to run into things and wouldn’t be able to hunt for her own food in the wild. The injury to her wing prevents her from achieving lift above six feet into the air. She is not releasable to the wild because these injuries are permanent and she would not survive on her own. The poacher was never caught.

It is estimated that Lady Baltimore was on her own for about two weeks with these injuries until someone found her. The reason for this estimation is due to her weight. She was about six pounds when she was found, where she is now about eleven pounds. She was originally thought to be a male because she was so light. Therefore, her name originally was Lord Baltimore.

– Her age is unknown because she was already a full adult when found. We haven’t bothered to ask her what her age is because it’s not polite to ask a lady her age.
– Her wingspan is 6 1/2 feet wide.
– Her favorite part of a salmon is the head.

– She’s very talkative.  When she sees or hears her caretaker(s) after a bit of time, she calls to us.  She does this even if she has food.
– She is very calm around large groups of people as long as they are calm and quiet. When she gets annoyed with people using flashes or making noises at her to get her to look, she will turn her back to them, or on rare occasions hides in a corner where people can’t see her.
-In the last few years, she has become so comfortable being around the public, she will nap in front of visitors, especially towards the end of the day.  Some days she will even come to her front perch and sit inches from the guests.  This has become quite the selfie opp for many travelers.

I’ve been told she is quite feisty toward the other eagles.


Justice (adult bald eagle)(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

justice
In April 2000 the Juneau Raptor Center responded to a call about an injured adult bald eagle.  It’s thought that this bird was in a fight with another eagle resulting in a severely damaged right eye.  After extensive treatment and a visit to a Juneau ophthalmologist, the prognosis for this eagle was not positive.  Diagnosis:  irreversible blindness.

Blindness in one eye won’t rule out releasability as long as the eagle can demonstrate the skills to survive in the wild such as being able to fly from the ground up into a tree.  Justice wasn’t able to do this.  He is debilitated in such a manner that when flighted he flaps in low circles, never achieving a straight line.

It didn’t take long to assess him as being a excellent candidate for becoming an education bird that travels with his handler to schools and other educational functions.  This allows people to get a rare, close up view and learn more interesting facts about eagles.

Justice is an excellent example of a typical adult male bald eagle both in temperament and size.  You probably wouldn’t guess just by looking at him that he weighs in at 8.5 pounds.

He loves fish heads and upon seeing one will immediately head into his travel kennel to have this treat!

August 18, 2010 update: Adult bald eagle/education bird Justice was transported today to the flight mew to “train” the baby. Justice looked around and immediately started stealing the baby’s food! The baby went to Justice as soon as we let Justice out of his kennel and cried and cried.  Justice was more intent on his food and kept flying from perch to perch to get away from the baby, but the baby would follow. The baby was trying to figure out how to get up on the perch to be with Justice. We’re glad to see the baby is now getting onto slightly higher perches!


Brutus (red-tailed hawk) (Buteo jamaicensis)

monalisa
Brutus is a feisty red-tailed hawk with a classic red-orange tail and striking feather pattern.  She was found in Juneau at mile 38 at the side of the road on August 24, 2003 unable to fly.  Her wings were undamaged, but she was blind in her left eye, appeared to have a head injury, and was very hungry.  JRC volunteers nursed her back to health, but Brutus was unable to adapt to the loss of her eye and now flies in circles when attempting to fly straight.  Unable to hunt, Brutus was trained as an education bird and now makes frequent public appearances, often in the company of JRC’s other red-tailed hawk, Monalisa.

When she first arrived at JRC, Brutus was only a few months old, as evidenced by her dark, non-red tail.  JRC volunteers were uncertain of her species until the red tail grew in with her first molt the following spring.  When she was several years old, Brutus began plucking a brood patch from her belly each spring in preparation for nesting and also enjoys working with nest-building materials.


Retired Education Bird

Bebop (Steller’s Jay)  (Cyanocitta stelleri)

bebopAfter more than four years of making public appearances and charming Juneau’s residents, JRC proudly retired our education Steller’s jay, Bebop, in 2015. As Bebop approached his fourteenth (or later) birthday, his tolerance for noise and movement around his traveling cage diminished significantly during public appearances and handling became more and more stressful for him. JRC’s education birds “earn” their living by making public appearances throughout the year, a requirement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) permit that allows us to keep non-releasable birds in captivity. Aging birds and those that are no longer able to make public appearances for health reasons may be retired, which means they are no longer obligated to work to maintain their permit. Bebop’s caretaker described his changing behavior to the USFWS employee who handles JRC’s permits and his retirement was soon formally approved. In fact, Bebop is no longer allowed to visit the public at all!

Instead, Bebop enjoys a quiet life in his large indoor mew. Outfitted with a maze of branches, water, food, and toys, Bebop is most often found eating or stashing food all over the enclosure, dozing on a variety of perches, bathing, preening, and singing. He also redistributes his toys and twigs all around the mew including stuffed mice (which are sometimes found stashed together), small plastic toys and bottles, and chunks of mossy logs which he enjoys pulling apart.

Since Bebop spends so much time stashing and moving food and objects, it might surprise readers to know that Bebop has been blind for most of his life. He was hit by a car in Cordova in 2001, leaving his eyes and eye sockets damaged beyond repair. While eyes are critically important for a wild bird, jays have extraordinary spatial memory, which surely helped Bebop adapt and thrive in captivity. We don’t know what kind of mental map he uses, but Bebop certainly has every feature of his mew memorized and frequently eats from food stashed far away from his food dishes. He lived for ten years in Cordova until his caretaker moved to a different city and JRC took over his care.

Over the years, Bebop has taught his caretakers much about jay behavior. Perhaps his most charming activity is singing, which he engages in frequently during the spring and summer. The song is very quiet and melodic, seeming to ramble on endlessly with little squeaks and chirrups to punctuate the melody. Jays are rarely heard singing in the wild because the song is so quiet and easily lost amid bolder songs and sounds. If you’d like to hear it, trying searching for “Steller’s jay whisper song” in a search engine.

Bebop also taught us about sunbathing. During the summer he can sometimes be found in his travel cage in the garden enjoying the sun and sounds of the outdoors. He often vocalizes to the local jays and has been politely visited several times. One hot day it appeared that Bebop was suffering badly, as he had flattened himself out, spread his wings and tail, and turned his head to the side with his mouth wide open. It turns out that jays, as well as many other birds, engage in sunbathing, which (among other things) converts molecules in the oil on their feathers into vitamin D, which is then ingested during preening.

As of 2015, Bebop is at least fifteen years old and we hope that he will set a new record for Steller’s jay longevity (currently at 16 years, 1 month) in peaceful retirement. Thanks for your years of service, Bebop, and thanks to all those who have supported and appreciated him!