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Birds of prey in Bonita Richard Peña | Sat, May 04 2013 12:00 PM

Last week I reported on my raven, Henry, and it was on a somewhat positive note because I thought that, finally, the poor bird was on the right track. It looked very much like he had found his mate and was finally settling down to family life. If he could read he would have been pleased with the report.

Alas, his glee would be short-lived, because this past week I saw some real birds. I not only saw them but I got to photograph them up real close. These birds were raptors, the kings of birds who take no nonsense from anyone.

One of my neighbors here on the hill is Charles Gailband. Gailband has teamed with Danny Sedivec, a friend of like interests, and they have formed The Raptor Institute, an organization that teaches conservation through education and inspiration. They literally take their show on the road to schools, meeting halls and other such places and, with birds in tow, they inform an audience of the characteristics of these splendid creatures and the good they do in the environment. Some current presentations have been the Earth Day Fair and the massive Boy Scouts Jamboree at Qualcom Stadium.

The general classification for these animals is birds of prey, that is, birds that feed on animals. By necessity they are, of course, hunters. And to hunt, nature has properly equipped them with the necessary tools.  Their talons and beaks are relatively large, powerful and able to tear flesh. In most cases the female is larger than the male simply because she is the main food provider in the family. The literature tells us that the term raptor is from the Latin rapere which means to take by force or to tear apart.

Gailband showed me the two animals that they display. The two were a red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl. Since they are birds of prey one might wonder what they are doing in captivity. We learned that a number of these birds are in captivity because they have some physical handicap that would hinder their existence in the wild.

Gailband’s owl, for example, is blind in one eye, the result of some accident when it was quite young.  A one-eyed owl having to forage for a living would have a severe handicap and would probably, very shortly, fall to some other animal a little higher on the food chain. Birds with such handicaps are either euthanized or given to professional care-givers, such as Gailband, who are entrusted with the bird’s well being. At The Raptor Institute the birds are not only cared for but are the center of the subject matter of birds of prey.

Charles Gailband is a longtime denizen of Sweetwater Manor. He is an individual who has been associated with wild life from his early years.

He was a member of the local 4H Club that was very active some years back. The unit, here on the hill, specialized in raising sheep. They would obtain the animals when they were very young and then care for and tend them for about six months until they reached maturity. They would then be on display at the Del Mar Fair in the summer time and be sold at auction.

By the way, while researching the literature for this piece I came across something that would pacify the raven, Henry.

Although it is true that he is nowhere in the class of the raptor, he can take solace in the fact that he is mentioned in the Bible probably more times than any other bird.

The raven was, in fact, the first bird to be sent out by Noah from the ark to look for dry land after the massive flood. A little later Noah sent out a dove for the same purpose or to look for the raven. If that raven was anything like Henry he was not malingering. He was probably looking for that elusive mate.

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