Here are some questions and answers that come up a lot, or were just too unusual to forget.

Where did the name Luzonica come from?

Luzonica is part of the Latin name for the Luzon Bleeding-Heart Dove. I became fascinated by this dove when I read about it in a field guide to birds from South Asia. The Luzon Bleeding-heart dove is the dove with the most realistic looking wound coloration in the world. It looks as if someone poked her right in the chest with a pencil but that's just her natural feather coloring! Gallicolumba luzonica is the Latin name of this dove and the word "luzonica" sounded beautiful to me. No sooner had I decided to start my own education program, than I knew it would be called Luzonica.

Can I touch your birds?

No. Our birds are not pets, and do not want people to touch them. Though they have been trained to tolerate being around humans, they are still wild animals and need to be treated with respect. Remember, out in the wild no one pets them, so they don't want it from us.

OK, OK, I understand I can't pet your birds, but do they let YOU pet them?

Most Birds: No. Our birds of prey are trained to permit some handling of their wings and feet so we can keep track of their health, however it is only a tolerance and that only goes so far. Examinations are usually done with a pair of leather gloves, under the assumption that the birds may try to bite us or attack us with their talons when their patience runs out. In addition, we have great respect for our avian ambassadors, and we know that they do not appreciate petting or touching, so we do not do these things unnecessarily, and we try to keep examinations to the necessary minimum for their comfort.

Occationally we work with birds that have been hand-raised in captivity, such as our Toucanet or Stork. These birds may let us handle them (depending on the bird), although they usually do not let strangers touch them.

** Update! **

We now have Miniature Chickens who are especially tame and let children and adults pet them to feel their feathers! If you are requesting an educational presentation and want to make sure that the talk includes pet-able birds, make sure to request that our chickens come along!

Photograph copyright Falconer Photo

Does it hurt when the bird tries to jump or fly off of your glove?

It does not feel comfortable, but it doesn't hurt either. Have you ever seen a person bungee jumping? Often they connect the bungee cord to their ankles because that is one of the most comfortable places you can support all your weight from. The bracelets that we use on our birds are designed to be as comfortable as possible for our birds. They are made with a strong, yet soft leather, and are made to conform to the shape of the birds' leg and foot.

Where did you get your birds?

Our birds come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many of them were injured in the wild, and cannot be released. Others were born in special breeding programs designed to provide zoos and other educational organizations with foreign birds without having to capture wild birds and ship them to the US.

The owl looks really soft. Is he?

Yes. Owls have feathers that are softer than a lot of other birds, because these feathers help them fly silently at night. The soft fuzz on the top of their wing and tail feathers breaks up air that travels over the feather, making them almost entirely silent and able to sneak up on prey-animals like rats, mice and other birds. Owls are wild animals though, and even though their feathers are soft, they do not want to be touched. They have a strong beak and sharp talons to protect themselves from the threat of well-intentioned fingers. When you see our birds, ask us and we will probably have an owl feather that you can feel. Birds renew their feathers once or twice a year (depending on the species of bird) and so when our owl loses feathers, we try to save them so you can feel how soft they are and see how they are different than hawk feathers.

close-up of an owl feather, showing the soft, velvet-like fuzz
Photograph copyright Erin Koski

What should I do if I find a baby bird, or an injured bird?


Did you know that many baby birds naturally leave the nest before they can fly? Their parents care for them on the ground and in low trees and plants until they are ready to follow through the air. If the baby bird is at risk from cats or dogs, and you cannot keep other domestic animals away from the baby, it may need to be moved to a safer location or possibly brought in to be cared for by a wildlife rehabilitator. Humans always do a second-rate job compared to mom and dad birds, though, so don't take a baby from the wild unless it's necessary for the baby's safety. Here's a link to some great information about what to do if you find a baby bird and how to tell if it really needs to be rescued. If you find a wild bird and it is injured, it needs to be treated by a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator right away. Click here to find a local wildlife center near you.

