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Sandy Journal

Ogden Nature Center Gives Educational Presentation on Raptors

Apr 07, 2016 04:03PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Sandy - Sandy residents learned all about raptors during an educational lecture presented by the Ogden Nature Center on March 7 at the Sandy Library. Called the “Talent of Talons,” the presentation included three live birds that delighted the audience members. 

“It’s all about educating people about wildlife and teaching them about nature,” said Bryce King, a wildlife specialist with the Ogden Nature Center. “And it’s fun to have the animals there.”

The Ogden Nature Center has been giving these types of educational presentations in libraries around Salt Lake County for the past three years. When they first started doing it, they talked primarily about owls because of the popularity of the “Harry Potter” book and movie series. 

“It’s so fun to see their eye light up and have them ask questions,” King said. “It’s just a whole nature experience.”

King brought three raptors to the presentation: a great horned owl, an American kestrel and a western screech owl. All three of those birds are native to Utah. The Ogden Nature Center currently has nine different raptors that are rotated through the educational presentations. These birds were injured and because of the injury, they cannot be released back into the wild. 

“We use them for educational purposes now,” King said. “A lot of people haven’t seen raptors up close.”

King explained the great horned owl is the largest owl that lives in Utah. It is also a hooting owl. King said if someone is out hiking near dusk and they hear hooting, it is most likely a great horned owl.

“They are incredibly powerful. They’re called the tigers of the sky,” King said. “They can catch and eat jack rabbits.”

King used the great horned owl to explain to the audience about nocturnal eyesight and camouflage. He also used the great horned owl to clear up some old wives tales. 

“Owls cannot turn their heads all the way around,” King said. “They can turn it about 270 degrees.”

The American kestrel is the smallest falcon found in Utah and is a zippy bird. The way they hunt is by hovering like a helicopter at around 100 feet looking for prey. They also can see ultraviolet light. 

“When rodents use the bathroom, it leaves a trail of ultraviolet light,” King said. “The kestrel can locate the trail of ultraviolet light and wait for the rodent to appear.”

King said when people think they’ve seen a peregrine falcon, they’re more likely seeing an American kestrel. It can be identified by its blue wings on males and red wings on females. It is also much smaller than the peregrine, about the size of a robin.

The western screech owl was the smallest of the birds presented at about five ounces. King explained its name is a misnomer because they don’t actually screech. They make a popping sound. The western screech owl lives near wooded areas, especially near lamps and light posts because they’re attracted to the moths and other insects that hang around the lights. They can often be seen in people’s backyards. 

“I explain to the kids that if they see pellets near a lamp post, there is probably an owl living nearby,” King said. “We really want to educate people.”