Park District’s Birds of Prey exhibit wins award

Staff Report

In just a few short months, the new Birds of Prey exhibit at Atwood Center, 2685 New Milford School Road, Rockford, has gained statewide attention.

Friday, Jan. 25, Atwood Center staff accepted the Outstanding Facility & Park Award from the Illinois Park & Recreation Association.

The purpose of the Outstanding Facility and Park Award is to honor public agencies for outstanding and unique achievements in the design and development of park or recreation facilities.

It was an amazing feeling to be recognized among park and recreation professionals from across the state,” Atwood Center Manager Becky Lambert said. “We are so proud of the unique design elements that allow us to enhance the educational opportunities at Atwood Center, and really be the new, family-friendly daylong or even overnight destination. We knew the exhibit was unique, but we are now finding out just how rare it is to have an accessible tree house, not only in Illinois, but throughout the Midwest.”

In September 2012, the Rockford Park District opened the new Birds of Prey exhibit, which takes the experience at Atwood Center to a new height. 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.

New elements at the Birds of Prey exhibit include 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.

Accessible tree house features

Guests have a bird’s eye view of nature in action at Atwood Park. The tree house is elevated 10 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. 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.

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, screech owl, 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.

In September, Atwood Center started to do something that hasn’t been done in 55 years. The center is now open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 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 are all offered free of charge.

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

From the Feb. 6-12, 2013, issue

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