GREAT FALLS — Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks hosted several presentations in Great Falls for people to learn about raptors on Monday, August 29, 2022.
The presentations were done by education staff and educational "ambassador birds" from Montana WILD Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena. It's a rehabilitation center focusing on healing birds and large mammals such as bears and big cats.
Ali Pons oversees these rehabiltation efforts, having worked with Montana WILD for years.
“We have 15 education birds that go for daily walks where they get presented to the public with our volunteers, and we also have rehabilitation for everything from songbirds to eagles,” says Pons.
While the majority of birds that come through the facility are eventually released, there are a select few which sustained injuries to such an extent that they cannot be released into the wilderness. These permanent captive birds are called “Ambassador Birds" becuase they act as ambassadors of their species as an instrument to education.
The ambassador birds at Monday's event were a a Kestrel and a Swainson’s Hawk.
“Today, I brought our male American Kestrel, the smallest falcon we have in the state. He became an education bird because he had frostbite to the wrists of both wings and they had to be amputated,” says Pons. “He can flutter and he can glide, but he can’t fly well enough to hunt or survive in the wild.”
Pons also brough a large Swainson’s Hawk which had fallen out of its nest as a chick, requiring amputation of its right wrist.
Pons loves the work she does, especially in education: “The people’s reaction, especially to the live birds, and you know you’ve got them hooked. And I always love when expert birders come up and say that they’ve learned something new, that always makes me feel good."
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