All of This Learning is for the Birds
Published on January 25, 2013 by Staff Writer
(BOISE) Students at Broadview University have uncovered a hidden gem that sits at the very end of Cole Road just south of Boise. It is a 580-acre area where bird watching takes on new meaning. One thing the students quickly discover is that all learning here is literally for the birds.
Welcome to the World Center for Birds of Prey. Established in 1984, it is the international headquarters for The Peregrine Fund, a private conservation organization. Each year, 35,000 people visit the center to learn about and get an up-close look at hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls.
On this day, Gary Heller, the school’s biology instructor, is taking a group of students—mostly veterinary technology program students—on a field trip. Their tour is led by Jessica Cate, the center’s education coordinator. Among the many things Cate talks about is her job as an animal expert, and she teaches students one very invaluable lesson.
“There is great value in being a volunteer,” she says. “I started volunteering here as a tour guide and gift shop ambassador while I was a student working on my master’s degree. I did that for more than two years. Shortly after I graduated, I was hired out of almost 100 applicants. So if you want to get your foot in the door—start now.”
Along with facts about her job, conservation, habitat, and introductions to a wide variety of birds, Cate tells students all kinds of other interesting tidbits. For example, lead poisoning is the number one killer among raptors because they eat bullets. And lead bullets kill just about everything but turkey vultures. The so-called nature’s superheroes can smell up to five miles away and there isn’t much that affects them. Along with lead, they also eat anthrax and botulism while they’re feasting on nature’s garbage. Oh, and they rarely get rabies.
Another thing students learn is that one bird in particular has something in common with football and baseball players. “All falcons have a dark stripe under their eyes,” Cate says. “It is kind of like a player who puts black under their eyes to keep the light from reflecting into their eyes.”
The main goals at the center are to teach and conserve. It took the organization 15 years to successfully bring the Peregrine Falcon out of endangerment in 1999. Right now, efforts are underway to save the California Condor and the Aplomado Falcon. The Aplomado is the last endangered falcon in North America, and the center is one of four breeding places for the condors. One of the organization’s primary missions is to succeed, and it all starts with education.
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