Meet Montana hawks, hawks and owls at a free event in Great Falls


Next Monday, August 29, visitors to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls will have the unique opportunity to get up close to some of Montana’s most powerful predators: the hawks, hawks and owls that are part of the exquisite family of state raptors.

Educational staff from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) will be in Great Falls with two or three live “ambassador birds” in conjunction with FWP’s Montana WILD program. Three 40-minute programs will provide participants with a close encounter with birds, as well as insight into what makes raptors unique from other types of birds and why they are so important to our ecosystems.

“The mission of the Ambassador Bird Program is to educate and hopefully get people interested in the outdoors and what we are doing in terms of conservation,” Ali Pons explained.

The Montana WILD program is an outgrowth of work done at the FWP Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena, which takes in injured and orphaned raptors for rehabilitation and release. Montana WILD cares for 15 ambassador birds too injured to be released on their own.

“They wouldn’t make it,” Pons said of the raptors who became stars of the educational program. “They have an injury that prevents them. They also have a personality and behavior that make them good training birds.

Having a distinct personality is something most people probably wouldn’t immediately attribute to a bird of prey, but Pons said the birds she works with are as individual as the horses in a herd or the dogs of herding. a pack.

“We have two great horned owls for example,” she noted, “and one of them is very bold, very confident and has a stronger personality. The other is much more relaxed and easy going.Two of the same species and they handle things very differently.

Monday’s program will also offer attendees suggestions on simple things owners and hobbyists can do to protect and conserve raptors, such as cleaning up old baling twine or fishing line that raptors can be trapped or apply reflective film to windows to prevent birds from flying. crash into them.

The exact number and species of raptors that will participate in Monday’s programs have yet to be determined. To a large extent, it depends on how the hawks, owls and hawks at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center react each morning.

“A lot of what we do is based on how the bird behaves,” Pons explained. “If I have a bird that doesn’t choose to step on the gauntlet that day, well that’s not the bird I’m going to take for this program.”

Whether it’s a Great Horned Owl, Red-tailed Hawk or American Kestrel, the greatest joy will simply be seeing these majestic birds of prey up close.

A female American Kestral, one of Montana's native raptors

“Usually it’s the awe and wonder of being able to see a raptor up close,” Pons said of the typical onlooker reaction. “A lot of it is just amazement and wonder to be so close to something so wild.”

Usually there is an $8 admission to visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, but thanks to support from the Montana FWP, the Interpretive Center, and the Great Falls Flower Growers Garden Club, that admission will be waived for the event.

Three programs will be offered on Monday, August 29:

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Programs are free and will take place in the indoor auditorium of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center located at 4201 Giant Springs Road.

“We like a young audience,” Pons stressed, “so kids are welcome. Bring your questions and I’ll try to answer everything I can. It’s a good time to learn about the birds and see one live.

A Swainson's Hawk, one of Montana's native raptors

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