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Learning about birds: CNC hosts raptor program

Teri Graves of the World Bird Sanctuary talks about the endangered barn owl while holding one for the audience to see. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)1 / 8
A tawny eagle flies over the audience at the annual Masters of the Sky program, held at Carpenter Nature Center this past weekend. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)2 / 8
A family flinches as one of the birds flies very close over their heads. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)3 / 8
One girl looks up at one of the birds, which was being held right next to her. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)4 / 8
At the end of the show, an American crow stole the show by collecting donations and handing out magnets. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)5 / 8
Although it resembles the familiar great horned owl, this bird is a Eurasian eagle owl. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)6 / 8
The snowy owl cools off in a snowbank outside the visitor center. Originally from the arctic, snowy owls are well adapted to extreme cold weather. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)7 / 8
Cell phone cameras got a workout as the audience tried to get pictures of the birds as they flew overhead. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)8 / 8

Eight birds thrilled an audience that filled Carpenter Nature Center’s visitor center this past weekend.

CNC hosted Masters of the Sky, an annual program presented by the World Bird Sanctuary. The program gives the public a chance to meet and see several large birds up close while learning about the particular features that make each one unique.

This year, visitors got to learn about the Harris’ hawk, hooded vulture, tawny eagle, Eurasian eagle owl, snowy owl, tawny owl and the barn owl.

Four of the birds flew over the visitors’ heads, demonstrating how they fly, how large their wingspan is and, in the case of the barn owl, how quiet they can be.

Education was a primary part of the program. Visitors learned facts about each bird, like how the hooded vulture defends itself from hyenas by vomiting on them, and that the United States is seeing more snowy owls this year because there were more young owls this year than usual and they’re spreading out more.

The barn owl was the special feature of the event. Nicknamed the “silent flyer,” the owls have special feathers that allow them to fly without making a sound. It’s also endangered in many U.S. states, especially in the Midwest, explained Teri Graves of the World Bird Sanctuary. Barn owls primarily eat mice, she said. When humans place mouse poison to keep their homes rodent-free, they create a situation where poisoned mice can live long enough to be caught by a barn owl. The poison in the mouse then poisons the owl as well. Graves encouraged visitors to help protect barn owls by using traps to control mouse populations instead of poison.

For more about the program, go to