Jonathan Wood from the Raptor Project visited Indian Harbour Montessori on Friday, January 17th. The children listened as Jonathan and his avian predators, discussed conservation, as well as how the birds are ambassadors for their habitat. If the raptors are doing well, everyone else is in good shape.
Indian Harbour Montessori was his first stop in Brevard County as he visits several different venues throughout the area this month.
Wood, a federally licensed master falconer, wildlife rehabilitator, raptor propagator and game bird breeder, operates The Raptor Project, the world’s largest traveling collection of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls — A-list predators all.
Many of the birds have been featured in movies, including “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” which featured one of Wood’s falcons, and another of his birds soars in the upcoming “Days and Nights” with Katie Holmes and Susan Sarandon. When the Harry Potter films came out, Wood’s snowy owls often did the talk-show circuit with Daniel Radcliffe.
The Raptor Project
Brevardians will have several opportunities to see Jon Wood and the Raptor Project this month. For more, see the raptorproject.com.
Raptors at Brevard Zoo
Where: Brevard Zoo, 8225 N Wickham Road, Melbourne
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to Jan. 20, with shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. inside the Nyami Nyami River Lodge
Cost: Free with zoo admission: $16 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for children 2 to 12
Info: 321-254-9453 or brevardzoo.org
Rendezvous with the Raptors
When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Brevard Zoo
Cost: $30 includes hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, door prizes, an opportunity for up-close photo and personal photo with a raptor
Info: eventbrite.com/event/8589333929 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival
When: 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23 to 25, and 11 a.m. Jan. 26
Where: Gymnasium of Eastern Florida State College, Titusville
Cost: $5. Children younger than 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Limited to 50 participants each performance.
Below is a Q&A that recently appeared on FloridaToday.com. You can read the entire article here.
Question: How often are you on the road?
Wood: We’re always on the road. Most of the time, my whole family is traveling with me. It’s a brutal schedule. I often do 1,000 miles in a day. Some of the road trips can take six months without ever going home.
We don’t lack anything in our living quarters, however. We live in trailer with office, gourmet kitchen, upstairs loft, five flat-screen TVs, central vacuum and massage chairs.
The trailer was modified to include space for the birds. They have big, comfortable quarters, so they travel well, like I do.
Q: How did you get into raptors?
Wood: I read “My Side of the Mountain” when I was a kid. The young protagonist trains falcons. I think that got me started.
When I was 12, I found a baby falcon on the beach at Fire Island (New York). I taught myself to become a falconer. I didn’t originally set out to have a business with the birds.
I was in retail, in photography and in construction until the economic downturn, when my business started going south and we were facing foreclosure. I decided to pursue my dream and make a living with my birds. It was an overnight success. We’re Christian, so we use biblical principles in our business. That has been a big part of our success.
Q: How many shows do you do in a year?
Wood: Almost 1,000 shows to more than a million people
Q: How many raptors do you have?
Wood: Seventy-five in total. About 18 to 20 travel with me at any one time. The rest are cared for by caretakers at the homes I have in Corpus Christi, Texas, and in the Catskills in New York, where they live in state-of-the-art aviaries.
Q: Where do the birds come from?
Wood: Most of my birds come from rehab centers and have some form of handicap so they cannot be returned to the wild. We also have birds that have been bred in captivity from the handicapped birds. Because they can’t fly, doesn’t mean they can’t have baby birds.
We also have exotic raptors we get from zoos or from individuals who no longer want them. Most of these are geriatrics.
Q: How tame are they?
Wood: They’re my buddies. They get very attached to me. My all-time favorite was King David, the falcon that appeared in “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
Q: What’s their age span?
Wood: Fifteen to 20 years is average, but the bigger the bird, the longer they live. Uncle Sam the eagle is about 25. He’s been with me for 20 years, ever since we got started.
Q: Smartest of your birds?
Wood: The Harris hawks are very smart and gregarious.
Wood: The owls. People think owls are wise, but they don’t have much of a brain.
Q: Do they ever go AWOL during a show?
Wood: We have miniature transmitters on each bird that flies during the show, so we can track them down. We’ve never lost a bird. I’ve had to track them with an airplane sometimes, but we’ve never lost one.
Q: How difficult is their care?
Wood: It’s been part of my life for 45 years, so it’s easy for me. I can do surgeries and treat disease. I take every type of medicine and equipment, except for an X-ray machine.
Q: What is the importance of The Raptor Project?
Wood: These birds are ambassadors for their habitat. All of them are at the top of the food chain. They’re really important, because they tell the tale. If the raptors are doing well, everyone else is in good shape.
Young people are my target audience. They are the ones who will be protecting wildlife in the future. A lot of the young people who have seen our shows have wound up in conservation. They come up to me at some of the shows and tell me how big an impression we made in their lives. That’s really cool.