HAMMOND, La. - If you want to save a bird, become a falconer. That's one lesson I learned at the Birds of Prey show at the Louisiana Renaissance Fest.
"Falconers are basically saving a bird's life. Up to 90 percent of these birds never make their first year out in the wild; it's very tough out there," explains longtime falconer, Kitty Carroll, affectionately known as Miss Kitty.
Her show is entertaining and has birds flying to and fro, but the message is grounded: She and her husband Pete hope to educate the public on many levels, and certainly with a focus on being kind to wildlife and taking steps toward conservation.
"How to live wildlife friendly, animal friendly, learn how to live your life more in tune with nature because we're losing that," says Miss Kitty.
As an adventurous Travel Girl, I've had plenty of opportunities to get up-close-and-personal with wildlife, but this was a special event: I was allowed to hold a beautiful peregrine falcon and a red-tailed hawk while Miss Kitty told me some fun facts about falconry.
Turns out, 2019 is the year of women and falconry. Running a company based in Florida, Miss Kitty has been dedicating her life to the birds as a falconer since 1974.
"I just love the birds," she says. She says her feathered friends are critical to the Renaissance celebration because, "birds of prey literally changed the course of history." Certain kings and queens were fans of falcons and falconry, and many birds were royal symbols, popular in castles and courtyards.
She also shared the hawks' menu with me; have a look: Chicken, Partridge, Quail, Hamster, Rat, Pigeon, Mouse, Duck, Pheasant, Grouse, Squirrel and Rabbit. Various meats are quartered, minced and marinated.
A few more fun facts from the show: Parrots are the third most popular pets in the world. Many of these birds are rescued after being injured by cars or careless people. Some owls can eat 23 mice in half an hour! (So you're better off saving an owl than getting a cat if you're looking to keep the mouse population down at your farm!) Owls can hear a mouse heartbeat even if the mouse is below six inches of snow!
There's a collection of birds in this show: Owls, hawks, falcons and even a parrot! Stay alert, because sometimes the feathered friends join the audience by landing in the stands and hanging out for a while.
It's an entertaining education that takes place in the same spot as the Jousting competitions, so you can catch two of the most popular Ren Fest events while you're at this end of the village of Albright.