This was one of the most magical parts of our trip to BC – a visit to a sanctuary for birds of prey on Vancouver Island, near the town of Duncan.
I apologize for the image-heavy post, but these birds were so magnificent I couldn’t pare down the photos.
To quote the website on where the birds come from:
“The birds at Pacific Northwest Raptors are mostly captive bred, hatched here or at similar facilities in Canada. There are a handful of raptors here that were not born in captivity but, due to an accident in the wild, are considered non-releasable because they cannot fly/hunt for themselves. We provide medical attention, permanent housing, food and shelter for these birds.”
I thought this part was important too:
“Unless breeding, retired, injured or molting our birds fly free daily. Individually, we let them fly down in the flying area. They tend to do whatever they feel like. We encourage them to fly as much as possible and try to facilitate natural flying and hunting behavior. They come back every day because we care for them, feed them, and respect them. We work with each bird to build a bond of trust and we strive to make each bird happy, comfortable and as healthy as possible.”
This gorgeous snowy owl is a girl – I learned that girls have brown markings on their chest and boys are perfectly white. So even though “Hedwig” is supposed to be a girl – the owl used in the movies was a boy.
This is Elton, and I fell head over heels in love with him. Elton is a spectacled owl and when you try to photograph him he turns his head away from you and closes his eyes. But if you pretend you’re not interested anymore and walk away he chirrups pleadingly until you come back, only to turn away from you again! This owl acts like a real diva, but is a total softie. I’m told he likes to cuddle with his keepers too. Figures.
Here’s the magic part. This is Chloe. Chloe is gorgeous beyond words, a hauntingly beautiful barn owl with a politely curious expression. Tina, who works with the birds every day, took us on a special ‘owl prowl’ through the woods where we got to watch her fly around, returning to our gloves for treats (eg. dead mouse bits).
Chloe weighs less than a pound. Her wings have serrated edges which make for totally silent flight. She is very gentle and friendly.
Getting to hold her was such a treat for us. I don’t think we can thank Tina enough for the experience.
Apparently barn owls are quite common though sadly, not around Toronto.
I got a shot of her wings open as she landed on Tina’s arm.
It was one of the highlights of our trip; Thank you Tina!