Birds of Prey tour SE Portland libraries

See the crowd this fascinating program brought into a small SE Portland library – and learn about the mission of the Oregon Raptor Center, expressed by presenter Susan LaFontaine …

Susan LaFontaine of the Oregon Raptor Center holds “Gunny”, and tells of the habits of the red-tailed hawk.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As folks streamed into the Woodstock Branch Library, it became clear that the audience for the afternoon’s program, Birds of Prey: The Live Tour, could have filled their small meeting room many times over.  This was one of the tour’s many stops at libraries in East Portland.

About 75 people gathered in the front of the building, as Susan LaFontaine of the Oregon Raptor Center from Mill City prepared her feathered friends for their performance.

When Gunny acts up, Susan LaFontaine has a word with her.

“We’ve done programs all over the state for over 250,000 people,” LaFontaine said, as she introduced herself and the program. “Birds we use in our programs have been injured, and have not recovered sufficiently to go back into the wild.

“Oregon has a 33 different bird of prey species,” the avian expert explained. “A bird of prey is one that eats other animals. Birds of prey are hunters. They’re very important to our environment. If it weren’t for them, mites, rats, rabbits, and squirrels would quickly overrun people.”

LaFontaine has to hold “Gunny” tightly when she seeks to fly.

Of those 33 predatory bird species, LaFontaine continued, nineteen are in the hawk group of diurnals (daytime hunters). “Fourteen birds of prey species are in the owl group. But owls have many different habits. Nocturnal owls hunt in the very darkest part of the night. Crepuscular owls hunt at dusk and dawn.”

One of the birds she introduced was a red tailed hawk, named Gunny. “She’s not in the wild, because somebody used her for target practice. Her right wing was partially shot off; it’s not symmetrical.”

LaFontaine peppered her presentation with anecdotes and facts “The size of birds’ feet determines how large a prey they can catch.”

Even though the crowd was large, the loudest sound heard in the library as the program continued was the occasional flutter of wings, and squawks by one of the avian performers.

Gunny shows off her wings during the Birds of Prey: The Live Tour show at library shows held in East Portland.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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