Animals are normally not permitted in the Salt Lake City Public Library, but officials made an allowance Saturday afternoon for three raptors.
About 40 people learned about raptor habitats and habits while admiring the live birds at the “Parade of Raptors," which was lead by HawkWatch International and presented in conjunction with the national 2018 Audubon Photography Awards exhibit. The photography exhibit is on display at the City Library through Friday.
HawkWatch volunteer Winston Brundige explained that the group was created to count and monitor birds in the Western United States. Since birds of prey are apex predators, they are very sensitive to disruptions in the food chain and their populations reflect the health of the environment in which they live.
Julie Adams, a volunteer with HawkWatch, presented the first raptor, a Swainson’s hawk named Aymara. Hoisting the bird before the crowd, Adams asked whether anyone knew how the California seagull became the Utah state bird.
As the story goes, the designation was given to the gull to honor its efforts in eating the grasshoppers that plagued the pioneers. But, Adams pointed out, the Swainson’s hawk is indigenous to Utah and also subsists primarily on grasshoppers.
“You should be the state bird of Utah,” she said to Aymara, instead of those “trash-eating” seagulls.
Goose, a Peregrine falcon observed the room from Brundige’s gloved hand. The bird began to fuss unless Brundige held her up above his head.
“She does better up here,” he explained. “She feels like she’s more in control.”
The crowd let out a collective “aww” when Adams brought out Artemis the screech owl. The myth of the wise, old owl is false, said Adams, who explained that the tiny bird’s eyes are bigger than its brain.
“I have a bird book, and I’ve always wanted to see one of those,” an excited child in the audience said.
All of the birds at the event were rescued by various wildlife rehabilitation centers and are under HawkWatch’s care as they are not fit to live in the wild. Event organizers, however, warned attendees not to move or handle birds that appear injured since they are often actually fine and human contact can make their situation worse. Concerned citizens should instead call an animal rescue group to report birds that appear to be in distress.
What: Lecture with local bird photographer Tom Matthewson
When: 6-7 p.m. Monday, June 10
Where: Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 South