KALISPELL - While birds of prey can sometimes be seen as pests when it comes to things like keeping your chickens safe, the Flathead Audubon Society is teaching people just how important these birds are to our society.
“We want people to understand birds better, they are critical to our survival,” said Flathead Audubon Society conservation educator Denny Olson.
Feathers were flying as spectators gathered around to see live raptors at the 14th annual Birds of Prey Festival at Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell.
“The nice thing about birding is you can enjoy it at any level. So, all habitats have birds in them, you know our yards have birds in them. You can enter into it casually or you can get obsessed, as some people tend to do,” said Dan Casey with Jewel Basin Hawk Watch.
Families and birders alike had the opportunity to learn about birds that they see in the Flathead through birding hikes, informational booths, videos and speakers — and real live raptors from the Montana Wild Wings Recovery Center.
“We don't want them to grow up and not know that the birds are even there. We want kids to be able to have that opportunity instead of just looking at the phone all day long. Go out and see the real, real world. And birds are a big, big part of that,” said Olson.
The Flathead Audubon Society has been researching hawks in the Jewel Basin for over 15 years to learn more about the migratory and reproduction of hawks near Mount Aeneas and they are looking for more volunteers.
Dan Casey, who runs the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch, taught people how to identify hawks while in the air and talked about his experience researching raptors.
“So it's really quite the experience sitting on top of the mountain and having these birds come to you,” said Casey.
Participants learned just how critical birds of prey are for rodent and pest control, and without them, the world would not be the same.
“Without insect control by birds and bats and spiders we would be toast as a species, we would be gone because the green plants on the planet would be eaten by insects before the summer was out. So they're not just important, they're also cool and they rock,” said Olson.