I have a cat, and I hear owls hoot at night. Will an owl eat my cat?

It is unlikely that an owl or a hawk or even an eagle will eat your pet cat. Cats themselves are formidable predators, and they have lots of razor sharp claws and teeth they can use to defend against attacks. Additionally, cat saliva can be toxic to birds (think about if you have ever been scratched by a cat, and how red and tender the scratch gets. Well, now consider that you aren't a 125 pound person, but only a two pound bird!) Anyway, the risks associated with cats usually outweigh the benefits. If you have Great Horned Owls (the ones that hoot) living near your house, you should keep your cat indoors during dusk and dawn, and more of the time during breeding season. Most birds are much more aggressive during breeding season and will do things they would not otherwise do (like attacking people or pets that get too close to their nest.) That said, keeping your cat indoors all the time will improve his or her health, happiness and lifespan!

Could an eagle eat my Chihuahua?

Photograph copyright Erin Koski

It is possible for an eagle or large owl to kill a very small dog, and it is not unheard of, however it is unlikely. Remember that Great Horned Owls are crepuscular (hunting at dusk and dawn) so if you have seen Great Horned Owls in your backyard, or heard them close by, it is best to keep all small pets indoors or secure at dusk and dawn. Most Golden Eagles do not venture close enough to people's houses to go after their pets, but if you see a Golden Eagle over head, make sure your dog and other pets are safe. This would apply to cats and free-roaming rabbits or guinea pigs as well. Though dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals aren't likely to leave your backyard, they are in danger from predators who are not stopped by fences. These predators include cats, racoons, coyotes, hawks, owls and eagles.

How can I attract birds to my yard?

Birds are usually attracted to your yard by food, water and shelter. To find out more about nest boxes for a variety of different kinds of birds, scroll down to our links (bottom of this page). has a lot of great information on attracting birds to your yard too!

What does it mean when a bird is panting?

Birds pant for similar reasons as dogs do: to cool off or to reduce stress. If you see a bird panting in the wild, it is likely a hot day. In captivity, birds often pant because they are nervous. Panting helps reduce their temperature and helps calm them. Birds have a different breathing system than people do. They have a series of air sacs that help keep air moving through their system even as they exhale, providing better cooling than our breathing does. For more information, check out this article for a great look at how bird breathing works!

When you brought the hawk to our classroom, he tried to fly away. Why did he do that?

Although our birds are always on a leash when we bring them outside, their instincts can be overwhelming when they get nervous or scared, and for any bird capable of flight (birds like penguins and ostriches do not naturally fly), flying away when they think they are in danger is their first natural reaction. Remember that we humans have eyes on the front of our head, meaning that we are predatory. When our birds go to classrooms, it can make them nervous to see that many "predators" staring at them in awe! Also remember that our birds are wild animals, and if we did not have them on a leash, they would run or fly away and not come back. They tolerate us, but they would rather be on their own, even if they are not able to survive in the wild. They don't know that. They just know that people can be scary.

What do your birds eat?

chicken/pheasant food
Photograph copyright Erin Koski

Many of our birds eat only meat. This includes our hawks, owls and stork. Our raven eats fruits and vegetables as well as meat. Our toucanet eats fruits and berries and our doves and finches eats a pellet diet made for song birds. Luzonica is fortunate to get enough donations of rabbits and guinea pigs to feed our hawks and owls. We also buy frozen quail, rats and mice. It is important that our birds eat whole prey-animals, including some fur or feathers, as well as internal organs. These are a natural part of their diet in the wild and provide roughage and nutrients needed to maintain ideal health.

Luzonica feeds pre-killed prey. Though our birds would prefer fresh killed animals (like they would get in the wild) they readily eat frozen-thawed prey.

Raven meal of seafood, fruit and vegetables
Photograph copyright Erin Koski

How does the hawk or owl eat?

