I’ve been going to World Bird Sanctuary’s Birds in Concert since they first started in August of 2000. I’ve known the members of the Raptor Project, World Bird Sanctuary’s house band, most of my life. I even got to sing back up on their CDs with the other Raptor Kids as a teenager. I’m sometimes surprised at the joy and excitement I still feel when my family and I arrive at World Bird Sanctuary for the concert. The World Bird Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization which strives to educate the public, propagate or breed endangered species and rehabilitate injured birds of prey. I still find The Raptor Project’s educational sing-along songs entertaining. I believe that people of any age can learn something from their songs, whether it’s why “vultures are gross” or why you should watch out for animals in the road.
I grab a quick snack at the concession stand and my family and I find seats in the amphitheater next to the other Raptor Kids and their parents.
The Raptor Project takes the stage. Lead singers Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffmann introduce the rest of the band, which is composed of World Bird Sanctuary’s employees, volunteers, and interns. They ask us not to touch the hawks, falcons, and owls that will fly over our heads during some of their songs, as this would scare the trained birds and possibly cause them to fly off.
As the band starts to play “Wonderful Birds,” we are greeted by the sight of our first birds of the night. Trainers carry eight perched birds up and down the aisles so everyone in the audience can see. Among the birds I can see a Harris Hawk, a Kestrel, a Thick-billed Parrot, a Barn Owl and a few other birds. As the song finishes, the trainers stand in front of the stage whileHolloway and Hoffmann introduce the trainers and the birds.
Next, they played “The Vulture Song” with its chorus of “and doesn’t that make you say, ‘ew Vultures are gross, but we need them the most.’” As the audience learned all about the gross things Vultures do, a trained Turkey Vulture flew over our heads. Turkey Vultures have bald red heads and dark brown feathered bodies. As the song goes on, it explains that their heads are bald because Turkey Vultures eat by sticking their head inside dead animals. This isn’t the grossest thing that Turkey Vultures do, however: they also “go to the bathroom on themselves” to cool off and throw up if they are threatened by a predator to make them light enough to fly after eating a big meal. This chorus is very appropriate because as the song says, vultures also “destroy disease.”
One of my favorite Raptor Project songs has to be “White Pelican,” because during the song one of the rescued White Pelicans walks across the stage and flops a fish from the trainers into its large mouth and down its throat. Watching the clumsy White Pelican waddle around the stage is very entertaining, as these birds spend more of their time flying or swimming gracefully than walking on land.
Then the Raptor Project plays an instrumental while a Harris Hawk flies over the audience. Harris Hawks are native to the southwest United States, from Arizona and New Mexico, all the way south into Chile. When the hawk stops to grab a tidbit of meat off one of the trainer’s gloves, I notice its light brown culverts, or upper wing feathers.
Another Raptor Project song is called “Roadkill Shiver.” This is a humorous song about the feeling you get when you see road kill or hit an animal. It always reminds me to look out for animals on the road. I find the song even funnier because I know that Joe Hoffmann is a vegetarian. I always laugh as he sings about eating the meat from a road-killed cow.
The last song in the Raptor Project’s set is “The Raven Song.” This song explains where ravens live and how they nest, as well as what sounds they make. At the end of the song we get to see a White-napped Raven. The raven sits on top of World Bird Sanctuary’s donation box. It takes a dollar bill, folds it and puts it in the box.
At intermission, the nature center is open for everyone to see the owls, bats, snakes and other animals on display. The nature center also contains World Bird Sanctuary’s gift shop where people can buy souvenirs like t-shirts and bird figurines.
At every Birds in Concert, a guest singer closes out the night. Since 2004, Javier Mendoza, a Spanish -American singer closes one of the four Birds in Concerts in the month. He is my favorite of the guest singers. I sing along with all his songs: even the Spanish ones I don’t completely understand. He alters a couple of his songs for the WBS audience.
As Javier’s last song ends, we all rush down to get in line for his latest cd or one of the Raptor Project’s. My friends and I catch up with some of the World Bird Sanctuary people that we rarely get to see.
As we leave World Bird Sanctuary, I think about how much I’ve grown up here. I’ve gone to World Bird Sanctuary almost every Thursday in August since the concerts first started in 2000. My family and I make jokes and reference the Raptor Project’s songs when we are diving. Anytime we see a Turkey Vulture fly off from a road-killed animal we jokingly say, “Vultures are gross, but we need them the most.” I can’t wait for this years birds in concert to start up in August.
World Bird Sanctuary
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd, Valley Park, MO 63088