You can see the birds in all their glory at SB Museum of Natural History
The raptors at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History don’t need a script or an acting coach.
When it comes to entertaining people, these birds just wing it. Flawlessly.
There’s Max, the owl who hoots when you say his name. There’s Ivan, the red-tailed hawk who maintains a commanding presence. And there’s Athena, a barn owl who shows you her soul with her deep, rich eyes.
Max, Ivan and Athena and other birds are unable to survive in the wild for reasons such as illness or injuries.
But they have their lifelong home in an aviary in the museum’s backyard, where people can see them hanging out and enjoying the good life. You can see them through the windows of their shelter, where the Santa Barbara Audubon Society cares for them through its Eyes in the Sky program.
Visitors began to see the birds again when the museum reopened its outdoor areas to the public last week.
The birds have distinct personalities, as the News-Press has discovered during various interviews over the years.
That certainly was the case in 2017 when bird handler Atria Peter introduced the News-Press to Max.
“He says hello to me when I’m on my bike. I lock up my bike close to Max’s enclosure,” Miss Peter said.
Max, the popular great horned owl, has bonded with people and can’t survive without help from people because of a strong imprint on people.
“He got raised by humans as a tiny baby and didn’t get exposed to other owls, so he ended up thinking he’s human rather than his own species,” Gabriele Drozdowski, who was the director of Eyes in the Sky, told the News-Press in 2017. (Ms. Drozdowski, who founded the program, left the program in 2018.)
Athena, a barn owl who was hit by a car and lost sight in one eye, also made an impression on Miss Peter. “I had never seen a barn owl before and was absolutely enamored by her feathers. She has really great feathers on her feet and incredible talons.
“She has this way of looking at you, but it’s looking at the real you, not who your parents think you are, but you,” Miss Peter said.
Miss Peter said at that time that the birds, who don’t like fast movement, have taught her the importance of being observant and slowing down.
She also described the birds as sweet. “Each of them have separate personalities where you can tell how they’re feeling each day, if they’re excited or if they’re more in a mellow mood.”
Like the Athena and Max, Ivan, the red-tailed hawk, has proved to be popular with visitors. Ivan was found on State Route 166 near New Cuyama, where he was trying to catch prey running across the highway. He was hit by a car.
Ivan lost his sight in his left eye and suffered some damage in a wing.
Miss Peter noted Ivan is a good teacher who shows handlers they need to act confidently when they come to get him. Otherwise, he won’t cooperate and will jump around on his perch.
She also said Ivan was one of her favorite birds to work with. “He’s always very poised and very kind.”