Some birds can shoot their poop four feet.
That’s one of the first facts you’ll likely learn at a presentation by the American Wildlife Refuge. You’ll soon learn why, as director Steve Stone brings out bird after bird, including several varieties of owls, hawks, eagles, vultures and more.
AWR primarily operates to rehabilitate injured raptors and release them back into the wild. Birds in the rehabilitation program are not on view to the public, so the program’s facility is off limits. Instead, the refuge’s permanent residents — birds that are unable to be released because of the severity of their injuries — travel around the Triangle for a selection of educational programs and events.
You might meet Snoopy, the lovable black vulture who was hit by a car, Blinky, the Western screech owl with one eye, or Tiny Tim, the peregrine-gyrfalcon hybrid whose voice is much larger than his tiny frame.
The refuge operates on a shoestring budget, and consists of only 14 volunteers, eight of whom are qualified to handle the birds. “We get about 400 calls per month,” Stone said, with anywhere from 20 to 60 of those resulting in rescues.
AWR also goes by Apex Raptor Refuge, a testament to its eventual presence in the Apex Nature Park. Stone says the refuge has been promised six acres of land according to the park’s current plan, but the construction has been delayed for funding reasons.
“We will try to make it more of a nature walk museum,” he said, including permanent displays — both living and non-living — a gift shop, reception area and other public exhibits. For now, those who want to learn about raptors and meet some of the birds face to face will have to visit one of many presentations at local libraries and schools.
Any given week usually has a handful of public events, plus several more educational shows at schools or camps that aren’t open to the public. Public programs are listed on the website at awrefuge.net.