LIVE SHOWS DAILY!
Look up and you may see a falcon, eagle, hawk or owl fly through the building.
Free flying birds is one of the highlights of the Extreme Raptors show that will be featured at the upcoming Exposure sportsman and outdoor recreation shows.
“The flying demos are fantastic,” said Jonathan Wood, the owner and trainer of Extreme Raptors. He said eight birds will usually fly at each show.
“Some of those birds will get up to 60 mph, maybe 80, if they have the space,” Wood said. “It's pretty amazing.”
Wood will be bringing about 20 birds to each of the shows in Eugene, Roseburg, Medford and Anderson. While there will be specific presentation times during each three-day show, the birds will be on display throughout the show.
He said the birds will include a bald eagle, golden eagle, an eagle owl that is the largest owl species in the world with a 5-foot wing span, a pure white snowy owl from the North Pole, a white arctic falcon from Iceland, a gyr falcon that is the largest of the falcon species with a 4-foot wing span and a aplomado falcon, an endangered species that is now found only Texas.
“The cool thing about my show is that people will get to see the birds at arm's length all day long, not just during a show,” Wood said. “There are amazing photo opportunities. The bald eagle in front of the American flag is one of the best photo opportunities there is.”
Wood, 60, was first attracted to birds when he found a baby falcon on the beach when he was 12 years old. The falcon had attempted to fly out of a nest in a New York area lighthouse. At the time, Wood said there wasn't a lot written about training falcons so he had to teach himself and he admitted he “stumbled through the process.
“It was trial and error, but I developed some unique techniques,” he explained. “I managed to create a unique rapport with the bird. I made some mistakes, but I got it to fly. I became a self-taught bird expert.”
“It's really cool to see a bald eagle in the wild, but to see one with the American flag behind it … that brings tears to your eyes,” he added. “People are touched by that.”
Early in his adult life, Wood worked as a builder, contractor and photographer, but finally decided to “pursue my American dream.”
“I wanted to try to make a living with my hobby of training birds,” he said.
He and two birds made their first show appearance in 1993. He did it for free and the birds drew a crowd. He did several other shows for free during the next year or so. When show promoters began to want to book his show for the following year and asked how much he would charge, he knew it was time to make a career of it.
“It's been an interesting life with a lot of variety,” he said as his birds in the last 25 years have been featured in big screen and TV movies and in commercials in addition to being featured at outdoor shows, festivals, fairs, parks, schools and museums.
Wood has wildlife licenses and permits to have the birds that are endangered species and to travel with them. Through the years he has obtained birds from wildlife centers that have taken in injured birds that are unable to return to the wild after being rehabilitated. He has also developed breeding programs for different birds, release some into the wild, donating some to zoos and hand raising some as babies to use in his shows.
Wood gets help with the birds and the appearances from his wife Susan and their daughter Rachel. The have home bases in both New York and in Texas.
Extreme Raptors has put on shows in 46 states. The last appearance in Oregon was at the state fair in 2013.
“These birds are ambassadors for their species,” Wood said. “I bring the wilderness where they live to people so they can see the birds really up close. I'm promoting the birds. They are the big stars, I'm just the guy behind the scenes.