FARMINGTON — The presentation featured a live saw-whet owl, a raven, a red-tailed hawk and a golden eagle with an amputated wing.
The presenter, Hope Douglas of Dresden, is the founder and president of the Wind Over Wings program, a nonprofit educational service featuring live birds of prey.
Prior to her talk at the Town Office on Saturday, Douglas spread and taped a large black mat onto the floor.
“It's hard to house-break an owl,” she said. That also could be said of the other three birds.
Douglas, a wildlife rehabilitator who has taught wildlife conservation internationally, introduced the standing-room-only crowd to a young saw-whet named Pippin.
“This is the Chihuahua of the owl family,” she said.
Pippin promptly fluffed her feathers and flexed her 18 inches of wings, which Douglas said was the raptor's defense mechanism on viewing the audience as large predators.
“When you're this little and not used to people, the defense is to make yourself as big as possible, as mighty as possible,” she said.
When the saw-whet felt safe, she closed her wings, eliciting “ahs” from the crowd.
Douglas said Pippin was rescued in November 2010 from the ground in Rockland with a broken wing. It's believed the saw-whet flew into a barn window. Now it cannot fly and has limited vision.
To prevent window strikes, Douglas said to place giant spider-web decals on the outside of windows, or cloudy butterfly decals, or even a string of brightly colored chicken feathers.
Next up was Sabre, a 23-year-old red-tailed hawk that developed cataracts after 18 years with a falconry program in Massachusetts.
While Douglas expounded on red-tailed hawks, Sabre nonchalantly lined up every feather, and then ruffled them loudly, much to the audience's amusement.
When asked about their eyesight, Douglas said red-tails can clearly see the last line on an optometrist's eye chart from a mile away. That wowed the audience.
Then out came Zachariah, a common raven, that Douglas said fell from his nest and broke a wing, rendering him unable to fly.
She said ravens, like red-tails and bald eagles, love to play with toys. She shared anecdotes about the intelligence of ravens while Zachariah swiveled his head, beak open and panting to remain cool.
When asked how to differentiate between ravens and crows, Douglas said ravens are blocky with big beaks, whereas crows are more refined, with heads more in proportion to their bodies.
Next came Skywalker, a 17-year-old golden eagle that was born in Nebraska.
“This is considered the king of all birds, because of their power and strength and courage,” Douglas said
“Skywalker was just 2 years old and just flying the skies in Nebraska when someone picked up a gun and shot him right out of the sky,” she said.
To save his life, Skywalker's right wing had to be amputated.
“That's the loss of flight, freedom, heat, and especially balance, forever,” she said.
Douglas shared how she and other staff at Wind Over Wings eventually brought Skywalker out of his angry-at-the-world state by reading to him from library books and singing to him.
The golden began making loud rasping cries.
“Oh, he's singing to you," Douglas said to the audience. "You must be very special."
He sings a little bit like a fog horn, she said.
Douglas said golden eagles are extremely powerful.
“The grip is 2,000 pounds per square inch and can crush the skull of a coyote,” she said. “This is a bird that can bring down a hundred-pound brown bear.”
Unlike bald eagles, goldens don't eat fish. They like mammals, Douglas said, so out West they would eat prairie dogs and rabbits.