Coosa the Barred Owl celebrates 20th birthday

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Coosa the Barred Owl was the guest of honor at his 20th birthday celebration hosted by the Alabama Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park on April 17.

According to AWF Executive Director Doug Adair the birthday party was a fun way to celebrate Coosa who was the very first education ambassador for the center.

“He has been with us and educating hundreds of thousands of Alabamians now for 20 years,” Adair said. “We thought that was a significant milestone and wanted to celebrate his birthday and invite our friends, supporters and the public to the center to be a part of the celebration.”

Guests at the birthday party were treated to games, crafts for children and cake. The AWF introduced them to their education ambassador birds and had an opportunity to take a picture with Coosa.

According to Adair, Coosa represents 20 years of the center offering their environmental education programming, which has seen significant growth throughout the past decade.

“Our founder and longtime executive director Ann Miller had the foresight to recognize the value of environmental education and the way that it would complement our rescue and rehabilitation mission,” Adair explained. “She got Coosa on board and launched the ambassador program, and the rest is history.”

Coosa and the other ambassadors have been instrumental in growing the services that the AWF offers to the public, which also helps to support their mission of rescuing and rehabilitating Alabama native avian species.

“Over the years we have grown from presenting around 30 programs each year to audiences around 5,000 people,” Adair said. “Now we have grown to serving more than 100,000 people with over 600 programs annually.  With all of that we are able to continue offering outstanding rehabilitation care, and we have expanded that part of our mission in recent years. We are also able to maintain release rates that are well above the national average.”

As a way to showcase this dedication to rehabilitation and release, the AWF used Coosa’s birthday party as a way to release a red-tailed hawk and two of their barred owls back into the wild.

“That is always a really exciting event for us. Ir never gets old to send these birds back into the wild,” Adair said. “That is the goal that we set to achieve with every patient that comes into the wildlife center.”

These were just some of the 2,000 patients from over 100 different species that the center cares for each year. Tying together the release program and the education ambassadors gives the public an opportunity to learn more about birds and develop a fondness for environmental education, according to Adair.

“The unique hook that we have in presenting those conservation education programs is the glove trained raptors that are part of our program. We can introduce the public up close and personal to the many beautiful raptor species that we are blessed with here in Alabama,” he said.