Alex Clem with the Chamberlain Raptor Center holds a bald eagle during the “Fast and the Furious” program Saturday at Clifty Falls State Park. The bald eagle was chosen as an emblem of the United States on June 20, 1782. The bald eagle was called a “bird of bad moral character” by Ben Franklin. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin also wrote that he wished the bald eagle was not chosen to represent the country because the raptor often does not get his living honestly. Clem, a naturalist at Hardy Lake, said that bald eagles are known to steal food from other animals. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
Alex Clem with the Chamberlain Raptor Center holds a bald eagle during the “Fast and the Furious” program Saturday at Clifty Falls State Park. The bald eagle was chosen as an emblem of the United States on June 20, 1782. The bald eagle was called a “bird of bad moral character” by Ben Franklin. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin also wrote that he wished the bald eagle was not chosen to represent the country because the raptor often does not get his living honestly. Clem, a naturalist at Hardy Lake, said that bald eagles are known to steal food from other animals. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
Clifty Falls State Park hosted a few fast and furious raptors – including one of the largest raptors in the state – during a winter program featuring residents of Hardy Lake’s Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Center.

About 100 people attended the “Fast and the Furious” event Saturday in Clifty Inn’s Hoffman Room where center officials and volunteers introduced visitors to five raptors. Alex Clem, a naturalist at the raptor center, introduced visitors to a kestrel, a screech owl, a peregrine falcon, a great horned owl and a bald eagle during the hour-long event.

The kestrel – one of the event’s “fast” visitors – has excellent vision and often hovers in air before swooping down to catch small mammals, lizards and insects at more than 80 mph. The bird also has ultraviolet vision, which allows it to track prey by urine trails. 

A screech owl – one of the “furious” raptors – is known for the ominous sounds it makes and for hunting at night. Although the birds hunt in wooded areas, the owls are known to make their homes in suburban areas too.

Another fast bird – the peregrine falcon – flies high in the skies before diving at more than 200 mph to find prey such as doves, pigeons or ducks. The raptor often rams its food in the air to make the kill.

Clem told visitors the great horned owl – another “furious” raptor featured during the program – is at least 29 years old. The owl was the first bird to be rehabilitated at the raptor center due to an unfortunate event involving barbed wire. The incident caused the owl’s wing to be injured beyond repair, and the bird became a permanent resident. The owl has educated thousands throughout the state during the last three decades.

The final raptor introduced to the crowd Saturday fit the categories of both fast and furious. The bald eagle – also the national bird – is one of the largest raptors in the state. Although once driven from Indiana because of an insecticide called DDT, a program to reintroduce the birds back to the state has been successful over the years with more than 200 nests now in Indiana.