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Beth Bidwell's program offers an up-close look at rescued birds of prey

It's not uncommon for Beth Bidwell to hear Oh my gosh, it's the bird lady! when she's out shopping.

That's because Bidwell is well-known in the Capital District for her "Birds of Prey" program. Bidwell, the executive director of the Wildlife Institute of Eastern New York, brings large birds such as hawks and owls to local schools, libraries and other venues, letting audience get an up-close view of the creatures and teaching them what makes the birds succeed as hunters.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Bidwell will bring some of the birds to the Albany Pine Bush for two programs. The first, from 6 to 6:45 p.m., is geared to families. The second show is from 7 to 7:45 p.m. The cost is $2 per person or $5 for families. Children younger than 5 get in free.

Wendy Borden, the communications outreach director at the Pine Bush, expects a nice-sized crowd, as Bidwell is always a big draw.

"It's one of our most popular programs," Borden said.

The birds that will share the stage with Bidwell have all been hit by cars and are not able to live on their own in the wild, she said. Despite their injuries, they make an awe-inspiring sight.

"They all look pretty good," Bidwell said, noting that the most noticeable flaw on any of the birds is a droopy wing.

"It's pretty awesome," she added. "People are blown away to see them up close."

Bidwell's talk typically touches on birds' habitats and how they survive in the wild. She sprinkles in information about the birds' physical characteristics, including what it is that keeps them at the top of the food chain.

"A lot of people learn little-known facts," Borden said. "They're surprised at how much red hawks actually weigh."

Bidwell puts on more than 300 programs per year, and not all of them deal with birds. The Wildlife Institute of Eastern New York, which is based in Fort Ann, also has a program that deals with local wildlife such as turtles, spiders and snakes. Its tropical rainforest program touches on pythons and millipedes, while the snapping turtle is one of the focal points of the "Adirondack animals" program. Other offerings include a "creatures of the night" and a "reptiles and amphibian" program.

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