A raptor spin on some spooky Halloween fun
October 29, 2021
The Raptor Center

Halloween is full of spooky monsters and creepy themes. We took a few of the classic Halloween characters and gave them a raptor twist!

We start with a timeless classic - the mummy. Perhaps a favorite costume idea for the procrastinator, all you need are some bandage wraps or leftover rolls of toilet paper and you're all set!

Bald eagle in a wing and body wrap

The raptor patients in our clinic also get the mummy costume treatment when we use wraps as part of their healing journey. Wings get special bandages to keep them still while healing from broken bones and other injuries. The wrap style and placement depends where the injury is, but it often involves wrapping the wing first, and then wrapping the wing to the body to safely keep it immobile. We also have a suite of specific wrap styles for toes, feet, and legs depending on the injury.

And then for the full mummy wrap, we turn to how we weigh our smallest and feistiest patients like merlin pictured below. These small birds get placed in a velcro body wrap before going on the scale. This way they are held still for an accurate reading.

Merlin falcon in a wrap

From the classic mummy, we turn to perhaps the most popular Halloween figure - the vampire! 

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From Bram Stoker and Nosferatu, to Twilight and What We Do in the Shadows, there are countless takes on this classic. But one thing they have in common - the thirst for blood!

Now raptors aren't out there draining blood from their prey, but they have adapted to get the moisture and water they need directly from what they eat. Eating the meat and organs of their prey provides all the water they need to survive, and their highly efficient digestive systems means they lose very little water in their waste.

You will occasionally still see a raptor drinking from a water source, but the meat of their prey typically is enough to satiate their thirst, like our American kestrel in this video.


Moving on to one of the spookier Halloween monsters, let's talk ghosts. Did you know the raptor world has a ghost of its own? The barn owl has been called the "ghost owl" and the "demon owl" in part because of their pale white faces, silent flight, and preference for the night. And as the most widely distributed owl species in the world, you can find legends, myths, and beliefs linking the barn owl to bad luck or coming doom in certain European, African, Native American, and Asian tales.

Whisper the barn owl looking at the camera

The barn owl certainly isn't helping when it speaks on its own behalf. Unlike the soft hoots of other owls, barn owls give a variety of hisses, shrieks, and raspy screeches that do little to comfort those listening in the dark.

But despite some bad press, the barn owl has also been revered for its majesty, mysterious nature, cunning, and supposed wisdom. These ghostly owls are important predators of rodents and play a role in keeping their numbers in balance. If you see or hear a barn owl in your area, consider yourself fortunate knowing you share the environment with these unique raptor ghosts!

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And we conclude our raptor spin on Halloween with Nero the turkey vulture.  As a dedicated scavenger, we'll be thankful to have Nero and other vultures around if/when zombies ever show up. These scavenging birds will make sure the dead get eaten, and don't have a chance to come back to life in search of brains!

Joking aside, scavengers are really important for the environment because they help reduce the spread of disease from things that have died. Turkey vultures, like Nero, are adapted to safely digest all sorts of microorganisms that might make others ill if left in the ecosystem.

So let's do what we can to keep vulture populations healthy and strong. They keep our environment clean, and we'll need their help in the zombie apocalypse!

However you spend your Halloween weekend, whether you celebrate or not, we hope you take the time to enjoy the great outdoors, spend some time in nature, and perhaps spot a not-so-spooky raptor while doing so!