The Quarry Hill Nature Center has two new resident raptors.

After years with Horus, an American kestrel who died in June at 19 years of age, having a new bird at Quarry Hill has taken some adjustment.

In a nod to Horus, the new kestrel is named Aquila, which, according to ancient Egyptian mythology, was the name of Horus’ own hunting falcon.

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Horus came to the nature center once he was too old to hunt on his own after being captured by Kirk Payne, master falconer and retired teacher at the nature center.

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Aquila comes to Quarry Hill from the Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown, S.D. after being found with a broken left wing that hasn’t healed completely.

“If you’re a falcon and you’re going to be successful, you need to fly at 100%,” said Jill Danielsen, naturalist at Quarry Hill.

Despite her injury, Aquila wasn’t ready to retire to the company of humans.

Danielsen describes Aquila her first few days at Quarry Hill as “distrustful” and “wary.” She would screech when people would be near her.

When Danielsen would try to hold Aquila by letting her perch on a leather gauntlet she wore, Aquila would go limp and hang off the glove while screeching in protest.

“We had a lot of work to do,” Danielsen said.

Danielsen and staff members worked to get Aquila accustomed to people. Some of that work involved handling, some was just a matter of saying “hi” when walking by her enclosure.

As part of that effort, Danielsen took Aquila home overnight, set the raptor on a perch in her dining room while Danielsen played cards with her kids. The exercise helped Aquila acclimate to children and hand movements.

Last week, Aquila accepted a mouse from Danielsen and even ate it in front of her. Although that effort left fur and other mess on Danielsen’s office keyboard, it was a key moment in Aquila’s training.

“She’s really becoming part of the team,” Danielsen said in a Zoom introduction of Aquila held by Quarry Hill staff and board members Tuesday night. “She’s not quite there yet.”

Danielsen also introduced the online audience to a male screech owl likely about a year old.

The owl also came from the Bramble Park Zoo, where it was taken for rehabilitation. During its time there and before, the owl became acclimated to people and dependent on them for food rather than learning the hunting and hiding skills an owl would learn in its first year in the wild.

A yet-to-be-named American Screech owl joins the Quarry Hill Nature Center as an education raptor for 2021. (Contributed photo)
A yet-to-be-named American Screech owl joins the Quarry Hill Nature Center as an education raptor for 2021. (Contributed photo)

He’s almost ready for the classrooms except for one thing: a name.

Danielsen solicited suggestions from the online audience, and people are encouraged to suggest a name.

Ideas are welcome and can be submitted via email (, Facebook ( or phone call (507-328-3950).

John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to