Meet Our Raptor Ambassadors
Blackland Prairie Raptor Center’s education birds of prey are the highlight of our outreach programming. Their purpose is to inspire our audiences to think about and actively participate in helping preserve raptors and the environment for generations to come.
Though these education ambassadors have been given names, we must respect them as wild animals. In many cases these birds will be with us for many years, and since we have more than one bird per species, we attempt to give them names that are derived from a bird’s actions or a reference to the natural history of that species. As you read their stories, remember that these birds began their lives as wild creatures and came to us after humans had a negative impact on them. It must be stressed that the birds of Blackland Prairie Raptor Center are and always will remain wild birds of prey, not pets.
All of our raptor ambassadors have come to BPRC with circumstances that make them non-releasable. Due to their injuries or conditions, they would not be able to survive on their own in the wild. They have become the ambassadors for all wild birds of prey by educating the public about the issues concerning their future.
The story of Pippin is unfortunately a common one. In 2003, he was found flying around a local neighborhood, approaching people. When BPRC was notified, one of our volunteers went to investigate and he landed on the roof of a nearby car begging for food. He was captured, brought to our center, and evaluated. When admitted, he was very thin, to the point of starvation, and deemed a human imprint*. Fortunately, Pippin has become a wonderful education ambassador for his species at BPRC.
Hawkeye was transferred to BPRC in 2015 from the Carolina Raptor Center to become an education ambassador. He was brought to CRC, as a juvenile, and it was discovered that he had a congenital abnormality in his left eye, causing permanent blindness. He also has a left wing injury, most likely a result from his impaired vision. His injuries prevent him from hunting and surviving in the wild.
Orion was found by the side of the road unable to fly. He was taken to a raptor rehabilitator who discovered he had two broken wings. Unfortunately, the breaks had started to heal, and could not be repaired. He was transferred to BPRC in late 2009 and has settled in well.
Zeus was found injured near San Antonio and was taken to a local rehab center. It was determined that she had been electrocuted and suffered an injury to her left wing near the wrist. The end of her wing was so severely damaged that it had to be partially amputated. Because of this, she doesn’t have primary flight feathers on her left wing, prohibiting her from flying well enough to hunt and survive. She was transferred to BPRC’s education department in 2015.
Great Horned Owl
Hunter was found as a juvenile in 2003 and deemed a human imprint*. He was an education ambassador at another facility before coming to BPRC in the fall of 2007.
Beaker was found in 2009 with numerous primary flight feathers missing from his left wing. There did not seem to be any other injuries and it puzzled veterinarians and rehabbers alike. Beaker was kept in rehabilitation to see if new feathers would grow, and they never did. He was transferred to BPRC in 2010 and is quite the crowd pleaser.
Dusty was admitted into to BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in 2017 as a juvenile. It was found that she had soft tissue damage to her right shoulder that never healed properly. This prevents her from flying well enough to hunt, thus she cannot be released. The cause of her injury is unknown.
Xena hatched in 2002 and was intentionally raised a human imprint* in order to join a captive breeding program to re-establish the diminished Peregrine Falcon population in the wild. She remained in the program for many years helping to raise Peregrines. Once her motherly duties were completed, she retired from the program, and was transferred to BPRC in 2012 for education.
American Kestrel (female)
Cleopatra was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in the spring of 2016 as an orphan. She was deemed non-releasable when we noticed her lack of fear for humans, making her a human imprint*. She was transferred to the education department soon after.
American Kestrel (male)
Wilbur was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in the spring of 2016 as an orphan. He was deemed non-releasable when we noticed his lack of fear for humans, making him a human imprint*. He was transferred to the education department soon after.
Eastern Screech Owl (Gray-Phase)
Sweet Pea hatched in the spring of 2003. She was found by a family who took her home and kept her in a rabbit cage. The family realized it was illegal to have her and took her to the appropriate authorities. She was found to be in good condition, however she is imprinted on humans*, making her non-releasable. She was transferred to BPRC in August 2004 to become an education ambassador.
Eastern Screech owl (red phase)
Rusty was transferred to BPRC in 2015 from the Carolina Raptor Center to become an education ambassador for her species. She was found with major feather damage as well as injuries in both eyes. The cause of her injuries are unknown, but because her vision is permanently impaired, she cannot be released back to the wild.
Eastern Screech owl (gray phase)
Jessie was found with a broken left wing. He was illegally taken in and kept in a bird cage, which resulted in feather damage and muscle atrophy. He was confiscated by Texas Parks and Wildlife and deemed non-releasable because of the improperly healed fracture to his wing. He was transferred to BPRC in 2011 to become an education ambassador.
Missi was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in the summer of 2017 as an orphan. She was deemed non-releasable when we noticed her lack of fear for humans, making her a human imprint*. She was transferred to the education department soon after.
Human imprinting occurs when people take a bird out of the wild within days or weeks after hatching, and care for it. Most think they are saving a bird’s life when they take it home and feed it, but unknown to them, they can cause a life-long problem. A young bird becomes imprinted on whomever is feeding it. Many don’t realize that imprinting occurs, at all, and that it happens in the first few weeks of a bird’s life, which is the critical learning period of brain development. When people feed baby birds, the bird learns that people are its sole food source. Imprinting is a permanent, non-reversible type of mental injury. Imprinted raptors cannot be returned to the wild because they don’t fear humans, they cannot hunt for themselves, and they cannot recognize predators or dangers in the wild. These are all things they must learn from their bird parents in order to survive. Human imprinting occurs more often than it should, because most people don’t know about it. This is why BPRC created the Nest is Best campaign. To learn more, please visit our rehab page.