When you first begin working with a Bird of Prey, it can be quite intimidating. Pemberton is over 20 inches tall, has almost a 4 foot wingspan, and weighs over 3 pounds. Her talons are adapted for grabbing prey that weigh as much as or more than she does. Her beak is razor sharp and she has a tremendous amount of biting force.
So how would you go about training a natural born predator to stand patiently on your arm in front of hundreds of people a week?
You talk. As silly as it sounds, the best way to get acquainted with an owl is to talk to it. For the first three visits to see Pemberton I really did nothing but read books to her and talk to her. This lets her get used to hearing my voice and helps her be more comfortable with me walking around and waving my arms as though I were doing a program with her.
So after hours of talking, reading, whispering and pacing around her, she began to get so comfortable she fell asleep.
And then I tripped over the rug…
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Keep your ear tufts up,
Leif Kixmiller is an Education and Program Specialist at the Discovery Center. He loves to teach children so he can pass on his knowledge and love of nature to future generations. He loves birds, books, and ice cream breaks.
Added note: Having possession of an owl or any other bird of prey requires a permit or license and is otherwise against the law. Living with or taking care of a bird of prey requires a lot of dedicated time and commitment. It is by no means easy and is often restrictive of a life style. This story was written and shared with you in appreciation of our natural wildlife, their habitats, and conservation.