The Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn University – a division of the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine – will once again host its annual ‘Football, Fans and Feathers’ series during the 2021 football season.
Intended to give the public the opportunity to observe birds up close, each event will demonstrate flight modes, survival techniques and the ecological role of birds in our world.
Every Friday before a home football game, the center will put on a show with its birds of prey in the Edgar B. Carter Educational Amphitheater, located at 1350 Pratt-Carden Dr. near Shug Jordan Parkway.
“Our amphitheater opened around 2004 and I think the show opened soon after,” said Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education.
Hopkins helps organize the event each year. Hopkins volunteered at the Raptor Center for five years before being hired in 2012 after graduating with a zoology degree from Auburn in 2011.
Hopkins said his role is to make sure the birds are ready for takeoff by checking their routines, socialization and health to make sure they’re ready for the show. In addition, he works with each of the volunteers to ensure safety and talks about birds at events.
At each “Football, Fans and Feathers” event, a large range of birds will be present, with an average of 10 birds of prey at each show. No two shows are the same. These include hawks, hawks and eagles.
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“I like golden eagles the most,” said Hopkins.
Birds of prey will fly freely from the towers of the amphitheater, with close-up viewing opportunities available to the public at the end of each night. This allows the audience to engage with the trainers by asking them questions and providing them with photo opportunities.
“I think it’s exciting to see the audience being able to come to our facility and see these birds flying overhead and then approaching them after the show,” Hopkins said. “I think that’s what most people really appreciate.”
There will be seven shows for each of the seven home games. Each hour-long show will begin at 4 p.m. on September 3, 10 and 24; October 8 and 29; and November 12 and 26. There is an entry fee of $ 8, payable at the door or online at www.aub.ie/fff. Children under 3 will have free entry.
Doors open one hour before each presentation. Places will be available for participants on a first come, first served basis. The amphitheater is an open-air facility and will not provide concessions to any of the events. As such, participants are also encouraged to bring personal lawn chairs, snacks and drinks.
While the amphitheater comfortably seats 350 people, the event has seen an attendance as large as 1,500 people in past screenings. With that in mind, Hopkins said he encourages people to arrive early to grab the best seats.
Every bird on “Football, Fans and Feathers” is a permanent resident of the Raptor Center. Each bird is not releasable due to human imprint or previous injuries.
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