Charlotte NC Field Trip Ideas: The Carolina Raptor Center

Although I grew up around the Charlotte NC area and have lived here my entire life, I’m always finding new-to-me fun places for field trips with my kids. This past week we found ourselves at the Carolina Raptor Center. 

I had heard of the raptor center and had even been there in my very early teaching days. But I rode in on a bus and supervised a horde of wild beasties. I didn’t remember much except the fact that the place existed. But I knew it was there and thought it would be a great place for my soon to be high school senior who wants to major in some type of wildlife/zoology science and work in conservation. It turned out to be a small but very interesting facility. It did spark Kathryne’s thoughts about different career paths and another way that she could put her interest in animals and their care and conservation to use.

Carolina Raptor Center

The Carolina Raptor Center is located inside the Latta Plantation Nature Reserve in Huntersville, North Carolina. The area was beautiful, and I would love to go back just to spend more time on the Nature Preserve. Besides the Raptor Center, the Nature Preserve is home to an Equestrian Center, the Historic Latta Plantation living history farm, hiking trails, fishing, and picnic areas.

The Raptor Center has a 3/4 mile trail with over thirty exhibits of various raptors. We were given two maps when we headed out, and I let Charles take over the role of route planner.

Homeschool field trip
Although our tour was self-guided, there are plenty of signs along the way that help to clarify what you’re looking at. We were at the center on a weekday when most kids were in school, so there weren’t many special programs going on. Although it may be neat to go back and see some of the programs they have, we thought it was nice to just walk around and see and read for ourselves.
Carolina Raptor Center visit
As we started down the trail, there was board that had different bird wingspans so that you could measure your wingspan against them. The largest was the golden eagle, and none of us were even close to that.
Homeschool field trip to the raptor cetner
The signs told us that this cutie was a Crested Caracara. This is the bird on the Mexican flag. We thought he was very cute, and he caught our attention because he was favoring one leg. 
The Carolina Raptor Center is more than just a fun place to go look at birds. The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey. A part of the organization is a raptor hospital where birds are treated with the intent of releasing them back into the wild. Although many can be released, some cannot. And they make their homes here to serve as part of the center’s educational facility.
Visiting the Carolina Raptor Center
Throughout the trail are interactive exhibits that help visitors learn more about the various birds. We loved this answer about corvids and how they passed on their knowledge to their families.
Raptor center in Charlotte NC
Although the bird exhibits are on an outdoor trail, the trail is easy to navigate. Parents with strollers could get through- although it would be a little easier to enjoy things if you had children who were old enough to walk. The weather was great for us when we visited, and it was very nice to walk an outdoor trail.
Looking at birds in the Raptor Center
The trails don’t just hold cages with birds. There are some special exhibits like this Harry Potter-esque exhibit that contains raptors popular in books and movies. 
Homeschool field trip
There are also some beautiful places like this small Peace Garden. There are, in fact, several places around the trail to sit and rest. We were in a walk and look mode, but I can imagine that it would be a very peaceful place to come on the weekdays when there isn’t much of a crowd. Then you could enjoy sitting in some of these peaceful places, and enjoy the beauty and the birds surrounding you.
Peace garden at the Carolina Raptor Center
I personally enjoyed the Owl Forest exhibit. There was much I didn’t know about owls in the information that was a part of this exhibit. 
Learn about owls

And, of course, the owls are just so cute.

Owls on the field trip
Another exhibit that several of us found interesting was this one that explained the difference between buzzards and vultures. I’ve often heard the names used interchangeably, but we learned that there is actually a difference between them.
Buzzards are similar to hawks. And, in the hawk area, the Raptor Center has a buzzard named Harriet.
Vultures at the Carolina Raptor Center

In the vulture section, we saw this guy- more what I think of when I hear “vulture.” Rachel- my child who also loves naked mole rats- said he was “adorable.” I’m not sure I would agree, but he was interesting.

Visiting the Carolina Raptor Center
As one of the last exhibits on the trail, we were able to see A Day in the Life of a Raptor Hospital. This was especially interesting for Kathryne. The exhibit went through the typical jobs of a raptor doctor all day long.
Taking care of injured birds exhibit

There were a few bird X-rays on display also so that we could see some of the typical injuries faced by the doctors as they treat the raptors.

Injured birds at the Carolina Raptor Center
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour around the trail. Although not much was going on during our weekday visit, the Raptor Center has lots going on at other times. On weekends, they’ll have raptors out and about at some of the Meet and Greet stations. There are docents around and available to answer questions during weekend visits. And there is a flight show taking place at various times all summer long. There are also a variety of learning opportunities, including homeschool days, school programs, and kids’ camps available all through the year. 
If you’re looking for a fun field trip in the Charlotte area- especially if you have animal enthusiasts in your group- The Carolina Raptor Center makes for a fun and educational trip.
Disclosure: We received free tickets to the Raptor Center in exchange for a post. All opinions are entirely my own.

Looking for more family fun ideas:

Field Trip Inspiration 2016

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