FLORENCE — A different bird takes center stage for many on Thanksgiving Day, but not at the Raptors of the Rockies in Florence where raptors are always in the spotlight.
There's Sonny the bald eagle, Nigel the golden eagle, Owen, the pocket-sized northern saw whet owl, Maisie the Peregrine falcon, Ella and Wes, the American kestrels, and Simon -- who moonlights as a model for art classes sometimes.
They are just some of the flock at Raptors of the Rockies in Florence.
“A new term that I kind of ripped off is nature therapy, said Kate Davis who has hosted 1,800 programs so far on these birds —often to schoolchildren across Western Montana.
"We use these birds to get kids and grownups to promise they’ll go outside. And nature therapy, so they can observe things up close and perhaps become more aware of their surroundings and we are in a hotbed or raptors here in Western Montana,” Davis explained.
Raptors of the Rockies is a nonprofit raptor education project that not only educates about the birds but provides a lifetime of quality care to permanently disabled birds of prey and falconry birds.
“Some of the birds are unable to fly. Nigel was shot as a young bird but has survived so far 25 years. Others have imprinted on humans so can’t be out in the wild,” Davis said.
Even if no longer wild, these birds serve a higher purpose -- teaching school children about conservation and habitat and highlighting the state's diverse avian population.
Davis knows she’s made an impression when she hears stories like this -- “I see birds now than I ever had -- and it’s fun to speak owl.”
Her ever-presented camera allows her to capture some amazing photos. She’s also an artist, a sculptor, and the author of several books about all kinds of bird species. Additionally, a newsletter keeps supporters up to date.
What she’d like is for us all to be able to identify the rich birdlife we have in Montana if only just for fun.
“I say let’s go out and look for these birds because they are here,” Davis told MTN News. “We can observe them and tell them apart and get a field guide and binoculars.”
You can learn more about these birds by going to the Raptors of the Rockies website and you can find Kate's books in stores across western Montana.