skip navigation
Support KUOW

Birders Draw Attention to Southern Idaho's Raptors

Doug Nadvornick

This is the time of year when serious bird watchers across the Northwest pull out their binoculars. In southern Idaho, one group is trying to turn wild birds into tourist attractions. Ultimately, the aim is to protect them. Inland Northwest Correspondent Doug Nadvornick recently joined a group for a field trip. He sends this audio postcard.


We're hiking through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. It's about 20 miles southwest of Boise.

Boise State University grad student Matt Stuber knows this field well. He can point you to all the little sunken places birds live. He heads straight for a manmade tunnel that one burrowing owl faily has adopted as its home.

When he has dug down a foot into the tunnel, Stuber kneels to wipe dirt off the top of a plastic laundry bucket.

He lifts the lid, reaches in, and, like a proud papa, pulls out two fuzzy little creatures that are just a few weeks old.

Stuber: "Look at their feet. Their feet are becoming much more birds–of–preyish. They've got talons and everything."

One little owl throws a tantrum from all this unwanted attention.

After the little owl is calmed, Stuber searches for the mama. He whisks a plumber's snake into the hole, trying to drive her to a place where he can reach in and grab her.

Stuber: "There's mom! Hi!"

[Sound: Piercing screams.]

Stuber is studying how pesticides affect these owls. He knows a lot about them and he's excited to share that knowledge with curious people.

[Sound: Voices in a classroom.]

Stuber's field trip was part of the recent first annual Snake River Birds of Prey Festival, held in the nearby city of Kuna. Organizers like Aldis Garsvo want the public to take a walk on the wild side.

Garsvo: "Unfortunately, not too many folks who even live here in Kuna truly appreciate what's across the railroad tracks, as we say it here. Unfortunately, a lot of people see it as kind of a canyon, dry, desert, sagebrush, rocks, what's out there."

Instead of seeing it as a wild home for hawks, owls and eagles.

Eventually, Garsvo hopes this festival will grow big enough to put the Snake River Canyon on the must–see list of birders everywhere.

I'm Doug Nadvornick in Kuna, Idaho.

© Copyright 2009, Spokane Public Radio