This past weekend, a friend of mine went to his first outdoor exhibit here in Fort Collins. He's a Red-Tailed hawk who came to the RMRP in 2010 with multiple fractures in one wing. The wing didn't heal correctly, so, like many of us educational ambassadors for the RMRP, he can't fly well enough to be released. But he did have the right personality to become an educational bird, and he progressed through his training well, and over the past few months he went out to numerous small educational programs, like hour-long programs at libraries and schools. Saturday's exhibit was a much bigger accomplishment for him because exhibits are long, outdoors, and full of all sorts of colors, sounds, sights and people. Seeing as I'm an old hand at the exhibit thing (not much surprises me anymore when I'm out in public), I figured I'd interview the new kid and see what he thought of the whole thing!
Great Horned Owl (GHOW): How did the day begin?
Red-Tailed Hawk (RTHA): It started very normally, except that my handler was talking to me more than usual, using soft, encouraging tones to tell me I would "do great today". Well, of course I'd do great--I'm a Red-Tailed Hawk, I'm great at everything. I didn't realize then how much I was going to see that day! It started by being jessed in the cage, then weighed on the scale, then getting into my travel box like I was going to a program. The car ride was pretty short, although I don't really care how long car rides are when I'm in my travel box--it's so calm and quiet in there. And when I came out of my box, I was smack dab in the middle of town! Surprise!
GHOW: What was your first impression of the exhibit?
RTHA: There was so much going on! Cars and people and tents and trees...I had a hard time keeping an eye on all of it all the time, but I tried my best. I just looked and watched and took stock of the whole world around me, and pretty soon it became more understandable and less scary. Nothing bad happened to me, of course--the Humans would never let that happen! But there was a lot to take in.
GHOW: Describe the place you were perched.
RTHA: I was standing on a low perch, just about one wing-length off the ground, and my leash was attached to the perch (I tested the leash out right away, and found it was two wing-lengths long, and that I could easily fly to the end of it, stand in the grass for a second, then jump back up to the perch, no problem). Above me and behind me was a white tent, so I was in the shade all day. Around the three open sides of the tent was a thin red rope. I think the red rope holds great power over the Humans because no one crossed it except my Humans from the RMRP. Beyond the tent was a large grassy area, lots more tents, and a lot of people. To one side there was a road and a sidewalk.
GHOW: I'm sure you learned a lot throughout the day, so let's break it all down individually: what did you learn about vehicles?
RTHA: There are a lot of different kinds and they make a lot of different sounds! There were regular-sized ones that the Humans called "cars", but some of them made really loud noises that rumbled and roared like a thunder storm, and others made loud but whiny noises that were very surprising. And they all moved so fast! No wonder we birds have a hard time with cars. There were smaller two-wheeled things that the Humans called "motorcycles", and a lot of those were even louder than the cars. Then there was a train, like the one that passes by the RMRP, but this one as closer and much louder. Oh, and then there were "bicycles", which are kind of like motorcycles, but much quieter. The bicycles came really close to me sometimes, but they never tried to hurt me. I stopped noticing all the vehicles after awhile because I learned they weren't going to hurt me while I was with my Humans.
GHOW: What did you learn about dogs?
RTHA: There are lots of different sizes of dogs, too! All of them were attached to Humans by leashes, kind of like mine but longer and thicker. Some Humans kept their dogs really close, and other Humans had to be asked to reel in their dogs so they wouldn't come over and scare me. At first the dogs were scary, but when I realized that my Humans were making sure none of them could get near me, I relaxed and started noticing how funny looking they are! Some had spots, some had stripes, some were huge and others small, some were really excited to see me, others didn't care about me, and others were so oblivious they never knew I was there. Silly dogs.
GHOW: What did you learn about children?
RTHA: Children, also called "kids" and "Hey!", are highly revered by Humans. They're escorted around in colorful wheeled objects called "strollers", and the big Humans push the kids around in these all day. And whenever a kid wants to do something, the big Humans help the kid do it. I also learned that kids are very noisy. But even though the kids were noisy, they were also really interested in me and asked the Humans lots of good questions about how cool I am. Some of them were small enough to walk right under the red rope, but even they stayed on the far side of it! My favorite kids were the ones who sat down in the grass by the rope and spent a lot of time talking to the Humans about me. I think kids are okay!
GHOW: What did you learn about noise?
RTHA: I think I learned that Humans really like noise. I prefer quiet so I can hear bird sounds and listen for mice in the grass, but Humans prefer constant music and lots of talking. Once I got used the constant noise, it didn't bother me much.
GHOW: What questions did people most often ask?
RTHA: Everyone asked what kind of bird I was, and a lot of people asked if I was an Eagle, which made me laugh inside. Wouldn't the Golden Eagle get a kick out of that question? After that, most people wanted to know how I hurt my wing. Then there were a lot of different questions, like how can I turn my head so far? When does my tail turn red? How old am I? What so I like to eat? Those questions were great. I think my favorite question is when the Humans ask "How much does he weigh?" and my Humans ask back, "How much do you think he weighs?" The Humans on the other side of the rope almost always say something like "Twenty pounds", and when my Humans say, "Nope, two and a half!" I like to watch the surprised reactions. Gets them every time!
GHOW: What was your favorite part of the exhibit?
RTHA: It was really fun getting out there and seeing all those different things! Humans have such odd habits. I was tired when I went home, but next time will be even easier, and I'm really looking forward to it!
So there you go, straight from the beak of a new educational bird! Hope to see you at our next exhibit!