The Pacific Northwest Raptors is a wildlife sanctuary that is comprised of a group of biologists and raptor enthusiasts who are dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey, and educating guests to help them understand the delicate and important role birds of prey play in the Eco system, and what we know about them, and how we can protect them and their environments for years to come.
After checking in we headed down to the flying field where we were educated and entertained for 45 minutes with a flying demonstration. The birds flew over our heads, almost touching us with their wingtips. We got to “meet” the residents, including an Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, and Barn Owl.
Immediately following the flying demonstration we were invited to a one on one close encounter where each member of our family got to get up and close with a raptor. We all had the chance to hold a Falcon. But our favorite was the Spectacled Owl, who kept searching our hands for food. His big beautiful yellow eyes were absolutely stunning to look into!
Next stop was a family Hawk walk where each of us got to “be as still as a tree branch” and give the Hawk a treat for landing on our arm! It was amazing to see the bird fly through the trees and then swoop down onto our arms when we held out a treat! We were also fortunate enough to see him do some hunting, diving down into the grass chasing a rodent that was underneath. Lucky for the rodent, this time he got away!
The most fascinating thing I learned about the birds was how most of these birds are working birds. They have been raised from hatchlings for conservation and to support the Eco system in a variety of industries. These raptors have been used at Vancouver International Airport, local wineries, dumps and landfills. They go in and once seen by other birds, such as seagulls, those birds clear the area making it more safe for both people and the environment in that Eco system.
Female Leadership Team
My husband was expecting The Raptors to have more of a male dominated workforce but when we arrived we didn’t see any male staff around. It was amazing to learn that the whole operation is run by a passionate, fun, educational, and entertaining female leadership team (we’re sure there are men on their team too but we didn’t see any). One of the ways that the handlers get the birds to come to them is through a high pitched call and perhaps that’s why there are more women then men? It would be hard for men to make some of those high voices to entice the birds!
Exploring the Grounds
After we had done our hands on experiences, we grabbed a Popsicle and headed out on to the grounds to see the birds. From huge Pelicans to different Owls, to Falcons, to more Raptors than I can name, the kids loved walking through the grounds, “meeting” each bird, and reading the informational signs to get to know more.
Beyond our Expectations
We want to be really honest with you. We weren’t overly excited and didn’t have very high expectations for this experience. We thought it would be a hands off, see a few birds in the distance and head home type of afternoon. But after learning so much about the birds, getting up close and personal with them, and learning the stories about their work and their role in our Eco system, we all walked away not only being huge fans of the experience, but not being able to stop talking about our day. My husband said, “I went in knowing nothing and suddenly came out a huge Raptor fan, and I want to learn more.”
My daughter went from being nervous around birds to landing a hawk on the walk… my husband and I were shocked as she’s always been super anxious around birds. To see her come out of her shell and open up and engage with these animals was amazing!
My son had an amazing time holding the birds but wasn’t old enough to hold the big ones. He’s made us promise 10 times now that when he’s old enough we will bring him back so he can hold the Owl.
As for myself, I too have become a Raptor fan and have a newfound appreciation for what they do. I also love that an experience took us so off guard, and was such an overwhelmingly educational (mom points), engaging, and interactive experience. The professionals at the The Raptors really understand how to connect with their audience and promote sustainability and passion in their visitors.
- Go. Period. This adventure needs to be explored!
- Dress for the weather as you’ll be outside the whole time. For us this meant sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and water.
- Give yourself time. We expected to be there for an hour and after 3 hours realized how quickly time was flying by!
- Invest in the experiences . While they cost a little bit more, they are totally worth the experience and the educational talk that goes along with them.
Here’s a short video of our amazing experience at The Raptors, check it out!