LRC Assistant Trains Falcons in Wildlife Center

Melanie Jandura

It isn’t every day that most people get near birds of any sort, let alone large raptors. However, for about a year and a half Jeanne Slinker, who works in North’s LRC, has been volunteering for the Stillman Nature Center, a non-profit that is open to the public on Mondays and Sundays. From owls to hawks to even vultures, she assists in caring for the rescued birds and involving them in educational programs.

Jeanne Slinker with a great horned owl

So how did she start getting involved with birds of prey?

“I have a friend who has been working with this Nature Preserve in South Barrington,” said Slinker. “He’s been with them for a number of years, and we’ve been friends since we were in our very early 20s. [We] stayed in touch and [he reached out and] said, ‘Hey, do you think you’d be interested in doing some volunteer work?’ and explained to me the [Stillman Nature Preserve] in South Barrington.”

After being informed about how taking care of raptors worked, she realized volunteering could become a great opportunity for her to interact with these creatures.

“I love animals, and my husband is required to do some type of volunteer work for his job,” said Slinker. “That’s how we ended up doing it.”

Slinker and other volunteers help provide the raptors with food, beak and talon (their nails) trimming, cleaning and more. They especially work on socializing them to be comfortable around people and being handled since the birds of prey are rescued.

Slinker helps train a variety of different raptors

“These birds were born wild,” said Slinker. “When they come into our hands, we have to teach them how to sit on a glove and, you know, not freak out.”

In order to teach birds of prey how to perch on a glove, they are trained differently than an animal such as a dog. They aren’t constantly given treats. Instead, they are picked up in a safe manner so as to not harm their wings or legs. Then, they are placed onto the glove where some will immediately latch on to feel steady while others may be a bit more stubborn.

“It’s just working with their natural manners,” said Slinker. “How they perch on the tree or do different things and we just try and work with that to help them so that they’ll sit reasonably on a glove and not be too startled with people around.”

While she’s not around raptors, though, Slinker works at North, particularly spending time in the LRC and helping students.

The Parliament of Owls (Natalie Hannah)

“On a day-to-day basis, I am in charge primarily of kids who come in from their study halls or from their lunch and they just kind of want to be in the LRC,” said Slinker. “But my main focus right now this year has been to really work with the kids. How? You know, let them know that this is a place where they’re safe, where they’re listened to, if they need someone to talk to, you know, I can do that.”

Birds of prey are unique animals, and the Stillman Nature Center can allow people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity be able to see them up close. Slinker finds a lot of joy from being around them and hopes other people can learn more about raptors.

“I like just being close to them,” said Slinker. “And they have their own personalities, you know? There’s just one of the broad-winged hawks, she chirps at you the whole time. So they’re all very unique and very, very interesting.”