Raptor Encounters

Raptor Encounters Cover

Curator Natalie Childers introduces a visitor to vulture babies during the Vulture Venture summer raptor encounter. Photo by Jessica Hudgins.

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Never a day passes but that I do myself the honor to commune with some of nature's varied forms. – George Washington Carver

What (or whom?) will you encounter on the Raptor Trail?

Enjoy a variety of "nose to beak" encounters with some of our most interesting raptor species. Whether your passion is eagles or vultures, corvids or owls, there is an experience waiting here for you. Tickets will be sold online up until 24 hours before the encounter and in the Visitor Center up until 30 minutes before the encounter begins.


Offered Sundays at 3:00 pm
Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend

Offered Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 or 3:00 pm
Labor Day Weekend to Christmas Weekend 

Must be 7 or older to participate, not ADA accessible


Eagle Encounter

Take a step into the Eagle Aviary if you dare, have a conversation with Zlaty, the Golden Eagle, and tour Marcy’s Eagle Research Observatory. During this 45 minute encounter, participants will get “nose to beak” with some of our Bald and Golden Eagle residents and have an opportunity to take a photograph with one of these majestic creatures. The Eagle Encounter costs $15/each for members and $20/each for non-members (includes admission fee). Reservations are recommended. Limited to 4 participants. 


Behind the Curtain at the Flight Show

Take Flight with our flight team as you learn what it takes to get our Talons flight show ready. During this 45-minute encounter, participants will learn about the ins and outs of training using positive reinforcement from CRC’s staff trainers. Participants cap off the experience by flying some of our flight team stars including Willow, the Barn Owl. Behind the Curtain costs $15/each for members and $30/each for non-members (includes admission fee). Reservations are recommended. Limited to 4 participants. Only offered during the summer.

Silent Flight Encounter 

Learn all about owls and their nocturnal habits as we fly some of our permanent residents over and around you. Participants will learn about flight training, owl species, and the flight capabilities of these nocturnal wonders. Silent Flight costs $15/each for members and $30/each for non-members (includes admission fee). Reservations are recommended. Limited to 4 participants.


Vulture Venture

Take a walk with one of CRC’s resident vultures during a daily training session. Take flight with Bonsai, the Black Vulture, as he prepares for his flight show responsibilities. CRC is one of the leaders in the US in using positive reinforcement techniques for training its resident birds. Participants will also learn all about vultures and conservation of their species worldwide so that they can tell the world about the need for these birds also known as nature’s garbagemen! The Vulture Venture costs $15/each for members and $20/each for non-members (includes admission fee).  Reservations are recommended. Limited to 4 participants. 


Raven Rendezvous

Learn why enrichment and training are so important for  some of our smartest residents, the corvids, and experience a painting session with one of our artists in residence, Common Raven Diaval. Participants will go home with their very own raven painting! The Raven Rendezvous costs $15/each for members and $30/each for non-members (includes admission fee). Reservations are recommended. Limited to 2 participants. 



Hawk Hang Out

Get nose to beak with hawks and falcons as you watch a flight training session and have an up close experience with one of our raptor residents! The Hawk Hang Out costs $15/each for members and $30/each for non-members (includes admission fee.) Reservations are recommended. Limited to 4 participants. 



Private Raptor Encounters

Can’t make one of the scheduled raptor encounters? You can work with our staff to create a private raptor encounter themed like many of those listed above. Please note that some of our encounters are only offered at certain times of the year. Private Raptor Encounters for up to 4 people cost $150 for members or non-members. To discuss your options, please email Natalie Childers at nchilders@carolinaraptorcenter.org. Include what programs you are interested in, the size of your group and some possible dates and times in your email.

Heat Index Procedure and Guideline

When the heat index is over 95 degrees CRC will cancel all bird appearances, flight shows, and encounters. If you purchase tickets in advance, someone from our Visitor Services team will contact you directly about the cancelation. If you have any questions about this, please call our Visitor Center at (704) 875-6521 x.107. Please check our website the day of your visit for the most recent changes in program and event schedules. When shows are canceled other trail programs are put in place during the scheduled times of 1pm and 3pm on Saturdays and 1:30pm and 3pm on Sundays.

Natalie Childers, CRC's Curator of Birds and Programs, gives a more detailed explanation of why this procedure and guideline is in place below.  

"On average, the birds in our collection run a regular body temperature of 101 degrees or above. Feathering and body structure do not allow birds to sweat, which is why you see them panting to release excess heat (much as a dog or cat will do when they get too warm). If you were to watch birds in their natural habitat, even those local to this area and “used to sitting in the heat,” they will often sit in a shady spot and sleep the whole day through on extremely hot days, and may even choose not to hunt on those days. The inability to sweat, high body temperature, and an already accelerated heart rate means that raptors (and other birds) becoming stressed can be a life or death situation. Being encouraged to exercise or fly in extreme temperature conditions, when they would normally avoid doing so in the wild, could lead to overheating and become dangerous for the bird. In addition, a vast majority of our flight collection are owls, birds that are naturally lazy and fly at nighttime when temperatures are lower. Several of this species are also found in colder climates and are not native to our humid, hot weather. To keep our birds safe (after all, they’re the reason why we’re here!) we choose not to fly them when the heat index is 95 or above. Not only can flying them be dangerous, the birds will most often choose NOT to fly whether we ask them to or not. Our training using positive reinforcement means that the birds are always given a choice, and if the answer is no, we have to respect that and move along to something else. The way we explain to kids is this: Imagine running a marathon at top speed in this kind of heat. Now imagine you’re doing so while wearing a winter coat and pants. That is how the birds would feel were we to “exercise” or “fly” them on such hot days. In addition to bird safety, we also keep in mind the health and well being of our staff, volunteers, and interns. When the weather reaches high temperatures, we encourage even our bird care staff to be inside as much as possible and drink water constantly." - Natalie Childers, Curator of Birds and Programs