Alberta Birds of Prey Centre prepares to welcome visitors this May long weekend

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Alberta Birds of Prey Centre opens this weekend
Situated on a 70-acre wetland site, the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre is a celebration of nature featuring the province's hawks, falcons, eagles and owls. Brandon Cassidy reports – May 17, 2024

Staff from the Alberta Birds of Prey Nature Centre were busy on Friday as the facility prepares to welcome visitors over the May long weekend.

Situated on a 70-acre wetland site in Coaldale, Alta., 11 kilometres east of Lethbridge, the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre is a celebration of nature featuring the province’s hawks, falcons, eagles and owls.

The centre, which opens this Saturday, will welcome guests until early September.

There are over 15 different species of birds of prey to see and learn about — from hawks, eagles and falcons, to ravens and owls.

Throughout the season, there are regularly scheduled activities, such as feeding baby owls, flying hawks and eagles or guided tours.

Gillian Blade, a summer student returning for her second season at the centre, said there was a lot for her to learn last year.

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It was still pretty exciting, she said.

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“(It) was really fun learning how to do the knots and how to handle the owls and learning all the facts about the owls,” she said.

“It was pretty cool.”

Two other summer students are returning as tour guides and exhibit workers as well.

Taya Fehr and Miyah Clarke, who are returning for their third and fourth years respectively, said visitors also learn a lot during their trips to the centre.

“My favourite thing has to be seeing the kids come in and their faces, they get so excited,” Fehr said.

Clarke said she enjoys meeting first-time visitors.

“They’re always very excited to see all the birds,” she said.

“On opening weekend, we do get some returnees that come, so they often know the birds — sometimes even better than we do.”

While the birds receive care year-round, summer is their time to shine as some, like Jeff the bald eagle, show off their personalities.

Staff ensure the birds are the stars of the show.

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“He will normally pick at his glove, he’ll even throw tantrums,” said Clarke.

“If we don’t take him out flying and we choose another bird, he’ll rip up the grass and toss it everywhere like a child.”

Clarke, one of the most senior staff members, said the most fulfilling work takes place behind the scenes. Toward the end of each season, staff will release birds that were captured over the summer into the wild.

“It’s aways a great feeling to see the full progress of getting the birds in for the summer and then see them fly back into nature at the end of the summer,” she said.

All admittance fees and gift shop proceeds go right back into operating the non-profit facility.

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