Rescued falcon given new role as school mascot

January 27, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

In two years, Sky Flyer has gone from facing anonymous death by starvation to fame and food in plenty.

The mature peregrine falcon was found on the Eastern Shore in 1992, grounded and unable to catch prey because she had four talons missing.

Now healthy and living at the Baltimore Zoo, the bird has been adopted as the mascot of Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville, western Howard County's newest school, which opened this school year.

As mascot, the bird has been captured in a wood sculpture that will be displayed in the school, and by numerous student-painted banners that hang in the gymnasium.

"I think it's cool," said Tiffany Rocco, 12, of Woodstock, who, with Kristy Wilson, of Sykesville, won the school's competition to name the bird.

Both of their fathers are jockeys who had ridden a horse named Sky Flyer.

"I think it's a good idea, because it teaches kids about endangered species and how to care for them," said Emilie Kulis, 12, who lives near Woodstock.

The bird's conquest of Mount View grew out of two projects at the school in Mount View's first year.

One was a program that involved science students doing exhibits for Howard County Day at the Baltimore Zoo April 27, and the other was a search for a school mascot.

The school's media specialist, Joe Duckworth, discovered that the zoo was caring for the falcon and thought it might work well with the school's quest for an endangered species as a mascot.

Sky Flyer is a bit skittish about public appearances and is not on show at the zoo.

"We're going to try to train her for a bird conservation show," said Liza Herschel, education coordinator for the zoo. If the training is successful, Sky Flyer might visit Mount View Middle some day.

The bird's keepers say they do not know how the falcon, whose Latin name is falco peregrinus, was injured before she was brought back to health by a licensed "rehabber."

Although such birds often are released into the wild again, Sky Flyer's missing talons made it impossible for her to hunt, so she was acquired by the Baltimore Zoo.

"She's slightly nervous," said James Ballance, senior keeper of birds at the zoo.

After about 18 months at the zoo, Sky Flyer has "settled in very well to the routine" in her "flight space." The adult falcon, whose age is unknown, shares a building with a vulture and other birds of prey.

On Tuesday, the school was presented with a life-sized carved wood falcon by Chaselle Inc., a Columbia distributor of educational and arts and crafts supplies that has a partnership with the school.

County government and school officials stood next to a pair of older visiting mascots, the Oriole Bird and Wally Woodchuck, who represents the zoo.

The falcon sculpture, made of tupelo wood from the wetlands of Louisiana, was carved by Chaselle billing clerk Diane L. Tucker and her boyfriend, Ray Whitacre, both of Jessup. Ms. Tucker said she will enter it in an international wood-carving competition in Ocean City in April.

A photo of the work and a caption reporting its relationship to Mount View Middle also will be featured in Chaselle's catalog, said Al Francis, Chaselle's director of human resources.

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