I work at a raptor display centre, as you might or might not know. That means that my job is to educate the illiterate masses on birds of prey, their habitat, capabilities and conservation. It also means answering hundreds of questions, most of which prove that no one actually listens to me during my displays! I really don’t mind answering any and all questions, as I said my job is to educate people, but there have been a good few whoppers over my time here which have left me a bit flabbergasted. Here are the top five stupid questions, increasing in stupidity as we go:
5) “Why do they poo?” EVERY time I take birds, mainly owls, to a school or childrens’ group for a talk they will inevitably poo on the floor dramatically (the birds, that is, not the kids… as far as I know, at least). Children love this, it leads to peals of laughter and awkward questions about pooping. Makes me want to write a new version of that “Everybody Poops” book, called “Yes, Owls Poop, Get Over It” – I think it’ll be a best-seller!
4) “Do the birds come back?” This is a really common one, usually asked of me when I’m walking past park visitors either just after or just before flying a bird. They see what I’m carrying and then can’t really seem to understand the concept of a trained bird of prey, thinking that once given freedom these birds just fly off never to be seen again. I can’t really imagine what they must think we do to keep the same number of birds every day, do they think we just replace them daily? Disposable hawks, what a horrid concept and sadly how some so-called “falconers” operate!
3) “So what do you feed them, milk?” This delightful question I actually got more than a few times during the late summer when we were imprinting the young barn owls. For some reason members of the public seemed to think because they were cute (well I think they were cute, others disagree about the aesthetic appreciation of a baby barn owl) and fluffy that they must be bottle-fed milk like all the other little fluffy things people adore. From their first meal to their last, it’s only meat they can digest. Granted for the earliest life stages the mother will tear up little bits of it, but that’s all they eat. Owls are predators, people seem to forget this with all the owl-mania currently happening in modern society today. All I can say is that if you’d like to try to milk an owl, go ahead! I dare you!
2) “How many words does he know?” My coworker got this one after a display with a Harris Hawk. I think that when we explain how intelligent these hawks are that some members of the public assume they’re glorified parrots, as they have no other basis for comparison when it comes to intelligent birds. This might be part of the problem we’re facing when it comes to the private ownership of Harris’, since perhaps the average person has no idea what they actually are and require, thinking they must be able to treat them like a cage bird, especially as they’re no more regulated in this country than your tyical budgie. However, I have to say that our Harris Hawks know a lot of words, sadly they all sound like “WAAAAAAAAAAAAGHH!”
1) “Was Boris raised by ducks, and is that why he quacks?” Boris is our Steppe Eagle, and his usual vocalisation does indeed sound like a quacking duck. But, no. A world of no.