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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 2 years ago

Audubon Center Owl Prowls teach Maitland community

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The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey spreads nature awareness with Owl Prowl events.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

It’s been nearly 40 years since the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey opened its doors – and the facility is still rehabilitating injured birds and teaching the community about its feathered residents.

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey has been teaching visitors about owls through its monthly Owl Prowl events, hosted during the nesting season from November to March.

The center’s most recent Owl Prowl was Friday, Feb. 2, where visitors had a chance to make owl crafts, dissect owl pellets and, of course, see the predatory birds who call the center “home” up close.

There’s plenty of winged occupants to meet at the center, from Merlin the the 31-year-old barred owl to Carrie the eastern screech owl, who was born with a more fluffy appearance due to a feather defect, which also prohibits her from flying.

“For Owl Prowls specifically, we really just wanted to let people know that there’s owls in the neighborhood … and some of the plights that they go through out in the wild with us trimming trees and taking away their nesting habitats,” Education Manager Laura VonMutius said. “It’s also just for kids getting to see owls up close and kind of get that connection to nature and hopefully inspire them to care as they grow up.”

Owl Prowls also include a segment where groups search the nearby woods for wild owls, driving the point home that the feathered creatures are ingrained in the area.

Events such as the Owl Prowls offer a glimpse into what the center does to rehabilitate injured raptors, which includes birds like owls, eagles, hawks, vultures and falcons.

The center first opened its doors in 1979, after Audubon Florida employee Doris Mager started conducting raptor rehab out of her home. She worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Audubon to raise the funds to open the center by climbing 50 feet into an unoccupied eagles nest and living there for an entire week. The event received national news coverage, and Mager was able to raise enough money to open the center.

Since then, the facility has helped more than 22,000 raptors, VonMutius said.

Officials hope events such as the ongoing Owl Prowls will spark an interest in younger guests to take an interest in wildlife — and make better choices to conserve the nature around them, VonMutius said.

“I hope that they would just realize that nature is awesome and wildlife is awesome, and that there’s wildlife and nature all around us, even in our neighborhoods,” VonMutius said. “By helping just even in our neighborhoods cleaning up trash … you’re helping wildlife even in a small way. We can all participate in that.”

The center also plans to host Owl Prowls specifically for Girl Scout troops in the future, so the scouts can earn their night owl badges.

 

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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