Visit Alaska and see birds. Huge birds, small birds, birds who live in funky habitats and forage for icky things like fish guts and dead animal parts. It’s all part of the Last Frontier’s circle of life, and without their fluttering, soaring, screeching presence, Alaska just wouldn’t be the same.
With so many birds, Alaska’s US Fish and Wildlife agency recognized long ago the need for organizations and volunteers to step up and help injured or sick birds become viable members of nature’s cycle, post trauma. Yesterday, AK Fam visited one such organization in Anchorage that ekes out a living in a tiny space in the middle of an industrial area of town. Bird TLC opened its doors to the public during a rare Open House in support of the Bald Eagle, our nation’s bird and a huge draw for tourists. Operating with a mostly-volunteer force, and under permit from F&W to save feathered friends, Bird TLC is the foremost bird education organization in southcentral Alaska, and most Anchorage school children have attended an in-school visit from the wonderful staff and volunteers, birds in tow. From songbirds who smack into windowpanes each spring, to eagles like the one pictured here, Bird TLC is a wonderful example of the partnerships that happen when people work together toward a common goal. While the clinic is not open on a regular basis for public tours, the organization does maintain a healthy presence at events in Anchorage and the Mat-Su area, so checking ahead with the organization’s website (or calling 907-562-4815) when you arrive in town is an excellent way to find out where these folks will be at any given time.
If southeast Alaska and the Inside Passage is your destination, two excellent facilitites are open to the public, with regular presentation schedules and tours offered daily during the summer months, and in the winter by appointment.
The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka sits on 17 beautiful acres of boreal forest in the hills above town, and is the only facility with an indoor flight center for birds who must re-learn to fly and capture prey. Serving only raptors, or birds who capture and kill prey, the center shows off eagles, hawks, and owls in a wooded area quite popular with the community. Great for kids age 5 and up, and especially ‘tweens and teens. Do hike the trails that lead from the center proper.
Haines is home to the American Bald Eagle Foundation, a combination natural history museum and live raptor center. With a strong emphasis on southeast Alaska’s natural past, combined with the link of raptors for the present, the facility is an excellent way to show the vital partnership between environment and creature. Additionally, the center offers a Youth Raptor Program each summer for kids 9 and up, with six weeks of intense study about the birds and an opportunity to volunteer at the center. What a thrill for visiting kids to see the dedication of these young people. The museum and raptor center are best for kids at least 7 or older, as there are not too many opportunities for little ones to stay engaged.
Additionally, while traveling around Alaska, challenge kids to count different species of birds. Even very young children can count ravens or eagles.
Fly away with bird-related adventures!