Sharon Clay, curator of animal programs at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, with a vulture.
The mission statement for Turtle Bay Exploration Park, in Redding, Calif., is to inspire wonder, exploration and appreciation of our world. They accomplish this by showcasing an interactive museum, public art, arboretum, botanical gardens and live animals. The public art is displayed throughout the park? 300 acres created by artists who are inspired by nature, natural systems and human impacts on both natural and cultural environments.
For a few more weeks of the summer, you can catch the parks Walk on the Wild Side Animal Shows twice a day Tuesdays through Sundays. Sharon Clay, curator of animal programs, has been working with birds for 25 years and says one of the most impressive birds she has in the show is a crested caracara.
“This bird is a member of the falcon family but doesn’t look anything like a falcon,?Clay said. “It looks more like a cross between a chicken, a vulture and a hawk.?lt;br />
By Manjith Kainickara (Flickr: Crested Caracara) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
You can meet a crested caracara at Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
Crested caracaras have large long yellow legs and bare yellow-orange skin on their face. With a white tail that has a black tip, black body and cream sides and neck this species of caracara is visually unique. In addition to their unusual appearance they exhibit some unusual behaviors for a member of the falcon family such as hanging out with vultures and eating carrion. They can be found in open areas such as pastures and semi-deserts mostly in Central America going north into Arizona, Florida and Texas.
“They are beautiful and intelligent and I love showing our guests a bird that they have probably never seen,?Clay said.
In addition to caracaras Clay admits she loves working with vultures and corvids, which include crows, ravens, magpies and jays.
“We also have our interactive walk-through lorikeet aviary called the Parrot Playhouse,?Clay said. For a $1 donation or more, guests can feed nectar to the lorikeets for a multicolored close-up experience. The lorikeets have been hand-raised so they are very comfortable landing all over people. In the winter, the park offers different programming daily including a creature feature and survival programs.
Sharon Clay, curator of animal programs at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, with a corvid.
“Most of our animals are rescues and have been given a great life here,?Clay explained. “They are all trained for educational programs so that guests can experience so many of our local animals for which they rarely, if ever get to see in the wild.?lt;/span>
To help care for these rescued animals you can participate in Turtle Bay Exploration Park? Adopt-An-Animal program. One of which is Cricket, a barn owl, who arrived at the park when he was 8 weeks old.
“Turtle Bay Exploration Park is 300 acres of fun,?Clay enthusiastically said. “There is something for everyone. We have animals, a museum and gardens. Our museum has exhibits focusing on the area and 3 to 4 times a year we have traveling exhibits that rotate through. If you are into art, science, history ?we have it all.?
In addition to the rescued birds that now have a permanent home at the park, you will experience native bird species walking through one of the many gardens. The gardens encompass 20 acres, which include underlying themes such as California, South African, Pacific Rim, Australian, Chilean, children? and medicinal garden and two unique water features.
“Turtle Bay is such a unique park with so much to do,?Clay emphasized. “The park is not a place you would expect to see way up in Northern California, but once you experience it, you will want to come back again and again.?lt;/span>
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