‘Wings to Soar’ program shows off rescued birds of prey

Dale Kernahan, co-director of Wings to Soar, shows the crowd at the Patterson Area Civic Center a red-tailed hawk during Wednesday’s presentation to a group of students. (The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald)

Wings to Soar Co-Director John Stokes holds a one-winged bald eagle that was rescued after being shot in the wild. (The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald)

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

Area students got an up-close look Wednesday at several birds of prey as the raptors soared over the crowd at the Patterson Area Civic Center.

John Stokes and Dale Kernahan, co-directors of Wings to Soar, gave a presentation as part of the 12th Annual Eagle Expo and More hosted by the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Stokes and Kernahan are based out of Trenton, Georgia, and care for birds of prey, also known as raptors, that have been rescued and aren’t able to live in the wild. They travel to different states to give presentations.

“These are all birds, for one reason or another (that) can’t go back,” Stokes said.

Some were injured as a result of human activity. Federal law prohibits the hunting of any birds of prey.

Among the birds attendees saw were a one-winged bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, black vulture, American kestrel, screech owl and barred owl. Several of the birds took flight over the crowd of roughly 300 people.

This year is the fifth time Wings to Soar has visited St. Mary Parish for the Eagle Expo, and they regularly see raptors, such as red-tailed hawks and American kestrels, along U.S. 90, Stokes said.

“We love coming down here,” he said.

The pair has been operating Wings to Soar since 2013 and had previously worked with Save Our American Raptors. The founder of that group gave Stokes and Kernahan her blessing to split off into Wings to Soar, Stokes said.

Stokes and Kernahan started working together in 1993 at the American Eagle Foundation, located at Dollywood. They’ve also worked at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Stokes has worked with birds for about 40 years.

“This is something I felt like I was born to do,” Stokes said.

He has worked with a variety of birds from hummingbirds to ostriches, “but the raptors are definitely the birds I really admire,” he said.

Adults will sometimes approach Stokes and Kernahan at shows telling the presenters that they remember seeing the presentation as a child and wanted their kids to experience it, too.

“You never know who you’re going to influence,” he said.

Wings to Soar will have another show open to the public at 6:30 p.m. today at the Patterson Area Civic Center. Admission is free for kids and $5 for adults. The Morgan City Rotary Club is sponsoring the presentation.

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