By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. — Click here to watch video
The flap of feathers could be heard across the Bluefield, Va., branch of the Tazewell County Public Library Tuesday as patrons greeted three feathered friends.
An American kestrel named Edie, a red-tailed hawk named Ruby and a barred owl named Athena visited children and their families at the library as part of a Virginia Wildlife Outreach Center program titled “A View From the Top”, aimed at educating youngsters about native birds of prey.
Raina Krasner, a wildlife outreach coordinator, brought the birds from the center in Waynesboro, Va., to show the crowd.
“We have a hospital for native animals and we take in animals from all over the state,” Krasner said. “We care for injured and orphaned animals. We have a staff of very special people who take care of these animals. They do what they need to do so these animals remain safe and healthy. We also have animal rehabilitators who help get animals back into the wild.”
Krasner said the three birds that visited the library Tuesday will never return to a wild habitat. Krasner said Edie was abandoned by her parents as a youth when the tree they lived in fell over in a storm. A group of humans rescued Edie but when they attempted to rehabilitate her themselves Krasner said they led Edie to identify with humans over birds, preventing her from being able to return to the wild.
Krasner said Ruby was hit by a car and lost one of her eyes as a result of surgery following the crash while Athena was possibly infected by the West Nile virus and lost most of her vision. All three birds were eventually brought to the wildlife center.
Krasner said Edie, Ruby and Athena now work to help educate people about Virginia wildlife.
“I think getting a chance to see these birds up close is something most kids don’t get to do,” Krasner said. “The more kids who know and see these animals the more they become interested in native wildlife, conservation and the environment. They get to see the sizes of these birds up close and most kids are amazed by how big these birds really are.”
Amy Horne, a children and youth services specialist with the library, said many children who visit the library want to learn about wildlife.
“Anything that is educational and involves wildlife is great,” Horne said. “We have a high check-out rate among youth for our wildlife books. These animals are local and these kids have a shot at seeing them in their backyard but not as close up as they were able to today. A picture doesn’t always give you a good example of what an animal looks like.”
Ralph Harless of Bluefield, Va., brought his children, ages 8 and 5, to learn more about birds in the wild.
“We homeschool and try to keep education going all year round,” Harless said. “There aren’t a lot of animals you can safely see up close around here. It lets the kids get up close to these animals without being in danger. The kids loved the birds and were amazed at the size of the red-tailed hawk. I liked the kestrel, personally. We definitely now know what to do if we come across any injured wildlife.”
Louise Greer of Springville brought her 7-year-old grandson to the program.
“He loves wildlife and being outdoors,” Greer said. “It showed him about local nature and was very interesting. He’d never seen those animals up close like that before. These library programs really stimulate their young minds and get them thinking.”
Mike Baker of Tazewell, Va., brought out his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter to the program.
“My son loves birds and the kids really wanted to come to this event,” Baker said. “The owl was probably their favorite. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about these animals. I learned a lot just by going out in the woods when I was young, but now it’s harder for kids to see these kinds of animals in the wild.”
Carolyn Hall of Bluefield, Va., said she and her 8-year-old granddaughter frequently attend summer programs at the library.
“We come almost every time they do something for the kids,” Hall said. “My granddaughter wants to be a vet and she loves birds. She was so excited they were having this program. Kids don’t get outside enough or know enough about wildlife today. This shows the kids there is more to life. I learned a lot myself. These programs are really just fun for all of us.”
Krasner said the three birds will be making another appearance at 10 a.m. today at the Tazewell County Career and Technical Center in Tazewell, Va.
Krasner said anyone who finds an injured wild animal in Virginia can contact the wildlife center at www.wildlifecenter.org to get more information on how to ensure the animal is properly taken care of as well as to monitor the progress of animals currently at the center.
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com