Sunday, May 27, 2012


This red-wing blackbird repeatedly dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk Saturday adding a little feathered lustre to a demonstration in Etobicoke Saturday (VERONICHENRI/TorontoSun).

TORONTO - A red-wing blackbird who dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk and a bald eagle during a demonstration in Etobicoke was one lucky nest-protector.
Despite repeated kamikaze strikes Saturday, the much bigger juvenile flesh-eaters kept their beady eyes focused on owner Sam Trentadue. Raw chicken strips both he and the volunteers held were more appealing than a pesky interloper.
A flashing beak or taloned claw could easily have turned their tormentor into a nice light snack, “but they’re not trained to hunt and kill,” Trentadue told a mid-day audience at the third Spring Bird Festival.
Raised and trained by commercial breeders with the Ontario Falconry Centre in Scarborough, the hawk and eagle were among several raptors brought by him and partner Laura Brunato plus apprentice Bharathy Jayakhanthan, 16.
If freed, which is not allowed, the hawk, eagle, American kestrel, Great Horned Owl, prairie falcon and a turkey vulture named Frank — for Frankenstein — “would not survive,” Trentadue said.
Trailing light plastic lines attached to their legs, to prevent them flying off, the birds were released from the partner’s gloved hands or perches, pouncing on raw chicken shared with volunteers.
“He was kind of heavy and my arm shook a bit,” Kim Sine, 9, of Etobicoke, said, after the hawk fetched a treat.
Her dad, Brian Sine, who came with his wife Marcia and son Marvin, 6, for the second year, said “the wife is interested in birds” and the festival was a good family-oriented event.
There were “oohs” and “aahs’ when Trentadue said the owl — which kept turning its head almost full-circle — favours fresh skunk more than other prey in the wild. It avoids the repulsive impact of being sprayed because “they can’t smell.”
But several youngsters groaned when told a nervous turkey vulture may defensively regurgitate a ‘cast’ pellet of unwanted meal remains which, after a day of festering will smell so bad “it will empty the whole park.”
Luckily for the enraptured crowd, Frank was well-behaved when he landed on Kyle Hammond’s gloved hand — the five-year-old describing the bald-faced bird as “different.”
Trentadue, who regularly takes his flock to schools, fairs, public events and movie sets, said his centre is affiliated with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Organized by City of Toronto staff, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Humber Arboretum, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront and Friends of Sam Smith, the festival attracted more than 150 registered participants.
Birdwatchers reported spotting more than 22 wild species during walks.

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