Rehab centre for birds of prey is thriving
A bit of reclaimed Prairie marshland has turned into a combination wildlife habitat, rehab centre and zoo for hawks, falcons, eagles and owls.
The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre is located in the unassuming town of Coaldale, about 10 km east of Lethbridge in southern Alberta.
It is Canada's largest birds-of-prey facility and the brainchild of Colin Weir, who moved to this community from Windsor, Ont. 30 years ago, armed with just his desire and a love of the sport of falconry.
"I had a real fascination with training hawks, eagles and owls and actually falconry and I thought; `How can you combine the art of falconry with raptor rehabilitation?' So we're helping injured birds go back to the wild and 30 years later, here we are," he said proudly.
The 28 hectare (70 acre) wetland site attracts between 12,000 to 15,000 visitors each year and operates without government subsidies.
Visitors have included royalty, politicians and movie stars. Photos of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Rhys Jones, action star Jackie Chan and a very young former Alberta premier Ralph Klein smile down from the wall inside the facility.
The program includes flying demonstrations using hawks and eagles as well as a chance for visitors to don the heavy leather gloves worn by staff and to hold an owl or a hawk by themselves.
Weir said the permanent residents of the park are those that were either bred in captivity like some of the hawks or were too badly injured to be rehabilitated. He said the public brings in between 150 and 200 birds each year. About 60-to-80 per cent are eventually able to return to the wild.
"It's absolutely spiritually uplifting to see these birds," said Weir.
Source: Metro News