LAURINBURG — More than 700 children were blown away Wednesday at the Scotland Memorial Library after learning where their ears would be if they were owls — nearly directly behind their eyes.
Mark Christenson, senior bird trainer and keeper at the Carolina Raptor Center, quieted his audience before putting on a leather glove and carefully lifting different types of birds, one at a time, from their cages set on the stage.
“They might stretch, they might make some funny sounds and they might fluff up their feathers to look a bit bigger,” said Christenson, earning a few giggles from the crowd as he held up an owl. He explained that the owls’ “off set” ears help them find food so they can hear their prey from above, below and all around them.
Shirley Alford, of Laurel Hill, said she didn’t argue when her niece and two grandchildren chose to stop by the library instead of going to a local park.
“They’re so excited,” she said. It’s a learning experience for them.”
Christenson brought out a hawk named D.C., explaining that the birds have “bony ridges” over their eyes that resemble a built-in sun visor or baseball cap, which allows them to see every detail.
“They rely completely on their vision to hunt,” said Christenson. “And when they’re focused on a hunt, it’s hard for them to focus on anything else.
D.C. is named after Davidson County, where he was found injured after being hit by a car.
The bird has healed, but is missing a part of his left wing. The children were quiet when Christenson told them D.C. had been looking for food and found a rodent on the side of the road.
“Why was the rodent all the way out by the road?” he asked
The kids yelled out “trash” and “cheese.” Christenson nodded and said that although cheese wasn’t anywhere near the street, trash was from passing cars littering as they drove past. If people didn’t litter, rodents wouldn’t get so close to the street and hawks looking for a meal wouldn’t put themselves in harms way to pursue their pray,” he said.
The Carolina Raptor Center takes in sick and injured birds, rehabilitates them, and releases them into the wild. Wednesday’s presentation, part of the library’s summer reading program, is in an effort to help children better understand the impact their actions have on wildlife.
“I want the kids to leave with a greater appreciation for the birds and the affect we have on them,” he said.
James McColl, of Laurinburg, was happy his children have something educational to do during summer break.
“I think they’ll always remember these shows,” he said. “They leave an impression.”
Rachel McAuley can be reached at 910-506-3171. Follow her on Twitter @rachelmcauley1.