‘Talon’-ted: Raptor Center shows off birds of prey

Amanda Filreis ® Staff Writer|
Photo by Kjerstin Hall ® Staff Photographer |

Students were brought to the wild life with the Wild Birds Show, a free event on the Dining Center lawn Tuesday featuring raptors from the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. 

The Raptor Center is a department in the college of veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota that routinely travels the state to perform at events such as the Renaissance Festival and the State Fair. 

“It was small enough to be safe but with a big impact. It puts a smile on peoples faces and that’s what we care about – making maverick memories,” stated Educational Entertainment Chair Maria Rios De Santiago when describing the event overall.

Attendees wore masks while the members of the Student Events Team placed colorful dots on the ground to mark safe social distance spots to stand in. 

Presenter Mike Billington, the education program manager of the Raptor Center, included a bald eagle named Maxim, an American Kestrel named Darner, and a Great Horned Owl named Louis. These birds are native to Minnesota, like many of the students here. 

The presentation area had three specific stations for the raptors to stand with squirt bottles and food to help keep them calm. In the middle of the show, Billington laid out a box of items for people to look at, such as bird bones, feathers and claws along with hand sanitizing supplies to be used afterwards. The event mainly consisted of Billington answering questions the audience members asked, describing the birds and their way of life and, of course, the Raptor Center itself.

The Raptor Center clinic takes in and cares for injured raptors. Once well, they release the birds into the wild. While about 30-40% of those birds are able to return to their previous routines in nature, those that can’t remain at the center. And some of them get put to work at shows like the one on campus Tuesday. 

“They change from being predators to educators,” stated Billington. The goal of having this event wasn’t just to provide a study break; this had many layers to it. 

“I wanted to help build awareness since we all share the same environment. I hope this helps to inspire students to feel excited about the environment,” said Billington.

Header photo: Mike Billington from the Raptor Center interacts with an American bald eagle at the UDC Lawn on Sept. 22, 2020 in Mankato, Minn. (Kjerstin Hall/MSU Reporter)

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