The Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience is a live raptor education program of the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where we embrace the Spirit of the American West. What better way to celebrate the wildness of this wonderful area than by sharing some of its most spectacular wild animals with our guests. Visitors to the Center can get an up-close-and-personal view of some of Wyoming’s most recognized predators—the birds of prey!
The birds of the Draper Museum’s Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience are also available for outreach programs. Please e-mail Melissa Hill or call her at 307.578.4111 for more information or to schedule a program.
This program of the Draper Museum is funded in part by the Nancy-Carroll Draper Foundation, the W.H. Donner Foundation, and the Donner Canadian Foundation—the latter in partnership with the University of Wyoming’s Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center.
Keep up with the birds and “Raptor Wrangler” Melissa Hill and her volunteers with their blog.
Cover photo by Chris Gimmeson.
This beautiful golden eagle, the newest member of our raptor team, was hit by a vehicle and suffered a compound fracture to her right humerus. Surgery was performed and a pin was placed in the bone to try to repair the damage but, unfortunately, she did not regain full flight abilities.
The golden eagle is one of only two eagle species native to North America, but found throughout the northern hemisphere. These are incredibly powerful birds that feed largely on medium-sized mammals such as rabbits, hares, marmots, and game birds but they do occasionally take down prey as large as pronghorn antelope. Golden eagles typically weigh between 8 and 12 pounds but can be as large as 14 and often have a 7 foot wingspan, making them one of the largest raptors in North America.
Visit our Kateri’s facebook page!
Kateri was named in a contest! Click here to read more about it.
“Teasdale” the great horned owl was found injured on the ground on New Year’s Eve 2010, by a man and his dog hiking near Teasdale, Utah (hence his name). The man planned to take him to Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Price, Utah right away. Unfortunately, there had been an avalanche covering the main road out of that area. It was arranged for the man who found Teasdale to drop him off at the home of friends of the rehabilitation center’s director. The friend then drove Teasdale to Green River, Utah, on New Year’s Day, going the LONG way because the avalanche had not been cleared yet. At that point, folks from Second Chance arrived and took him the rest of the way for treatment.
Once at the center, his injury was evaluated. He had fractured several bones in his right wing and they had already healed improperly. Because of this misalignment, he cannot fly well enough to survive on his own in the wild and will live in captivity for the rest of his life.
Great horned owls are amazing predators. They are extremely powerful and can carry prey of their own body weight (most raptors can only carry up to half their own weight). Some of their favorite prey items include voles, rabbits, skunks (it’s OK, they can’t smell the skunks), hawks, other owls, and even cats and small dogs.
Visit Teasdale’s facebook page!
At approximately three or four years of age, “Isham” (named after one of Buffalo Bill’s favorite horses) was struck by a car and taken to Talking Talons Youth Leadership in Tiejeras, New Mexico, for treatment. Unfortunately, he suffered such severe damage to his right eye that it had to be completely removed. With the loss of one eye, he no longer has depth perception which makes catching small animals like mice, ground squirrels, and snakes very difficult. This disability also leaves him completely blind on his right side, making him an easy target to other predators.
Because he could not be returned to the wild and he had a great disposition, the Talking Talons staff decided to train him as an education bird. He helped teach the public about birds of prey for five years at Talking Talons when the group had to reorganize and needed to reduce the number of animals they cared for. While they were very sad to see him leave, we couldn’t be happier to receive such a wonderful bird for our program.
The red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk species in North America. The birds are found in almost every environment from Alaska to Central America and have no problem living right alongside humans. In fact, a very famous red-tail, “Pale Male,” has made New York City and Central Park his home for several years.
Visit Isham’s facebook page!
Hayabusa came to us from Northwest Wildlife Rehabilitation in Tucson, Arizona. She suffered an impact injury near the “wrist” joint on her right wing. Unfortunately, the damage was so severe that she never regained full extension of that wing and, to this day, has very poor flight. Because peregrine falcons are extremely acrobatic and rely on their speed and aerial maneuvering to catch prey, she can never return to the wild.
She is named for the Japanese word for peregrine falcon, “hayabusa.” That also just happens to be the name of the fastest street legal, production motorcycle in the world. Quite appropriate considering the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet, capable of speeds in excess of two hundred miles per hour while in a dive, or “stoop.”
Haya LOVES to eat. She will eat anything, anytime, and in front of anyone! This makes her a huge crowd pleaser as we like to feed her in public most days. If you see her in person and she isn’t eating, check the ground below her—you’ll probably see her left-overs.
Visit Hayabusa’s facebook page!
Suli was found in a haystack in Kansas when she was only a couple weeks old. The couple that found her placed her in a nearby building assuming her parents would hear her and continue to care for her at the new nest site. What they didn’t know is that vultures don’t have a voicebox and can only hiss and grunt. When her parents didn’t return, the couple took her to the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas. The center did not have an adult turkey vulture to act as a foster parent, so Suli grew up with people. Because of this she did not gain the critical skills for survival that her parents would have taught her and she can never be released back into the wild.
Named for the Cherokee word for vulture, “Suli” is very shy when you first meet her. Every person that works with her has to gain her trust before she will be comfortable with them, but once she’s comfortable, she’s happy to go anywhere with them.
Despite what you may have heard, vultures do have standards when it comes to their food. Even a vulture won’t eat a putrid carcass. They prefer their food relatively fresh. As one of the few birds with a sense of smell, they typically locate their food by scent about a day after it has died—but if it is left out too long, even vultures pass it up! If you’re up for watching Suli eat her dinner, click here for a video!
Visit Suli’s facebook page!
Traverse the natural history of the Greater Yellowstone region on an interactive trail.