showcased an owl and a hawk at the Wyoming State Museum Saturday.
the only time Spires averts her glance from the owl. When she looks at Thomas
her cheeks blush as red as the hair on her head.
The girl returns to her
seat in the crowd and eagerly watches as Thomas explains the difference between
a day-hunter like a hawk and the owl.
"A hawk sees colors," Thomas
says. "The owl sees almost no colors, but it sees shades of gray. From one
candlelight of power on a pitch dark night, it can see a mouse up to three football
- Alissa Spires is pulled from a group
of more than 100 people at the Wyoming State Museum on Saturday. Her body faces
the crowd, but her head is turned so she can keep an eye on the barn owl just
over her shoulder.
with good reason she keeps watch on the bird of prey. Spires and the rest of the
audience has just learned that the owl is capable of swallowing mice and rats
barn owl was brought into the room moments before to oohs and ahs from the crowd.
The owl's face looks like a Macintosh apple cut in half - its dark eyes the seeds
and the tufted feathers that cover its beak look like the core.
owl bobs its head side to side as sunlight entering the museum illuminates the
golden feathers on its breast and neck. HawkQuest narrator Nancy Thomas explains
to the crowd that the owl does this to locate its prey.
waiting for the sounds in both ears to come together," she says. "Then
she can fly down and catch a mouse, up to a quarter of a mile away."
asks Spires to hold out her finger and pretend it is a mouse. The 5-year-old complies,
but keeps her eyes on the bird.
Thomas explains to the crowd that the barn
owl's talons spread two to the front and two to the back when it swoops down on
its prey. She says that the nocturnal hunter can't see what it has captured underneath
its body, so it has feathers on its feet that can sense the slightest vibration.
When the mouse's whiskers twitch, it knows it has hit its target, she says, as
she grasps Spires' finger.
takes the crowd outside and shows them how the hawk can spot a small piece of
meat several yards away. The hawk sees the meat she holds in her leather glove.
It lowers its head, perks up its wings and sticks its tail feathers into the air.
At Thomas' signal, the hawk leaves its perch and flies across the front
of the crowd, picks up the meat and lands on Thomas' hand. The group heads back
into the building to see a golden eagle.
Sitting in the front row are a
brother and sister from northern Laramie County. Annie and Josh Ballard say they
see raptors near their house, but will look at them differently after attending
the HawkQuest program.
"It was cool. I knew some of it, but I learned
a lot about the owls," 14-year-old Josh Ballard says.
He has shared
his knowledge with his 17-year-old sister.
"I've learned most of what
I know from him," Annie Ballard says as she points towards Josh.
eagle's what I've been waiting for," Josh says.
is brought in a moment later and it spreads its six-foot wing span over the two
"He was awesome. The air from the wings is amazing,"
Josh says after the program. "It's beautiful how they fly."
eyes grow wide as she says in agreement, "They're pretty."