Birds of a feather flock to PSU

Jen Rainey | Collegio Reporter

Students had the opportunity to get a close look at various birds of prey Wednesday, April 18, through the Nature Reach Program. Delia Lister, director of Nature Reach, says the program offers students the chance to see hawks and owls up close, and touch feathers, bird skulls and bones. The event was held as part of Earth Week.
“People are typically fascinated by the birds and would probably spend hours looking at them if they could,” said Lister, instructor in biology. “It’s not every day that people get to see birds like these.”
About 20 people attended the event and Lister gave extra credit to her students for attending.
Kelsey Billingsley says she attended mainly for extra credit, but she wanted to learn more about the birds, too.
“I’m hoping to learn more about native birds to Kansas,” said Billingsley, junior in construction management. “It’s important to learn about these birds because they’re a part of the life cycle. If we didn’t have information on them, we wouldn’t be able to protect them.”
Birds that were shown included a barred owl, a screech owl and American kestrel, which are all native to the Southeast Kansas area. There was also a Harris hawk, a bird native to the desert Southwest, at the presentation. Lister says the birds live at the Natural History Reserve, which is a part of the university, but is located a few miles outside of Pittsburg. They originally came from rehabilitation facilities.
“These birds are with us because they’re injured in one way or another,” Lister said. “Some have damaged eyes and others lost their natural fear of people and don’t know how to take care of themselves on their own.”
Lister says the birds are not rehabilitated at the Natural History Reserve. Instead, they are taken to classrooms and used in teaching ecological concepts.
“These presentations bring awareness to people about the wildlife around them and what to do if they find a baby owl in the wild,” Lister said. “It also teaches people about the effect they have on wildlife.”
The Natural History Reserve gives students like Meagan Duffy the opportunity to work firsthand with the birds.
“I regulate the birds’ diets and daily feeding schedule, and I am in the process of training a new bald eagle,” said Duffy, graduate student in biology. “If it’s a new bird you have to get them to trust you and teach them how to stand on the glove we wear. If it’s an older bird, we have to reinforce to them what they’ve been taught.”
Duffy says a lot of people have a bad image of hawks and she works to change their minds.
“I want people to know owls and hawks are good for the environment,” Duffy said.
Duffy says she enjoys working with the birds because it gives her a different way to view nature and wildlife.
“I like being around these birds because I get to see them in a different way than I normally would in the wild,” Duffy said.

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