Visit the Raptor Center

A closer look at the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center

Eagle
••• Todd Ryburn Photography/Getty Images

Have a bird-day party. Meet bald eagles up close. Hoot with owls. And do it all for a good cause when you visit the Raptor Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. This bird sanctuary is a favorite place for locals and visitors, adults, and children. 

The Raptor Center is a department of the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine, on the university's St. Paul campus.

The Raptor Center rescues, treats and rehabilitates injured birds, with the aim of releasing them back into the wild. Minnesota is home to a number of different species of raptors: bald eagles, American kestrels, four species of falcons, three species of hawks and twelve species of owls. All of these birds, as well as birds from surrounding states, are treated at the Raptor Center.

Background of the Raptor Center

The Raptor Center was founded in the early 1970s, and since then has been pioneering new treatments for raptors. The center is a world leader in innovation in raptor medicine and surgery, and trains veterinarians from around the world.

Birds who are too badly injured to be released are housed at the Raptor Center. Once recovered, these birds become "education raptors" and are the ambassadors of the Raptor Center's programs to educate the public about the threats facing raptors. These are the birds you will meet when you visit. Many raptor species are endangered, largely due to human activities.

How to Help the Birds

There are various ways to help to protect raptors. Many injured raptors who come to the Raptor Center have been hit by cars. Raptors often forage for roadside trash thrown or dumped from cars, putting them in danger of being struck by passing vehicles. So beyond donating to the center and visiting to educate yourself, your daily activities can help, too. Don't throw food or trash out of your car, for starters. 

The Raptor Center is open to visitors most days. During the week, the Raptor Center is open to the public on Tuesday through Friday. Tours are free, although donations, and/or purchases in the gift shop, are appreciated and go to help the cause.

Plan Your Visit to the Raptor Center

The best time to visit is the weekend when the Raptors of Minnesota program is presented. Guests can meet live raptors, tour the Raptor Center and outdoor raptor housing and learn more about the work of the Raptor Center. The program is presented 1-2 p.m. most Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are inexpensive.

Another offering at the Raptor Center, perfect for kids who are into wildlife, is to book a birthday party, otherwise known as a "Hatchday Party." Your child and his or her friends can hang out with a real raptor, do a raptor-themed craft and will receive raptor-themed party favors.

The Raptor Center also presents lectures and runs programs for children, including a summer school. Fundraising events are held at different locations around the Twin Cities.

Raptor Releases

One of the highlights on the Raptor Center's calendar is the annual spring and fall Raptor Releases. Rehabilitated raptors are returned to the wild, and the public is invited to come and admire these magnificent birds flying free.

The spring Raptor release is usually in early May, and the fall raptor release is usually in late September. The Raptor Center's website has all the information on these events and other happenings at the Raptor Center that you can coordinate with your visit to Minnesota.