If you are anywhere near the Cowichan area, I highly recommend taking a trip to see the Pacific Northwest Raptors Centre in Duncan. It’s an awesome experience for anyone evenly remotely interested in birds of prey, and absolutely fantastic for kids. We have been there a few times now, and always thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
A local group of biologists and falconers created the centre in hopes to bring people closer to birds of prey. They want to make the general public aware that these birds are so much more than just predators. The centre was built to educate, illuminate and encourage a sense of personal responsibility for the future of these magnificent birds. With this better understanding, we see that they really are an essential part of the delicate ecological balance of our planet.
When wandering around any animal exhibit, whether at a zoo or otherwise, I can’t help but feel saddened by the small enclosures they have. Unfortunately, the Raptors Centre is not much different.
However, one should remember that these birds are born in captivity to help educate the public, and they are quite accustomed to humans taking care of them. They would most likely not fair well out in the real world anyway. And besides, I think any bird who is guaranteed a full meal every day, over having to scavenge and hunt for themselves, would most likely take the first option!
Not to mention, the birds at the Raptor Centre have plenty of opportunities to stretch their wings (see flying demonstrations below).
What You Can Expect to See
- American Kestrels
The Flying Demonstrations at the Raptors Centre
The highlight of any visit to the Raptors Centre is most definitely the flying demonstration! It is absolutely, positively, utterly fan-diddly-tastic!! I honestly can’t say enough good things about it.
The demonstration allows you to get up close and personal with these giant winged beauties, while impressively informative staff explain how fantastic and important raptors really are.
While spectators sit on a benched seating area at the edge of a field, staff call the birds in one at a time to land on their gloved hand. This call often results in the birds flying so close to your head you can feel the tips of their wings across your hair. No matter if you are in the front row of benches or the back, you have a spectacular view of these magnificent creatures.
On top of having ample opportunity to gawk at owls, eagles, falcons, hawks and vultures, you walk away with more knowledge about raptors than you ever thought possible. For instance, did you know an owl can hear a mouse’s heartbeat under four feet of snow? (Come on, tell me you knew that?)
During the presentation, it’s easy to see the staff are overjoyed by their feathered friends (who have diverse personalities of their own) and that the raptors are much-loved by their handlers. This evidence of care and admiration make up for any lack of attention to detail in the bird’s enclosures.
The handlers are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, charismatic, friendly, funny and just down right awesome. Although they couldn’t possibly outshine the birds of prey that ‘perform’, they most certainly hold their own.
For those who fall in love with these amazing creatures (it’s easy to do after a visit here), the centre offers extra-special experiences for one to enjoy.
There are opportunities to take a walk through the woods with a hawk, look into the eyes of an owl, or even spend the whole day or week immersing yourself in the world of raptors.
No matter what experience you choose, you will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close to raptors.
If this is something you think you may be interested in, please check out what the centre has to offer by heading to their website and reading more about these “Hands-On Experiences”.
For kid’s, the centre also offers summer camps and birthday party experiences too!
Hours of Operation
March to mid-May, as well as September, they are open daily, from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Flying demonstrations happen at 1:30 pm.
During peak season (mid-May to early September), the centre is open from 10:30 am – 5:00 pm. Flying demonstrations are at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm.
Please check their website for up-to-date entry fees.
The Pacific Northwest Raptors Centre’s location is:
1877 Herd Road in Duncan.
As mentioned above, if you are anywhere in the area – heck, even if you are in Victoria, Nanaimo or Parksville – it’s well worth the drive to the Raptors Centre.
Just don’t forget to bring your camera!
Have you been? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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