Horizon Wings celebrates Earth Day with open house

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Thu., May. 2, 2013
Horizon Wings volunteer Jeanne Wadsworth holds a turkey vulture named Dante, while sharing facts about the large raptor. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Horizon Wings volunteer Jeanne Wadsworth holds a turkey vulture named Dante, while sharing facts about the large raptor. Photos by Annie Gentile.

If you ask anyone what the fastest animal in the world is, chances are they will say the cheetah. Yet while the cheetah has been known to clock up to 70 or 75 miles per hour in short bursts, making it the fastest land animal, the speedy feline can’t hold a candle to the peregrine falcon. This crow-sized bird of prey is capable of high-speed dives, also known as “stoops,” at speeds of 200 miles per hour or more, earning it the title of fastest animal on earth.

This is just one of the many fun and interesting facts that visitors to the Horizon Wings Rehabilitation and Education Center learned on Saturday, April 27, during its Earth Day Fair 2013. The annual event helps to both educate the public about species of raptors and raise funds for the non-profit center.

“I’ve been a wildlife rehabilitator for 28 years,” said Mary Beth Kaeser, who runs Horizon Wings with her husband, Alan Nordell. She said the center specializes in raptors and larger corvids, such as ravens and crows. Kaeser said the state and federal government licenses people for wildlife rehabilitation work, but no one funds rehabilitation centers for what they do. For this reason, Horizon Wings, which formed in 2001, combines rehabilitation services with educational programs at schools, libraries, nursing homes and at the center itself to raise necessary funds for food, aviary building materials, and veterinary costs.

“I work for a board-certified avian veterinarian that runs the Northeast Bird Clinic, just three houses up,” said Kaeser. “We use Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Massachusetts as well.” She said whenever they receive an injured bird, they provide it supportive care such as food, nutrition and veterinary needs, with the goal of eventually releasing it back into the wild.

One of the most common injuries to the birds that come to Horizon Wings is from being struck by a car or truck. Such was the case for Cypress, a red-tailed hawk, who was the victim of an automobile injury. Although he has recovered, he cannot fly the way he normally would, which would make him easy prey in the wild. For this reason, he and other birds like him are kept as permanent residents and “educational ambassadors” at Horizon Wings.

Rose Crisci said she became a volunteer at Horizon Wings because as a young girl she was always amazed by birds of prey. She said she took classes and worked at Wind Over Wings, a rehabilitation center in Clinton, eventually earning her rehabilitation permit. “It was a lot of work, but well worth the effort. I love when we go into schools because there are so many children who never get to see this, and if even one kid gets something out of it, it means so much,” she said.

Dante, an approximately 5-pound turkey vulture at the event, was also struck by a car. Volunteer Jeanne Wadsworth described Dante as extremely intelligent, pointing out his unique features. One of the few birds of prey that have a sense of smell, the turkey vulture, she said, has nostrils that go clear through its nose area. Their heads are also bald, and both of these features allow them to stay relatively clean - useful traits for when sticking their heads inside of animal carcasses to feed.

Not only can a peregrine falcon dive at over 200 miles per hour, but it also can spot a pigeon on the ground from 2,000 feet up, said Nordell. In comparison, he said the fastest a human skydiver can freefall is at 180 miles per hour.  As peregrine falcons are strict bird eaters, Nordell said their educational falcon requires a special order diet of quail for nutrition, which costs Horizon Wings $1,500 to $2,000 a year to feed - a good illustration for why fundraising efforts at Horizon Wings are so very important.

For more information about Horizon Wings upcoming projects and activities, visit the website www.horizonwings.org.


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