Message From The Author
MEET THE RAPTORS
By Lindsay McKenna
I've always loved hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. You could say I'm just a raptor person at heart, and that's why I wanted to find a way to incorporate them into my new novel, Dangerous Prey (Dec., HQN).
The opportunity arose when I was visiting the Flagstaff Arboretum, a favorite haunt of mine, to do some macro photographing of their beautiful flowers. I had a delightful surprise. As my husband, Dave, and I strolled back to the rear of their beautiful acreage, I saw a woman with a huge owl on her leather gauntlet talking to a rapt group.
She was Susan Hamilton, a licensed raptor rehabilitator in Arizona. Tall, with long blond hair, a beaming smile and an upbeat personality, she owns High Country Raptors (HighCountryRaptors.com)and saves falcons, owls and hawks.
As I watched her talk with such passion about her beloved raptors, I knew she was my "go-to" person for the novel I had in mind. Susan had six other volunteers who either flew or showed different raptors such as a peregrine falcon, a sparrow hawk or Luna, a European eagle-owl. She has saved many raptors, young and old, from dying and released them back into the wild. After their one-hour presentation, which was inspiring and educational, I told Susan I was looking for an expert in falconry. Would she help me get my feet wet in her world? I wanted to write a novel where the hero would be a raptor rehabber.
Susan launched herself like a redtail hawk into our project. I spent many hours with her -- not only at her home, where she has all the mews (cages where the raptors live), but also out on the flight oval working with injured birds. Just like people, each raptor has a distinct personality. The birds that Susan used for her educational programs are unable to be placed into the wild. I'd like you to meet some of them.
Bo, a Harris hawk, which is indigenous to the Southwest, had been found in the desert after falling out of his nest and was picked up by humans. Because of this, Bo (and this would be true of any raptor in this situation) became "imprinted" and sees people as his "parent." He relies on people for his food and would not survive if released back into the wild.
Bella, a female Harris hawk, fell out of a nest on top of a hundred-foot saguaro cactus and was rescued by a well-meaning family. They should have called the local fish and game department, but they they fed Bella hamburger and chicken. The mice, rats, gophers, rabbits and other creatures that lived in her environment had meat that was much higher in calcium than the grocery store meat the family fed her. Consequently, Bella's legs aren't that strong. If she tried to dive down to grab a prey, her leg could snap and break.
Buffy, a female barn owl, has a phenomenal story of survival. Another imprinted chick, she comes from the Midwest. When a farmer was cutting his alfalfa to bale it into hay, he didn't know that a mother barn owl had made a nest in the alfalfa. When it was cut and bundled, three baby owlets were scooped up and compressed into a bale of hay. When it arrived in Flagstaff and was sold to a local horsewoman, she found the three babies. Only one was still alive, and Susan took in the little owlet -- who had survived a week smashed into a bale of hay without food or water. Today, Buffy is one of Susan's educator raptors.
Raptors are a natural scourge on mice, rats, gophers, moles, snakes, rabbits and other critters that can make their way into homes or yards. You want to have an owl or hawk around. They're necessary for our ecological balance.
It was a delight to weave information on falconry into Dangerous Prey. Through my protagonist, Sky McCoy, a raptor rehabilitator, I share true stories about owls, hawks and falcons. There's a powerful psychic connection between the raptor and the human that works with it, and I explore that with my heroine, Kelly Trayhern, who needs help when caught in a life-changing crisis.
As for the real raptors, they'll win you over if you let them, and a hawk's whistle is as beautiful as any robin singing.
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