raptor: noun; 1. A bird of prey, such as a hawk, eagle, or owl.
ROSWELL, Ga. – Monteen McCord is passionate about birds of prey. Not only does she direct HawkTalk Inc. (http://www.hawktalk.org/) raptor rehabilitation center in Canton, but she takes hawks and owls into classrooms to help children understand raptors.
Her passion was ignited 29 years ago when she left a job as a surgical nurse and began working for a veterinarian. A sick owl was brought in for treatment.
“That was it for me,” she said.
Preschoolers at the Child Development Association in Roswell last week were treated to an early biology lesson last week when McCord brought three different species of owls into a sunny classroom.
The children got an up-close look at a diminutive screech owl, a tawny owl and a great horned owl.
Though she typically targets older children, McCord had no trouble keeping the attention of the 4 and 5-year-olds with talk about what owls eat, how their heads turn, and where they live.
Donning a falconer’s glove, she lifted “Nigel,” the tawny owl, out of a carrier and let him perch on her wrist. She told them amazing facts that let the children understand what a unique bird Nigel is.
“He can swallow one third of his body weight whole. That would be like me swallowing a 50-pound hot dog whole,” she said.
She brought along a plastic bag containing the skeletal remains of a duck, a great blue heron, and a great horned owl. She compared a duck’s bill and a great blue heron’s bill to illustrate how the different birds function in the wild.
Though it was unsafe for them to touch the live raptors, children stepped forth to examine a mounted barred owl that died from a gunshot wound before it arrived at Hawk Talk.
McCord showed them how to gently stroke the bird and explained that the soft, fluffy feathers allow owls to move quietly when hunting.
“My mission is to take some of the mystery out of birds of prey,” the Canton resident said. “It is fear and ignorance that get these birds killed. I typically target fifth graders and older because that’s when kids get their pellet guns.”
The owl presentation was the highlight of a morning in the CDA’s Summer Transition Program, a six-week intensive academic program intended to help children get ready for kindergarten in the fall.
Offered by Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (http://decal.ga.gov/), the program targets low-income children who either did not attend Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program or who attended pre-k or Head Start but need more support to be ready for school.
While she enjoys educating others, McCord also relies on funds from her presentations to help finance HawkTalk Inc., the non-profit raptor rehabilitation center that she owns and directs in Canton.
Currently she is taking care of 13 raptors – six permanent residents, an injured osprey, a red-tailed hawk that flew into a methane plume, and five young orphaned barred owls.
For information, visit McCord’s nonprofit website (http://www.hawktalk.org/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HawkTalk.org)