The magic of birds

 

 Sally Farrell started volunteering as the Florence Nightingale of injured birds at the Audubon Zoo in 1979 upon the suggestion of a friend. Caring for the injured birds was supposed to be a way of getting over hurt feelings stemming from not being selected for a ballet role.

 
“I didn’t know what the word raptor meant,” Farrell said with a laugh, referring to her 15 years at the zoo. “They grew on me. Those were some of the best years of my life. God opened my eyes to his creation.”
 
Farrell has taken that avocation and training and transformed it into a personal business – “Wind in My Feathers” – through which she teaches children about the exotic wonders of owls, falcons, hawks, Mississippi kites and vultures.
 
Farrell received her training at the rehabilitation center for wild birds at the zoo. Though she no longer rehabilitates injured birds, she has special federal and state permits to keep 18 birds, including raptors, for educational purposes. Some are kept inside her home and others are in the backyard. All birds except pigeons, starlings and sparrows are protected by state and federal laws.
 
Farrell makes one-hour live presentations to children, showcasing the “non-releasable” raptors she has cared for. Her presentations include a lecture, photographs, taped bird calls, owl castings, feather displays, skulls and owl feet.
 
When the children see the live birds, their eyes grow as wide as those of owls, Farrell said. One of her favorite birds to tell children about is a vulture with a 6-foot wing span named Jude, who stands about 20 inches tall.
 
“I tell the kids she’s really doing a good job, and she’s not a dirty bird,” Farrell said. “She’s our recycler, our garbage man. If we didn’t have vultures, we’d have a lot more disease.”
 
Farrell is available to make presentations to camps and schools. She can be reached at www.windinmyfeathers.org; sallybfarrell@gmail.com or 866-7260.

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