The raptors are back! Nope, we’re not talking about dinosaurs from the Cretaceous resurrected by Hollywood, but about our favorite dinosaur descendants, the birds of prey who live in the mews on our Mission Creek Campus. That is, they lived there from 2011 to early fall of 2017, when construction workers got busy transforming the outdoor play space of our Museum Backyard and the birds moved to two generously donated temporary aviaries located in private spaces near the Museum. Now that the new and improved Backyard is almost up and running, the birds have finally come home. It’s been a stressful time for humans and birds alike—with the Thomas Fire and its aftermath delaying construction and prolonging the time the raptors spent in their temporary digs—so the sense of relief here is palpable as our beloved birds return.
These animals can’t survive on their own in the wild. For most of them, that’s due to health conditions like blindness or wing damage sustained during car accidents. Acclimated to life around humans, they do more than earn their keep by acting as ambassadors between the avian world and our own. They’re part of the outreach group Eyes in the Sky (EITS), a program of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society. Every year, the seven birds currently in EITS inspire and inform the schoolchildren they visit in classrooms and the Museum guests who visit the birds here. All this happens because of the dedicated EITS volunteers who care for the birds and act as their interpreters in the community.