WINGMASTERS is a partnership of two people dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of North American birds of prey. Julie Anne Collier and Jim Parks are both licensed raptor rehabilitators based in Massachusetts. Together they care for injured birds of prey. Most of the birds they rehabilitate can ultimately be released back into the wild, but in some cases the birds are left permanently handicapped. Julie and Jim are further licensed to provide a home for these nonreleasable raptors, and to use them for educational programs. Since 1994 WINGMASTERS has presented over 5000 programs at schools, libraries and museums throughout New England.

WINGMASTERS can trace its roots back to the 1970s, when Julie began her apprenticeship as a falconer and raptor rehabilitator with longtime raptor expert Dick Lucius (see "Can an Eagle Really Love Dick Lucius?" by Julie Anne Collier in the August 1982 issue of Yankee magazine). Dick pioneered the use of nonreleasable birds of prey in educational programs in Massachusetts, and it wasn't long before Julie was giving presentations with him. In the process she made a discovery that would change her career - she loved teaching as much as she loved raptors. As she advanced through the apprenticeship period and earned her licenses in falconry and raptor rehabilitation, Julie began to gather together a group of nonreleasable raptors (some of which are still with her) and to give programs on her own. In 1990 she quit her job as a dictionary editor and illustrator at Merriam Webster Inc. to become a full-time educator. That same year Jim Parks visited Julie to photograph her birds. Soon he was joining her at programs, and he in his turn discovered a love for teaching that changed his life. In 1994 he left his job in management in the Boston area to give raptor programs with Julie full-time. The partnership they had named WINGMASTERS had taken flight.

A unique part of WINGMASTERS educational programs is Julie and Jim's use of raptor-related artifacts. Many of these are of museum quality, and they span many centuries and many diverse cultures. Julie is part Creek and Chickasaw Indian, and from the start of her involvement with birds of prey she was interested in showing audiences the strong connections between Native Americans and birds of prey. She began recreating headdresses, shields, weapons and clothing that incorporated her birds' molted feathers, researching and learning as she worked. She also scoured antique shops for Native American baskets, jewelry, pottery and beadwork. Over two decades, she has expanded her interests to include artifacts from around the world and across the millennia. Julie and Jim integrate this vast collection of raptor-related artifacts into the different educational programs they offer. WINGMASTERS is the only traveling program to do so on this scale and with this degree of diversity and quality.

Over the years Julie and Jim have had ample opportunity to evaluate what teaching methods work and which don't, particularly in schools where most of their programs are given. The partners are firmly committed to giving educational programs of the highest quality. WINGMASTERS presentations are not merely show-and-tell displays, with an unrelated mixture of animals. Each of the different programs is carefully constructed to teach a specific category (such as Ancient Civilizations, Falconry and the Medieval World or Native American Artifacts) that dovetails with school curricula. WINGMASTERS programs are noted for a calm atmosphere that promotes learning. There is always an interactive exchange of questions and answers during the program. However, for the safety of the audience and the well-being of the raptors used in their programs, the birds are never free-flown and are never handled by anyone but Julie and Jim.

Now WINGMASTERS has moved to the next educational level with this Web site, which Julie and Jim hope will become a valuable educational resource for teachers and students everywhere. Posted here are in-depth species profiles on raptors of the Northeast, accompanied by Julie's artwork and Jim's photographs. The site will be constantly updated with articles on birds of prey in history and art. These will be specifically designed to mesh with school curricula and to provide educators with hard-to-come-by research information. Julie and Jim hope to make their Web site good-looking as well as informative, a showcase for the magnificent birds of prey that have been part of their lives for more than two decades.


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