Rochester Area Foundation grant helps eagle education take off
National Eagle Center staff and a bald eagle education ambassador visit Rochester Sunday.
ROCHESTER — Julia Powell took her turn to measure her arm span against a ruler at the Mayo Civic Center on Sunday.
The result? Wild turkey.
“My fingers were just over the borderline,” Powell said.
Instead of numbers, the ruler was striped with colors indicating the wingspans of different birds found in Minnesota. Staff from the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota, brought the ruler to give children attending a free eagle program Sunday a better understanding of the size of the raptors wingspans.
Powell, 10, was the youngest to reach wild turkey.
Eagle Center staff held two free eagle programs at Mayo Civic Center on Sunday morning. About 200 parents and children attended the events that included an appearance by a live bald eagle. Latsch, a 6-year-old bald eagle found in Winona, calmly ate his rat meat while children asked about the raptor.
Mayyar Jenad, 10, asked what is the largest prey the birds tend to take.
Grant Fogt, avian education specialist at the National Eagle Center said eagles tend to scavenge meat from dead animals and mostly hunt fish.
Jenad’s father, Hussam Jenad, said his family has been to the center in Wabasha and saw the free programs as a learning opportunity closer to their Rochester home.
Tiffany Ploehn, avian care manager at the National Eagle Center, handled Latsch. Ploehn said Latsch, who has a detached retina in his left eye, has a good temperament making him a good raptor ambassador for events outside the center.
“He’s our go-to outreach bird,” Ploehn said. “Ever since he was young, he’s been interested in different settings.”
“I’m surprised it stayed so calm with so many children in here,” said Cayse Powell, Julia’s father.
Latsch has been to programs at schools in the region, the Steele County Fair and Treasure Island Casino, Ploehn said.
Not having sight in his left eye limits his ability to hunt. On average, bald eagles successfully take fish about 30% of the time. Latsch would see a success rate about 0.3% and would risk injury when trying to land on tree branches, Fogt said.
The two free programs were made possible by a 2022 Better Communities Grant from the Rochester Area Foundation. The grant helped the National Eagle Center widen its reach to educate people about eagles.
Julia Powell said she was surprised to learn all birds have hollow bones, which accommodates flight.
“This was fun,” she added.