Last month on the first April bank holiday my boyfriend Conor and I went away for the weekend and stayed at the brilliant Raptor Foundation in Cambridgeshire. What made this getaway even more exciting was that we were actually staying at the foundation and so I couldn't wait to get there!
The term 'raptor' means bird of prey and we saw plenty of these beautiful birds including Kestrels, Eagle Owls, Tawny Owls, Barn Owls and many more to keep us entertained. The aviaries they were kept in were pristine and it was amazing to see so many all together in the one place.
My Grandad bred owls for more than 25 years and since he sadly passed away in July last year birds of prey, in particular owls, hold special memories for me.
Whilst there we were lucky enough to catch a display and also photograph this moment! The European Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) is a very large and powerful owl and found in North Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. They have prominent ear-tufts, fully feathered talons and bright orange eyes. As you can tell they have a huge wing length which can range from 47.8cm for females to 44.8cm for males, making their wingspan reach up to seven feet! Their main diet is made up of mammals including voles, rats and mice, however these birds can even take down roe deer fawns.
Another beautiful bird of prey which many have heard of is the Barn Owl (Tyto alba). Native in this country, there are also more than 30 subspecies worldwide including Africa, Europe, America and Australia. A medium-sized owl with a heart-shaped facial disc, they often live in open countryside near towns and villages. They are also much smaller than the Eagle Owl with a wingspan of 90-98cm (nearly three feet). When hunting their flight is noiseless and they eat mainly small mammals, although some specialise in hunting bats. What's lovely about owls is that they normally pair for life.
- Female birds of prey are generally bigger and heavier than males.
- Owls can swallow their prey whole or tear pieces off, however indigestible items such as hair, feathers and bones are regurgitated into pellets.
- They have no natural predators, however they are at risk from dangers including pesticides, lack of nesting sites, traffic and food supply.
- The Raptor Foundation provides medical care for injured raptors, helps return rehabilitated birds to the wild and is a sanctuary for those that cannot be released. For more information visit www.raptorfoundation.org.uk