New Birds of Prey exhibit opens at Atwood Center Sept. 8

Staff Report

Starting Saturday, Sept. 8, guests will be able to experience Atwood Center, 2685 New Milford School Road, Rockford, at a whole new height, thanks to the opening of the Birds of Prey exhibit.

The Rockford Park District will open this new exhibit at 11 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 8. A short ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place followed by Bird Bingo and various bird-related activities.

Birds of Prey exhibit highlights include new indoor housing for all birds; accessible path entrance with welcome signage; enhanced education signage; on-site workroom that allows access to all enclosures; and accessible tree house.

The birds wasted no time making themselves at home in their new, high-quality enclosure,” said Atwood Center Manager Becky Lambert. “Atwood Park is the second largest park in the Rockford Park District, and this exhibit will only enhance the educational opportunities, bring more groups to the park, and make this a family-friendly daylong or even overnight destination.”

Accessible tree house

Guests will have a bird’s eye view of nature in action at Atwood Park. The tree house is elevated 10 feet to 20 feet above ground, and children and adults with mobility issues have access to the amazing views, possibly for the first time in their lives.

Starting Sept. 21, families can participate in “Bunking with Birds,” an opportunity to stay in the tree house overnight while taking part in traditional camp activities and camp meals.

New weekend hours

For the first time in 55 years, Atwood Center will be open to the public on the weekends. Atwood Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., every Saturday, starting Sept. 15, with a scheduled feeding time for the Birds of Prey at 1 p.m.

Atwood Center will serve as a visitors’ center, providing guests the opportunity to take self-guided hikes through Atwood Park, witness scheduled feeding times at the new Birds of Prey exhibit, and ask questions or interact with Birds of Prey volunteers and Atwood Center staff. These weekend activities will all be offered for free.

Birds of Prey construction timeline

In March, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners approved a construction contract. Rockford Structures Construction Company was awarded the construction contract for $310,456.

The project was made possible thanks to many generous donors, such as the Atwood Foundation and Dr. Barbara Mae Atwood’s Animal Foundation, along with Americans with Disabilities Act funding.

Construction began in April by tearing down the previous exhibit, which was in poor repair and was not wheelchair accessible.

Birds of Prey program

Atwood Center has been home to Birds of Prey since 1988. The birds are a critical component of the Rockford Park District’s Environmental Recreation and Education program. The birds in the exhibit are a great horned owl, a turkey vulture, a kestrel, a red-tailed hawk, a barred owl and an American eagle. All are unable to survive in the wild because of previous injuries or impairments, and are used as aids in the Rockford Park District’s strong environmental message to preserve and enhance natural habitat.

For more about Atwood Center, call (815) 874-7576 or visit

From the Sept. 5-11, 2012, issue

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