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Birds of prey get their day at Elachee's Raptor Fest
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Christian Shallabarger shows off a red-tailed hawk during Raptor Fest on Saturday at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville. Shallabarger is a falconer with Winged Ambassadors in Newnan. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Buster Brown is addicted to falconry. To him, the sport is more than just hunting with a bird; it’s about the care of the bird, falconry education and sharing his love with others.

“It goes way past a hobby,” Brown said.

Brown was one of the falconers who brought birds of prey Saturday to Elachee Nature Science Center’s Raptor Day. There were 14 live birds at the third annual event, including Brown’s Eurasian eagle-owl, Yonah.

“She’s a mountain-sized bird, so we thought the name fit,” Brown, who founded Georgia Mountain Falconry 17 years ago, said.

The massive fox and deer hunting bird, which isn’t full grown yet, was brought out of its black box holder to gasps and “ahhs” from the audience of about 100.

“She’s definitely a handful,” Brown said as the bird flapped its wings and hissed in his grasp.

Christian Shellabarger also showed off the birds he brought from the Winged Ambassadors group. For six years, he’s been a part of the environmental education program.

He brought three birds to Raptor Day, including a red-tailed hawk, a Harris hawk and a barred owl.

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