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.
Hawkeye was transferred to BPRC in 2015 from the Carolina Raptor Center to become an education ambassador. She was brought to CRC, as a juvenile, and it was discovered that she had a congenital abnormality in her left eye, causing injuries preventing her from hunting and surviving in the wild.
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.
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.
Aurora was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in the spring of 2020 as an orphan. She was deemed non-releasable when we noticed her lack of fear for humans, making her a human imprint* and was transferred to the education department.
RG was transferred to us from a facility in Florida in the summer of 2020, as a first year bird. That facility deemed him non-releasable because of human imprinting. They received him as a nestling and didn’t have space to keep him as a permanent resident. We gladly added him to our education program.
Male PEFA joined our education department in October of 2020 after his owner/falconer passed away.
Genesis came to us in October of 2019. She was a falconer’s bird for many years. She is now enjoying retirement as an education ambassador.
Petunia was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in February of 2020 as a second year bird. A concerned citizen called about her. She had been raised by him, was living on his property, however, he couldn’t care for her anymore and he knew that she wouldn’t make it in the wild on her own. She was deemed non-releasable because of human imprinting*. She was transferred to the education department.
Loki was admitted into BPRC’s rehabilitation clinic in April of 2020 as a nestling. He was being raised by his vulture parents in someone’s barn. The people who owned the barn didn’t realize that there was a family of vultures living there and when they tore down the barn, they discovered two nestling black vultures. Unfortunately, Loki’s sibling didn’t survive the demolition. However, they took in Loki, with good intentions and fed him for a week. Vultures imprint on people very easily because they are highly intelligent and social creatures. When he was brought to us, it was obvious that he had imprinted on people and was deemed non-releasable.
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.
***Disclaimer: It is illegal to take in and raise any native bird species in the United States. Federal and state government permits are required to care for these birds.