JOHN PARKS: Our overarching theme here is that we're promoting conservation of birds of prey in a variety of ways, but with a heavy emphasis on student involvement. And the three areas that we have undertaken are rehabilitation-- we do a lot of public education, and then we have tried to do some captive breeding of targeted species, indigenous local Raptors, and release those young birds back into the wild.
And out of that has grown a program, which over the past several years has grown to have an undergraduate, extra curricular emphasis. Although, we do have a formal classroom instruction in how to care for and manage birds of prey and so forth. And we've gone through a couple of different moves, as facilities have been no longer available, or in need of repair, or what have you.
And so in the past five years or so, we've been located here, on the east end of the Poultry Science Complex and some buildings, one of which we have modified for Raptors, and one which was built specifically for Raptors-- the Bondareff Raptor Facility, named for Esther Bondareff, who was an alum of Cornell and has taken a vested interest in what we do, here.
Most of these birds are what we would refer to as our education birds. They're not birds that are rehabilitation cases any longer. And they're not breeding birds. They're birds that we have acquired in one way or another that are non-releasable and representative of a species or some bird of interest to us. And we use those to do our public education. We always have live birds to exhibit at those programs.
And also to work with students and give them the opportunity to learn how to work with them, handle them, and so forth, do the routine care over a long period of time, which includes manicuring their beaks and talons, and things like that. So that's what this group of birds are. They've self identified, because they're fairly calm and tolerant of being worked with and handled. And therefore, they're easier for a novice to learn from.
SPEAKER 1: I'm going to give her some slack. Make sure her wing's not going to be hitting that leash. Then we'll take her out. Your first time getting the bird-- is it your first time?
SPEAKER 2: No, it's not my first.
JOHN PARKS: This is a male Harris's hawk. This is one of the few non-indigenous species that we have. This is probably a second or third generation captive bred bird. It's about 24 years old and was originally used in the sport of falconry. Retired from that at probably about age 10 or 12, and then was used in a captive breeding project, himself, for a few years. And then, as he got a little bit older, he was donated to our program for educational purposes.
So we've had this bird, I would have to look and see, but probably at least a dozen or more years. As is the nature of most Harris hawks, which is a fairly social and gregarious species, he, by nature, is fairly calm and very tolerant of people. Actually, he welcomes being around people. And so it lends himself very nicely to using for educating people about general characteristics of Raptors and something about a species that's not necessarily a local bird.
My greatest interest is actually in the captive breeding, where we have tried to focus on the North American Accipiters, which in New York, as you may know, are a species of special concern. And their populations are not threatened or endangered, but they are somewhat suspect in some cases. And so we have tried to acquire birds of those species that are useful for breeding and then produce offspring that are healthy, and normal, and systematically, try to release them back into the wild.
I would say that the biggest impact that the program has had, I would think, is probably two areas. One is in meeting the interests and needs of our undergraduate population that increasingly have an interest in non-traditional species, other than just our domestic animals or companion animals, but wildlife and exotics and so forth. And they have really become very involved in what goes on out here. And I think it's been very successful in that area, in particular.
And I think just as ambassadors for the university, we are involved with thousands and thousands of people every year in these public education programs. Our brightest and best students are going out and talking about identification and natural history, fielding questions as experts. That is, I think, a very, very welcome thing not just in the Cornell community, but the greater Ithaca Tompkins County area.
So I think in those two areas, in particular, is probably where we've had our greatest impact.
SPEAKER 3: So over the shed?
JOHN PARKS: Yep. Come right over above the shed.
SPEAKER 3: All right, Lion. Good luck.
JOHN PARKS: It's almost like he's done that before.
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At the Bondareff Raptor Facility, the Cornell Raptor Program, led by professor John Parks and staffed by student volunteers, rehabilitates sick or injured raptors, and maintains a large collection of birds for both captive breeding and public demonstrations.
The program was established in 1993 to provide students of the animal and biological sciences, natural resources, and veterinary medicine, and other community members an opportunity to become involved directly with efforts to promote conservation of raptors.