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Raptor Center will release rehabilitated birds on Saturday

Raptor release
Raptor Center, U of M

If you’re an aspiring wildlife photographer — or just a bird watcher — here’s your chance.

On Saturday, the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota will stage its annual release of rehabilitated birds into the wild.

The public is invited. So are cameras, and so are kids. In fact, there will be children’s activities, educational displays and “winged ambassadors,” Julia Ponder, the center’s executive director, told MinnPost.

The “ambassadors” include close to 30 birds that never can be released and thus are deployed for educational programs like this one. They include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls, barred owls and screech owls.

“I’m not sure if our only turkey vulture will be there, but he usually is,” Ponder said.

The Raptor Center treats about 800 birds a year in addition to its education and research missions. It also provides training in avian medicine and surgery for veterinarians from around the world.

Most of the raptors the center gets for treatment have been injured through some interaction (usually unintentional) with humans, Ponder said. Some, for example, have been hit by cars, flown into windows, shot or electrocuted by power lines. Others — in particular, bald eagles — have suffered lead poisoning. But the most common classification, she said, is “unknown trauma.”

Ponder couldn’t say early this week exactly which raptors will get their freedom on Saturday.

“The final decision is not made until late in the process,” she said. “It is somewhat of an art to select birds that are ready to go — no medical problems, flying well and ready to return to the wild — and will do well in the location of the release.”

Another complication in springtime is the potential for territorial battles. The center does nest surveys in advance to make sure there are no nesting birds of the same species in the area of the release, she said.

“Our rehab coordinator is madly reviewing birds being exercised and tested this week to find the best candidates,” Ponder said on Tuesday.

The event, cosponsored by The Raptor Center and Three Rivers Park District, is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 1 at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve Visitor Center, 10145 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington. The release of three rehabilitated raptors is to take place at 1 p.m.

Attendees also are invited to bring their used printer ink cartridges for the Recycling for Raptors program, which helps support The Raptor Center.

For more information, contact the Raptor Center at 612-624-4745.

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