JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Cub Scout Pack 10 came face-to-face with nature in the Harborview Elementary School cafeteria.
After creating bird-enrichment toys, the Scouts met Juneau Raptor Center education ambassador birds Phil and Justice, a "very social" gyrfalcon and fish-head-loving bald eagle, on Nov. 22.
Scouts like 8-year-old Oliver Robertson and 9-year-old Joseph Race kept their eyes trained on the birds, speaking up whenever one made sudden movement or sounds.
"He's trying to say something," one Scout said in earnest after Phil squawked.
The toys give Phil and Justice something to do with their idle time, explained JRC manager Kathy Benner. Unlike in the wild, there's not a lot preoccupy the birds while in captivity. The toys were essentially shish kebobs made of rope and repurposed materials such as egg cartons, scrap wood and Popsicle sticks.
"Even having a radio playing is considered enrichment," Benner said. "It's just something different in the birds' environment that gives them something to focus on besides just sitting there on a perch like this all day."
Both feathered education ambassadors were older than their toy makers.
Thirteen-year-old Phil, a gyrfalcon, has been an education ambassador almost his entire life. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured him after he didn't grow tail or wing feathers. He was first taken to the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC) and soon after to Juneau Raptor Center.
Justice, a bald eagle, is a local who's at least 20 years old, said handler Jaimie Rountree. He was discovered near Bartlett Regional Hospital in 2000 and has severely impaired vision. Rountree said this could be from an accidental clawing by another eagle.
"I've been really learning that some birds cannot be in the wild because they have a hurt wing, a hurt foot," Robertson said.
Den Leader Shannon Seifert leads the Lions (kindergarten) and Bears (third grade). The dens will have completed two different adventure studies on wildlife with the toy-making project.
Other Pack 10 den leaders include Tanya Ewing (first grade) and Leonard Robinson (second grade).
"It's kind of like a lesson plan and there's a set of activities that they have to complete," Leonard Robinson said.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com