In the wild, hawks, owls and eagles use their strong toes and talons to grab their prey and kill it with crushing force (the sharp talons don't actually kill the prey, but do keep it from escaping). Once the prey is dead, the hawk, owl or eagle stands on top of the prey and uses their weight to hold it in place while they use their sharp, curved beak to tear off pieces of meat. They do not have teeth, so they do not chew their food. They simply tear off chunks of meat and swallow them. This is how our birds eat too, they just don't kill the food first, it is given to them already dead. Some of our birds are able to kill prey and some are not. Since all prey can bite or scratch, we used pre-killed food to avoid preventable veterinarian visits.

Peregrine Falcon, eating a quail
Photograph copyright Erin Koski

How do you tell if a bird is a boy or a girl?

Birds do not have external reproductive organs, so you cannot use those as a way to visually tell the sex of a bird. Many kinds of birds have different coloration in males and females (called color dimorphism). If you are looking at a species of bird that has color dimorphism, the male will have brighter colors compared to their natural habitat. Why does their habitat matter? Because in a few cases, such as the Eclectus parrot, the male appears to be more plain (solid green) and the female appears to be brightly colored (rich red and deep purple), but when you know that these birds live in very thick forests, where lighting is low and shadows can be plentiful, you see that the solid, bright green male, will stand out more and be more colorful than the female who is deep red and purple and blends in with the jungle. Not all birds are color dimorphic though, and most raptors are not. Most raptors are size dimorphic, with the female being the larger bird, sometimes up to a third larger than the male. These are averages though, and a small female can often be the same size as a large male.

male and female eclectus parrots
(male is the green one on the left)

Why would female birds be larger than male birds?

We do not know all the answers to this question yet, but here are some things to think about. When the male and female bird are significantly different sizes, they compete less when they are hunting. To provide better for their young, it is best if they hunt different kinds of prey. This also means that if one prey source is very thin one year, the other bird can still support the young. For example, if a disease decimates the mouse population, a male Red-Tailed Hawk will have less success hunting, but the female Red-Tailed Hawk can still catch rats and gophers to feed the family. Likewise, if larger prey became scarce, the male hawk would be better suited for catching small prey than the female, to support the family.

male & female Lanner falcons - female on the right

Lastly, some birds do not have visual differences like size or coloration between males and females. In these cases, a blood test may be done to examine the bird's DNA and compare it to DNA of birds whose sex was proven in some other fashion (if the bird lays an egg, it's certainly a female, or surgery (including post-mortem) can be done). Diego, our Great Horned Owl has been DNA tested so we know he's a male. Avian Biotech is a company that can test a bird's sex from a small plucked feather!

Is there a difference between a raven and a crow?

Yes. Crows and ravens are two different species of bird. Ravens tend to be larger and have thicker, more massive beaks. Our ravens in the United States also have a wedge shaped tail, which you can see if one flys overhead. Our native US crows have tails with a gently curved edge. Our crows are a little bit larger than a pigeon, where our ravens are about the same size as a large hawk.

We don't have crows in Southern California, do we?

We do have both American Crows and Common Ravens in Southern California. American Crows are found in almost every state in the US and Common Ravens are found in the far western states. In Southern California, ravens are seen very commonly, even in or near cities, and by freeways. In Northern California, Common Ravens tend to be more reserved, and stay away from heavily populated areas. They tend to be seen in forested areas in Northern California.

Can you tell which silhouette below is of a crow and which is of a raven?

Crow & Raven Photographs copyright Erin Koski

Useful Links

Links checked/updated December, 2015. Please Contact me if you find a non-working link!

Nest Boxes:

Installing nest boxes near your house or farm is one of the best ways to attract benefitial bird species to your area. Birds (and bats) can help control the insect population naturally, and at little cost to you!

Wildlife & Bird Rehabilitation:

Veterinarians specializing in Birds:

Field Guides and Species Information

Wildlife Organizations:

At Home or On The Road:


Non-Bird Links:

Useful Legal Information: