By  //  January 17, 2013

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Park Hosts Dramatic Birds Of Prey Shows

Master falconer Jonathan Wood’s daughter, Rachel, releases a pair of birds at a Raptor Project Show. (Image courtesy of Brevard Zoo)

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The Brevard Zoo will be the scene of one of its most enthralling events this weekend when it hosts The Raptor Project, which involves a close-up view of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls with exercises that show their amazing physical abilities.

The birds on display from Saturday, Jan. 19 through Monday. Jan. 21 have handicaps that prevent them from being introduced to the wild, but those disabilities will not be noticeable as they go through their dramatic exercises.

Jonathan Wood, founder of The Raptor Project, gives his audience close-up views of his impressive birds of prey. (Image courtesy of Brevard Zoo)

Philip Polanco of Melbourne caught the show a few years ago, and he said he was “blown away” by the spectacle.

“First of all, when you see these huge birds with those piercing eyes, you don’t even think they’re real because they don’t move at all,” he said. “But when they get the command to take off and fly around, you can’t believe how fast and powerful they are. It makes me real glad I’m not a mouse.”

The Raptor Show is the creation of master falconer and wildlife rehabilitator Jonathan Wood, who travels around the country with his exhibit. He has tamed and trained his rehabilitated raptors – that is, birds of prey – to serve as dramatic ambassadors of their species, which has often been misunderstood and targeted in the wild.

Raptors like Peacemaker the bald eagle are favorites at the Brevard Zoo. Peacemaker seems to win most staring contests. The zoo’s raptors will not be involved in this weekend’s Raptor Project Show, but as with the show’s birds, they all come from rehabilitation centers. (Image by Robert Hughes)

Wood’s birds come from around the world but mostly North America and range from falcons and owls that weigh a couple ounces to eagles sporting 7-to-8-foot wingspans. His show allows visitors to get remarkably close to 15 to 20 of the animals that are normally impossible to approach.

The zoo’s marketing director Shelley Szafaniec said the Raptor Project Show will be free with zoo admission.

She said, “You can come to the zoo, experience all the things we offer, and then in addition see this impressive array of animals” exhibited with the Raptor Project.

Brevard Zoo keeper Jonny Baker says hello to Neo, one of the facility’s hawks. The Raptor Project will be bringing its own birds of prey to the zoo for shows this weekend and Monday. (Image by Robert Hughes)

Wood describes his show as a way to give Americans a rare look into the natural world.

“We bring some of the most breathtaking predators to within an arm’s length of an enthusiastic audience,” he said. “We take you on a wilderness expedition, a raptor safari.”

Wood is known for his enthusiastic and humorous style and has appeared many times on television, documentaries and movies.

Two Raptor Project shows will be exhibited each day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Nyami Nyami River Lodge at the zoo, just east of I-95 off Wickham Road in Viera. The shows are free with paid zoo admission.

Guests will be able to take close-up photos of the birds and see some of them in flight.

The Brevard Zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last admission at 4:15 p.m.

For more information, go to brevardzoo.org and raptorproject.com.


The Brevard Zoo is hosting a fundraiser for the 16th annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival featuring the Raptor Project from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Nyami Nyami River Lodge. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks of choice will be available from a cash bar. Tickets are $25 per person. The Raptor Project features Jonathan Wood, master falconer, wildlife rehabilitator and founder of the Raptor Project. Plan to spend a wild evening in the company of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls that have enthralled audiences throughout the United States. You will have up-close photo opportunities and have a personal photo taken with a raptor and Jonathan. Advance registration is requested at www.eventbrite.com/event/4764279087 For more information, call the Brevard Nature Alliance at 321-268-5224.