Pawnee, whose handlers say is the largest ferruginous hawk in North America, perched patiently on a human arm waiting for food as a volunteer spoke about a new educational program about wildlife that is soaring into theValley.
Pawnee joined several other birds of prey in Scottsdale on Friday in a demonstration of how they live in their naturalhabitat.
It is part of a program called Education Takes Flight that recently received a $95,000 grant from the US Airways Community Foundation.
Scottsdale-based Liberty Wildlife received the grant in support of its new Education Takes Flight Center, under construction in Papago Park adjacent to the Phoenix Zoo.
Megan Mosby, Liberty Wildlife's executive director, said the program trains the animals to be free of any kind of tether so that when they are shown to Arizona students, they are featured in a more natural way.
"US Airways has come in with the desire to help with that part of a program and they are a major part of the program and facility," Mosby said.
"It will demonstrate the national history of the animal and will talk about the education and respect the part the animals play as a whole," she said.
The birds are called "animal ambassadors" which, along with human volunteers, will encourage families to go outdoors and enjoy more of nature, according to a statement issued by Liberty Wildlife.
"Our hope is it will be an education tool to show people how to live in peace with the desert," Mosby said.
"The facility will house as an educational element and a medical facility."
Once the new facility opens to the public, Mosby said she expects many field trips and events.
Mosby said a team of volunteers have a procedure that's regimented and consistent.
"The team goes in every single day to fly the birds," saidMosby.
Anne Peyton of Ahwatukee Foothills has been a volunteer with Liberty Wildlife for nine years.
"I came here with no knowledge except for the desire to participate," Peyton said. "I thought working with a hawk was too good to be true."
The feedback from the children has been gratifying, Peyton said.
"And it's making a great difference in the world," she said.
Maya Rumble is new to the team and has volunteered for about four months.
When asked about what she thinks of the new program, Rumble said: "I think it's a really good opportunity to see just how majestic these birds really are and why they need to beprotected."
Joe Miller has volunteered with Liberty Wildlife for 22 years and is the head eagle trainer at the facility.
Miller said, "I think it's a real disservice to the public not to be able to see the birds fly."
Miller added, "It's what birds do best."
For more information on the program and pictures of the new facility as it is being built, visit www.libertywildlife.org.