Free as a bird

Val Vita | Managing Editor

Some people are lucky to find their passion early in life. Meagan Duffee was 10 when she discovered she had a passion for birds.
Duffee was at a birthday party in Dallas, Texas, her hometown, when she saw a man

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give a falconry demonstration.
“And I thought, ‘Hey, that’s really cool,’” Duffee said.

Meagan Duffee, falconer and graduate student in Taxidermy and Wildlife photography, takes Autumn, her Red-tailed hawk to hunt on Shawnee Trails Conservation Area located in Missouri on Sunday, Sep. 23.

Meagan Duffee, falconer and graduate student in Taxidermy and Wildlife photography, takes Autumn, her Red-tailed hawk to hunt on Shawnee Trails Conservation Area located in Missouri on Sunday, Sep. 23.


A lot of kids were impressed that day, but only one of them probably took the subject seriously. Today, Duffee is 26 and she studies, works and hunts with birds.
Duffee says she spent most of her life in Texas, though the reason she came to Pittsburg was the university, because it has a well-known biology program.
“And I just love biology,” Duffee said. “I’m in field biology because I like to be outside. If I can be outside and don’t have to be stuck in an office, I’m happy.”
Since she lives in Nevada, Mo., Duffee says she drives 45 minutes to class every day, and has been doing so for a while. She graduated in 2011, and is currently working on her master’s in taxidermy and wildlife photography at Pitt State.
Duffee says coming to Pitt State brought her the opportunity to work in the Nature Reach program in 2007.
“I feed hawks and eagles,” Duffee said. “Besides feeding birds, we visit schools everywhere to teach kids about different kinds of animals.”
Meagan Duffee, falconer and graduate student in Taxidermy and Wildlife photography, takes Autumn, her Red-tailed hawk who came from the wild and is with Meagan for 5 years, to hunt on Shawnee Trails Conservation Area located in Missouri on Sunday, Sep. 23 2012.

Meagan Duffee, falconer and graduate student in Taxidermy and Wildlife photography, takes Autumn, her Red-tailed hawk who came from the wild and is with Meagan for 5 years, to hunt on Shawnee Trails Conservation Area located in Missouri on Sunday, Sep. 23 2012.

In addition to those responsibilities, she is also able to rehabilitate birds because she got a state and federal permit that allows her to help injured birds and bring them back to the wild.
“People already know me for this,” Duffee said. “If they see a bird injured on the road they bring it to my house.”
Duffee has two birds of her own: a red-tail hawk, named Autumm, and an American kestrel, a type of falcon, named Annie.
Autumm came from the wild, and has been living in her own house outside Duffee’s house for more than five years. Annie was found on the ground and nourished back to health by hand. Because of that, she cannot fend for herself in the wild and has to stay inside.
“A lot of people here hunt with guns, but I hunt with my birds,” Duffee said. “I can get them to do whatever I want to. I just have to give them food every time they do something.”
Duffee says she trained for two years before she became a falconer. The sport of falconry is known as a hunting sport or sport of the kings. She says she hunts with Autumm five days a week, to keep her in top shape.
“I have a wild bird, and she trusts me,” Duffee said. “She knows she will always have food and a safe place to sleep at night. But I can let her go. Because there’s no leash when we hunt, I have no control over her. If one day she decides she wants to leave, she will leave.”
The trust that Autumm has in her owner is something that makes Duffee love birds so much.
“And I like it because I get to see a part of nature that a lot of people aren’t able to see,” she said.

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