Raptors showcased at UMNH

By Krista Starker, Staff Writer

Five mice a day at 40 cents each adds up when you’re feeding five hawks.

Jennifer Hajj, education director for HawkWatch International, a nonprofit oranization, captivated a group of 40 children visiting the Utah Museum of Natural History with their parents Monday afternoon when she brought out Alaska, a grasshopper hawk, for students to see.

The hawk, which Hajj has been caring for the past four years, perched on Hajj’s wrist and arm while she explained some of the unique features of birds of prey, also known as raptors.

“All birds are lucky to live their first year,” Hajj said. “But they can live from five to 10 years.”

Alaska, who has been in captivity for the past 15 years, is about 18 years old.

The museum has hosted Raptor Rapture outside of Utah in the past, but recently brought it back to the U for a month. Raptor Rapture is an educational demonstration about birds of prey, which allows children an up-close view of the birds.

According to HawkWatch International’s Web site, www.hawkwatch.org, raptors are characterized by hooked beaks for tearing food apart, sharp talons to catch and hold prey, keen eyesight that helps them see their prey at a distance and a carnivorous diet. There are about 450 species of raptors worldwide.

In North America, there are 30 species of hawks that are active during the day and 20 species that are active at night, according to the Web site.

HawkWatch found Alaska when he was injured with a gunshot wound 15 years ago, and has cared for him ever since. However, because much of his left wing was removed years ago, he is unable to fly.

“We have to have a permit from the government to have any of the hawks; it is illegal to keep them as pets,” Hajj said. “And they only allow us to have them because we are using them to help teach.”

HawkWatch’s mission, is “to conserve the environment through education, long-term monitoring and scientific research of raptors.”

The Raptor Rapture visit comes during the Wild Birds of the American Wetlands exhibit, now showing in the Dumke Gallery at the museum.

Rosalie Winard, the photographer of the exhibit, has been taking pictures of birds for more than 10 years and has traveled across America documenting the lives of wetland birds.

The $40,000 exhibit, paid for by donations and museum funds, showcases only a selection of Winard’s work featuring herons, cranes, spoonbills, gulls and geese.

“Winard captured in her photographs intimate, graceful, majestic and fleeting moments of the birds,” said Tim Lee, who designed the exhibit.

Lee created the gallery with the idea of leading visitors through moments of discovery. Using printed see-through banners to create turns and bends, Lee designed it so visitors can see different kinds of birds at every turn.

For more information, visit www.umnh.utah.edu.

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Nate Sorenson

Raptor Rapture, an educational program by Hawk Watch International, entertained and educated about 40 children at the Utah Museum of Natural History Monday.