LAURINBURG — Library patrons are accustomed to being shushed, but some young readers had to take their quiet to the next level Wednesday when a conservation group brought birds of prey to the Scotland Memorial Library.
The Carolinas Raptor Center in Charlotte works to conserve raptors through its hospital, educate the public through its zoo and its mobile education department and to inspire, according to Adam Winegarden, education staff director.
“The inspiring is the whole mission,” Winegarden said. “You have to get people involved.”
The center is currently home to two eagles, seven falcons, 10 hawks, 10 owls, four vultures, and five other species including corvids, kites, harriers, and osprey.
The raptor visit was part of the library’s annual summer reading series. Next week, the series will conclude with program called “Local Heroes” and feature representatives from the Laurinburg Police Department, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, Scotland County Parks and Recreation, and the Laurinburg Fire Department. It will begin at 2 p.m. on Aug. 3.
Winegarden brought a broadwing hawk, a British barn owl, an eastern screech owl, and a golden eagle to show children in Laurinburg, but before he brought the birds out, he cautioned the children to keep as quiet as possible.
“These are not pets. They are wild animals,” Winegarden said.
That got their attention, as did Winegarden’s description of how raptors catch and eat their meals. The talons of a raptor act as a fork, while its hooked beak serves as a knife.
“If you just grabbed a rabbit, would you try to eat it with a pair of tweezers?” Winegarden said. “So raptors have a very sharp, hook-shaped knife on their face for cutting up their food that they grabbed with their talons.”
Talons and beaks distinguish raptors from other birds of prey, he told more than 200 children at the morning presentation. About 140 people attended the second session.
Raptors also have the best eyesight of all birds, he said. But raptors vary in other ways, particularly when it comes to hunting in the day or at night. In a room full of fascinated children who were, as instructed, being especially quiet, Winegarden demonstrated the sound made by a wing of a raptor hunting in daylight hours. Part of his demonstration uses actual bird wings and talons. Using the wing of a hawk, he quickly flapped the wing up and down in a flying motion.
Everyone could distinctly hear the swooshing sound of the hawk’s wing, but daytime hunters like eagles, falcons and hawks don’t have to be concerned about being heard by their prey because they rely on speed, Winegarten said.
It’s different for owls, who hunt at night. Their wings are made in such a way that they are much quieter, so owls rely on stealth, not speed. When Winegarden demonstrated the sound that an owl’s wing makes, there was almost silence.
Winegarden had some disappointing news for the kids — owls may be noted for being wise, but they really aren’t. In fact, he said because their eyes are so big for nighttime hunting, it leaves very little room for their brain,which is about the size of a shelled peanut. However, barn owls in particular can be useful because they eat mice and rats.
Another myth Winegarden dispelled, that owls can turn their heads all the way around. Because of the vertebrae in their necks, they can turn their head about 75 degrees around, he said.
After the program, children took a closer look at the wings and talons Winegarden had. Asked if he could tell the difference between a hawk and an eagle, attendee Jay Hawes said he could.
“I’d look at what they look like, what they eat and how they hunt,” Hawes said.
Bryce Moody said he learned about the difference between diurnal and nocturnal hunting — daytime and night time hunting.
He too said he could spot the differences between raptors.
“I’d look at their beaks and their feathers,” Moody said.
For information, go to: carolinaraptorcenter.org.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-506-3169.