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(Original Article)

Up Close at the Raptor Free Flight

From Afar
Published: 03/18/2013 by Joseph Cyr

Untethered and in the open, soaring and diving in their natural environment--once in the morning and once in the afternoon, from mid-October through mid-April, you can get up close to desert birds of prey at the Raptor-Free-flight. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, just west of Tucson, is home to one of the most spectacular and accessible avian demonstrations in the U.S.

The docents' instructions are specific: do NOT raise your arms in the air suddenly as the birds swoop down, and do not let small children sit on your shoulders during the free-flight. The raptors can fly so low that you literally feel the wind from their feathers...

The photo above shows a Ferruginous Hawk. Other native birds you'll likely encounter: Peregrine Falcons, Barn Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Prairie Falcons, Chihuahuan Ravens, and Harris's Hawks--one of only two raptor species that hunt in family groups--think of a pack of aerial wolves...

The Desert Museum, adjacent to Saguaro National Park, is one of the best zoos/botanical gardens of its kind in the world. Don't forget the sunscreen...but if you do, the restrooms are all equipped with dispensers...

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