Type size - +
Personal tools
You are here: Home Pressroom Press Clips A fine feathered festival

A fine feathered festival

By Stevie Mathieu
The Columbian

It was clear on Sunday afternoon that 8-year-old Isaiah Criss is a fan of birds.

A fine feathered festival

Pam Meyers of the Audubon Society of Portland shows off a great horned owl named Julio on Sunday afternoon in Ridgefield. (ARTHUR MOURATIDIS)

It was clear on Sunday afternoon that 8-year-old Isaiah Criss is a fan of birds.

Isaiah and his two siblings gathered around an American kestrel falcon as the boy told the falcon's handler what he knew about red-tailed hawks, which he has seen from his home.

"Their tails spread out big and red," Isaiah said to falcon handler Deanna Sawtelle, a member of the Audubon Society of Portland.

Sawtelle told the group that red-tailed hawks get their distinctly colored tail feathers once they are about 2 years old. She also explained how hawks are different from the falcon she had perched on her gloved hand.

"Some people call them 'sparrow hawks,' but they hardly ever eat sparrows, and they're falcons," she said. "Falcons are built for speed, so they're very streamlined."

The falcon, a female named Lillie, and four other birds of prey native to the region were on display Sunday in Ridgefield's Davis Park as part of the annual BirdFest & Bluegrass event. The birds shown Sunday, which had all been rescued and would be unable to survive in the wild, lent an up-close opportunity for the public to learn about the stealthy hunters that fly overhead.

Visitors had a chance to learn that peregrine falcons can dive with speeds of 200 mph, and that they don't kill their prey by cutting into them with their talons. Instead, they form their talons into a fist and punch their prey, often smaller birds, in the stomach. If that doesn't work, a falcon can use its sharp beak to quickly snap its prey's neck.

Nearby, a turkey vulture named Ruby showed off to the crowd by spreading her wings. Turkey vultures have stomach enzymes that kill bacteria, allowing them to eat rotting meat. "This is a very sanitized bird," said Rick Meyers, a member of the Audubon Society.

One visitor remarked that the great horned owl perched on Audubon member Pam Meyers' arm looked like a cross between a cat and a chicken, while another curious onlooker asked why the owl didn't have any horns.

This species of owl has two tufts of feathers on its head, and those are often confused for ears or horns, Meyers said. She added that great horned owls are known locally as "the tigers of the forest"; their wings allow them to fly so quietly that they can easily sneak up on unsuspecting mice.

The owl is female, but her size made people think she was male at first, so her name is Julio.

In Isaiah's case, it was his first good, in-person look at a falcon or an owl. His family recently moved to a house in Ridgefield, where he's seen hawks, crows and pigeons, and where he's heard the hoots of an owl.

In meeting Julio Isaiah learned "the owl can turn its head this far around," he said, twisting his head over his shoulder as far as he could.

Isaiah's grandmother, Janet Abram, shares his interest in birds; she owned a cockatiel for 20 years.

"I've always enjoyed birds, and I've looked forward to this event," Abram said.

BirdFest & Bluegrass wasn't just about meeting native birds.

The three-day festivities celebrated wildlife, Native American culture and bluegrass music, with educational events at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, bluegrass performances in the Old Liberty Theater and bird-watching nature walks at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Vendors also were on hand to sell wildlife photography, birding books, binoculars, bird feeders and bird-inspired art.

Read the original story
Document Actions
powered by Plone | site by Groundwire Consulting and served with clean energy