One newspaper described him as a combination of Dr. Doolittle, Jay Leno and Billy Graham. His message of conservation, mixed with humor and evangelism for his feathered friends makes him very much in demand at schools and fairs.
We met Jonathan Wood of the Raptor Project at a performance at the West Virginia State Fair in Fairlea. In his introduction to a standing room only audience during his mid-day performance he says, "We've got some birds to show you here today. We have some amazing birds called raptors. The birds we are going to show you are absolutely amazing. They come from all over the world and represent many different habitats."
Operating out of a custom-built RV, Jonathan Wood and his wife, Susan, share the spotlight with nearly two dozen birds. Traveling thousands of miles and across dozens of states each year, their Raptor Project exposes people to birds of prey, like eagles, falcons and owls. Holding a falcon he explains, "She's got a leather hat or hood. This is what she looks like underneath. Isn't she beautiful. This doesn't hurt the bird. It fits very comfortably. It fits nicely over the birds head and keeps her nice and calm and quiet."
He goes on to say that parents can purchase similar hoods for their unruly children. Mixing humor, with decidedly conservation and educational messaging, Wood parlayed a boyhood love of birds into a full-time career, saying he's living the American dream.
He and his birds have been featured in movies, commercials and on television news and talk shows. One bird in particular, a bald eagle named Uncle Sam, gets a lot attention. "I want to give you some really good news about bald eagles. How are they doing? They're doing great" he tells his audience. That was not always the case. The bird was an endangered species for four decades, for 40 years. But they made a huge comeback, a big turn around."
Many of his birds were hurt in encounters with people, rehabilitated, and given new leases on life as educators and entertainers. They are the ambassadors and Jonathan speaks for them all in the spirit of protecting, preserving and perpetuating some of our best known and most majestic flyers. For information on him and his birds, visit www.raptorproject.com.