A Visit from an Ambassador Bird
We’re short of bird handlers at the moment and may not able to accommodate you at this time.
If you’re an educator, community outreach group, or organization putting on an event and you would like to have MARS ambassador birds attend, please fill out the short form below.
Part of the MARS mission is to spread the word about the protection and preservation of wildlife and habitats on northern Vancouver Island and so we love it when the public — particularly young people — can experience our majestic hawk and owls up close, with the interpretative support of our bird handlers.
Our goal is always to release sick or injured animals into the wild after they have recovered, but that isn’t always possible. For various reasons, our Ambassadors are permanent residents of MARS. They travel to classrooms and the wider community with a volunteer bird handler to act as “spokesbirds” for all wildlife.
John and Lanei, a Western Screech Owl
Preparing for an
Ambassador Bird visit
Seeing an owl or hawk up close can be an exciting experience. A bit of preparation will make the encounter enjoyable for audiences while remaining safe and comfortable for the bird.
Please prepare the space:
- Fairly quiet without a lot of echo
- A place where the handler & birds can have their backs to a wall
- Can be outside against trees or under shade
- A flat, stable surface for the bird’s kennel. A table is better than the ground
Please prepare the group:
- Calm bodies, calm voices, hands as still.
- Remind the audience that these are wild birds, not pets, and they will not be able to touch them
- Sometimes birds poop. This can be a surprise! Handlers will have pads to catch the cloacal fluid.
- Sometimes birds “bate” or fly off the glove. This is also a surprise. Because the bird is attached to the handler by leather straps, this is more flapping than flying and doesn’t hurt the bird.
- Handlers love questions and also love to hear what you already know about wildlife and conservation.
Every donation to MARS helps us help wildlife patients.
Classes and community groups support us in a variety of ways. We are inspired by the creativity and compassion of our youngest visitors.
Here’s how some groups have supported us:
- bake sales (Muffins for MARS!)
- making and selling book marks with wildlife art
- car washes
- bringing refundable bottles
- gathering items from our hospital wish list
- fundraising for our current focus on our Ways to Help page
We know that behind these efforts are dedicated teachers and leaders–we are grateful for all you do to educate the next generation of wildlife champions.
Request a Visit
Kiersten and Brinley, a Great Horned Owl
Our birds and handlers have met the public at events such as Eagle Fest in Campbell River and the Shellfish Festival in Comox and have visited many classrooms around this part of Vancouver Island. Bird handlers share the life story of their specific bird while it sits on their glove, secured with thin leather straps called jesses. Together they educate the audience about bird anatomy, behavior, and habitat, and explain threats to their survival. Ambassador training takes time and patience for both the bird and the handler. Our education program has over a 100 bookings per year, and relies on bird handlers to volunteer their time to meet the busy schedule.
Maj Birch, our founder, with Shakespeare, a Barred Owl
Our ambassador birds are not pets, and a respectful distance is appreciated.
Amazing experience. Great and passionate volunteers and a very well designed setup. I can imagine taking my kids multiple times year round.
Went on a tour with Scouts and was amazing and the person giving the tour was super knowledgeable. Thank you.
Such a lovely place to learn about local wildlife, the animals are well cared for and the staff volunteers are wonderful.