October 27, 2018
San Ignacio, Belize
Have you ever wanted to get up close and personal with an eagle? Or have lunch with a buzzard? Hoot with the owls? Or even have a bird-day party?
We did, so we did.
We got personal, had lunch, hooted and partied with some pretty incredible flying creatures at the Belize Raptor Center (BRC) here in San Ignacio. We love birds, especially the colorful beauties we’ve seen here.
The BRC was started in 2015 and it rescues, treats, rehabs and, in some cases, is able to release injured birds of prey. But a very special few remain at the Center, because of permanent disabilities. These “resident raptors” are a vital part of the BRC family and are the superstars of the Center’s educational efforts.
Sarah Mann is the founder of the Center, and, get this, she grew up about 5 miles from where I did in Carrollton, Texas! Small world! She also is the spitting image of my younger sister, Della. Her mannerisms, big blue eyes, expressions…sure made me miss my “Della Cinderella” sis. Freaky, huh? We fell in love with Sarah, her staff, her adorable baby son and of course, her birds.
We called ahead and were fortunate to be the only visitors at the Center the day we visited, so, we got to feed, pet, hold and play with the 12 big birds that live there. Lucky us. We had a blast!
Wanna meet a few of these incredible creatures? Get ready to be wowed.
Gray-headed kites are found in Mexico, Central and South America. They feed on reptiles, frogs and large insects.
This pretty boy was brought to the center after he collided with a car outside of Belmopan. Unfortunately, Sterling had a prior injury that caused him to be blind in his left eye.
Sterling is smart and, according to Sarah, has responded to training faster than any of her other birds. He is very well rounded and loves performing for big presentations.
Orange-breasted falcons can be found from southern Mexico through northern Argentina. This beauty feeds on small- to mid-sized birds and bats.
There are only three of these awesome birds that are in captivity, two in Idaho and one (Maya) here in Belize. Orange-breasted falcons are the second rarest raptors in the world.
The Common Black Hawk is almost always found close to rivers and streams. They eat fish, frogs, lizards and other small animals. In courtship, pairs soar and dive, calling, with long legs dangling. Near the nest site, the male may feed his female partner. What a gentleman!
Having a very rough life to start, Zion has definitely done the biggest transition in the short time he has been at the center. Poached from his nest, kept for weeks in an artificially lit cage and then put up for sale, Zion was surrendered to the center with mental baggage. He was never exposed to the outdoors and was fearful of everything that moved and terrified of the dark. After 2 months at the center, Zion is now on a normal bedtime schedule and has desensitized to his surroundings. He’s all personality and will steal your shoes if left alone for long enough. Common Black Hawks are really not all that “common.” Zion has become a star ambassador for his species! By the way, the seller had to pay a hefty fine or go to jail.
Take one glance at these spectacular birds and it’s easy to see how they got their name. Native to Mexico, Central and South America, spectacled owls love dense, tropical jungles.
Luna was found tangled in a barbed wire fence, causing lacerations to an eye and wing injuries. Her visual injuries have healed, but the small tears in her tendons and muscles make it hard for her to hold her wing up, let alone fly. Luna is an education diva and mesmerizes all who meet her with her big golden eyes. Whoooo dat?
Plumbeous Kites are found primarily in Mexico, as well as, South and Central America. Their migratory path is from Mexico to South America. They feed upon large insects, snakes, bats, small birds and frogs. Except for eating bats, birds and frogs, these are my kind of birds! I’m not a big fan of snakes!
Skylar was poached, from a nest, when he was only a few weeks old and then kept as a pet. Because of his human imprint, as a baby, he probably wouldn’t survive in the wild and cannot be released. Skylar loves interacting with a crowd and goes to every school outreach program.
The Black Hawk Eagle can be found from Mexico south through the Amazon basin, as well as, in the Atlantic coastal forest from eastern Brazil south to northern Argentina. This bird is big (4th largest bird of prey) and stands out because of a glorious head crown (crest) that is white, gray and black. It’s easy to spot a Black Hawk Eagle in the air, because of its paddle-shaped corrugated wings and long tail.
Akna (Mayan for “our mother”) was rescued by the team at Black Rock Lodge, and came to the Center with severe lacerations to her legs, a bad infection and underweight. After 2 surgeries, her tendons could not be repaired and therefore she can no longer hunt. She is so beautiful and an extraordinary addition to the Belize Raptor Center team.
The Ornate Hawk Eagles reach their northern limit in northeastern Mexico and are prevalent through Central America and parts of South America. They eat small mammals and have been known to chow down on chickens.
To me, this was the most beautiful bird in Sarah’s aviary. Athena was shot, several times and because of a fungal infection suffers from respiratory problems. She does best when there’s not much drama going on around her (don’t we all!) and we consider ourselves two lucky ducks to be able to snap a few photos of this remarkable bird!
Since its inception, the BRC has worked tirelessly to make an impact on the residents, students and teachers of Belize, by travelling the country doing presentations about the importance of raptors to the Belizean culture, ecology and tourism. The goal of the BRC is to establish a full-fledged Center that will host school field trips, camps and birding groups, as well as interactive bird shows.
All of the raptors at the BRC were rescued and now live in sanctuary, so teaching the importance of preserving these incredible creatures is another important part of the center’s mission.
The BRC is always looking for interns for their raptor conservation program. Interns get involved in basic husbandry and bird care, and have the opportunity to help with rehabilitation. Internships last a minimum of 2 weeks and max of 3 months. Longer internships may be approved.
Applicants must be 18 years or older, and although no experience is needed, an interest in raptor conservation, bird training and rehabilitation is strongly preferred.
To apply, please send a CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
The BRC has a “feed kitchen” area that frankly is a little gross. Rats, roadkill, rodents, etc. are prepared for Sarah’s birds, with the skill of a master chef. Gross to us, savory cuisine for the birds! But it costs to keep rats on the table! BRC relies on donations to make possible the daily feeding of the birds, as well as, educational presentations.
All of the BRC sessions are free. Wow!
So if you’d like to lift the spirits of these incredible birds, consider donating or becoming a BRC sponsor. Your gift will make a huge difference.
At the BRC we were privileged to experience something beyond ourselves — for a few hours we became a part of the greater, glorious world that wild birds inhabit, and which through its very existence makes the world a much better place. Thank you and bravo Sarah and the Belize Raptor Center!
Phone: +1 (501) 615-0226