Owl-a-Ween at the Wildlife Center was a Hoot of a Good Time

This week we went to our local park’s Owl-a-ween which is a fun way to do community outreach for the wildlife center at the park. The Alabama Wildlife Center used to rescue and rehabilitate all kinds of local animals. Only recently have they moved (perhaps migrated?) To doing only birds.  At their Owl-a-ween event this past weekend, they have crafts, presentations, and photo-ops to promote education about the Owl. There were three kinds of owl’s there that day and we took our picture with them.

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This is a Barred Owl, and they said you could remember it’s name because it has “Bars” running down it’s chest in the form of dark feathers that are vertical down the chest of the bird. It’s on my “when I am bored” list of things to do to look up the origin of this bird’s name and confirm that story, as I was not real keen on being able to see “bars” but it was a beautiful bird.
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This is me with the Great Horned Owl.  Adults can have fun, too! 🙂 This owl’s name is Winky, and he hooted at me.

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There was a snake there. Elliot was the only one of the three kids that wanted to touch it. Later his Aunt asked him “What did it feel like?” And he thought for a long time before saying “Like Broccoli.” So there you go.

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Braxton, my nephew, had his picture taken with all of the birds. He loved the owls!

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This is a Screech Owl. Did you know they were tiny?

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My husband and I took our son, as well as my niece and nephew, which made us look highly procreative in the eyes of passersby, walking around with three children under the age of 5. It was fun, and lead to more than a few conversations about how many kids we hope to have one day. This, I believe, is a Barn Owl. All of the kids wanted their picture with this one. It liked to show off!

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When we arrived, they were a little overwhelmed and unsure what to do at all of the crafts and birds in the entrance. They stood there forever basically staring at these women holding owls. It was so cute! The zoo ladies were so nice and explaining about the habits of the bird, and where they live, etc. All the kids wanted to know is if they could touch it!

After the owl presentations, they did a Raptor Presentation where they brought three live animals that were education birds with the wildlife center. Birds are selected for the education program when they are unable to return to the wild. Each bird has his own story and reason for being what they call “unreleasable” but the story that stuck with me the most was the one of the Mississippi Kite that could not return to the wild because he was, and I quote, “A victim of malnutrition.” Most animals we had seen that day which were unreleasable had problems like one bird was missing a wing from being in a car accident. Another bird’s talons were damaged so he could not hunt properly. The list of injuries were normally highly apparent and made complete sense that this bird would not survive the wild. When the presenter introduced the Mississippi Kite and told us his reason for becoming an education bird was from malnutrition, it was very interesting to me.

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The story on this bird is that when he was a baby he fell out of his nest. Some well meaning individuals “rescued” the Kite and fed it for a week on dog food and raw eggs. The bad diet that was totally outside the ideal diet for the Kite stunted his development and caused harm to the bird so that he could not function on his own in the wild. Obviously, that determination was made by the wildlife center who no doubt errs on the side of caution, so I allow that perhaps the bird would have made it, and that even if it were returned to the wild and died, that it could be no more significant than other kites who are predatory victims. However, the fact that this group had a category for birds who are victims of malnutrition was surprising to me. It surprised me mainly because we have no such category here in American for kids who eat badly, and thus develop inadequately.

We have all seen the tragic commercials for companies raising money to help malnourished children in poor countries, where we see images of children with swollen bellies, the reason for which is stated as a protein deficiency and malnutrition. I think these commercials, and similar presentations of starving children, are what we as Americans consider malnourished. We equate the idea with starving, with not eating at all. Specifically, I think many of us equate it with not getting  enough protein. In the case of the MIssissippi Kite example, though, that bird was getting food, and highly proteinized food at that. Dog food is formulated to be very nutritious for dogs (some brands, anyway), but for a Kite it was completely not what the body of that bird was designed to digest. The result of feeding it, just for one week, on this bad diet was to disable the bird for the rest of it’s life and prevent it’s being able to return to the wild. Maybe you consider a cushy life in the AWS Education program a win for the bird, but I doubt the bird agrees. It was designed to live in the wild, and though it was raised as a baby in captivity, it likely would have been happiest, and most appropriately treated, to have had the option of living in the wild.

One week of bad nutrition disabled this bird for it’s life. Not to equate animals to people, but it reminded me how our systems are designed to work and how we mistreat them. I think the healing powers of the human body keep us from realizing how much damage we are causing. Since we aren’t falling over in convulsions from that “one cheeseburger”, we think that it’s “ok” to eat it.

I think we need to change how we view nutrition culturally. Particularly with the development of our children, how they eat, what they eat, and even that “one time”, can impact them for a lifetime. The best way to raise children is to be the good you want to see in them. So today, I started our day with organic farm-raised eggs, organic orange juice, and some organic chocolate milk (see my earlier post on how chocolate milk is my son’s coffee).

I desperately wanted a nice cup of coffee, but had to settle for a carbonated San Pelligrino Orange flavor, which I am, just as I’m typing this, realizing that even though I switched coffee brands yesterday to an all organic, free trade coffee, I did not check the San Pelligrino for ingredients. I will do that. I will update you on what I find out.

Today’s Questions for You:

What did you guys eat for breakfast today?

Do you have wildlife centers where you live?

How do you teach your kids about nutrition?

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