Bird Escapes Raptor Fest Crowds

About 2,500 people turned out Saturday, February 7, under sunny skies for the second annual Raptor Fest at the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg. Visitors saw live birds, strolled through educational exhibits, participated in children’s activities and bought nature-themed crafts.

The Raptor Fest aims to “bring in people to see our wonderful birds of prey and learn something about their natural environment,” said Gabe Vargo, coordinator of the bird of prey program. “We’re an educational facility. That’s what we’re here for.”

All the birds living in Boyd Hill’s cages are unable to survive on their own in the wild. Thus it was all the more distressing when event organizers discovered that one of the raptors had escaped from its perch during the festival. The bird, a young male kestrel named Clyde who is imprinted on humans, was on the lam for several days wearing tethers on his legs called jesses. He was recovered Tuesday at Boyd Hill, just outside the raptor cages.

“Except for some weight loss he seems to be fine,” Vargo said. “He ate two whole mice, which for him is a huge, huge meal.”

In December, a falcon name Shaheen escaped from Boyd Hill and was recovered unharmed two days later about eight miles away after a widespread search.

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