Few shows are as consistently popular at TRF as our “Birds of Prey” falconry show, located at the beautiful Falconer’s Heath stage. Featuring a delightful cast of both human and fowl, the show is both entertaining and educational. Robby Sinkler, who heads up the production, describes the “Wings of Kings” show as “a portrait of falconry life in the 15th century, blended with modern ecological information, with live raptors demonstrating their natural abilities.” Partnered by his wife Shannon and charmingly assisted by their five year old daughter, their organization, Wild Sky Productions, rescues and rehabilitates birds which are unable to survive in the wild, training them to be featured in a show which conveys positives messages about preserving our natural world.
Many of our patrons are history buffs, so it’s no surprise to them to encounter falcons and other raptors at the Renaissance festival. King Henry VIII was an avid falconer, Anne Boleyn’s crest was a falcon. The sport has been practiced for centuries, with historians finding references predating the Common Era. But for many of our patrons who are new to the Festival, the bird show is a pleasurable and informative surprise.
Sinkler describes how he became involved in the Renaissance festival circuit, “While still a fledgling organization in 1992 that offered specialty programs for theme parks, we were approached by the Entertainment Director of the Georgia Renaissance Festival to develop a medieval version of our theme park show which gained popularity among medieval theme parks very quickly across the country. The Texas Renaissance Festival was our second medieval venue that same year.” Their reputation and audience have grown, with appearances on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Disney theme parks, and other amazing places. Just last month they performed with famous naturalist Jack Hanna!
As an audience member, one of the elements that makes “Birds of Prey” so engaging is the energy and talent of its lead performer. Rob worked as a professional child actor on Broadway, receiving a scholarship to the prestigious New York School of the Arts by the age of ten. He brings that spark of creativity and personality to our stage here, making bird watching fun, and leading a team of equally engaging and passionate cast members, all local naturalists and wildlife professionals who are assembled approximately 2 weeks before the festival opens to rehearse with our feathered stars of hawks, falcons, owls and vultures. Robby calls the staff, deservedly, “super-heroes.”
The real stars of the show are the birds, though! Owls, vultures, hawks, and falcons all sweep through the air, wings spread, accompanied by the delighted gasps of our audience.
Rob describes them like this:
“If you have been one of the thousands of guests who have flocked to our show, you may have seen birds like:
Ed – An African White Backed Vulture who is approximately 30 years old. Although ‘her’ name is ‘Ed,’ she is known for her amazing behavior of stripping the meat off of a raw chicken drumstick bone in 15 seconds or less. This is actually a natural behavior that this vulture does because of their large numbers and scarcity of food in their native habitat.
Orion – is an African Augur Buzzard that is actually a hawk! He has been with us for 15 years and has a special acrobatic skill called cleptoparasitism meaning that he “steals” food in mid-air from other birds that have captured prey. If you hear Orion vocalizing during the show it’s because he doesn’t like the decorative finial birds that adorn the roof of our gigantic bird house (called the Royal Mews) at the Falconer’s Heath Theater.
Owlbus Dumbledore – Is a 4 year old Great Horned Owl, a species found in the United States that helps to balance nature by eating prey such as: rabbits, rats, squirrels, mice, snakes and their favorite food skunks. Owls have eggcellent hearing and eyesight, they can hunt entirely by sound and need as little light as ONE candle to see almost one mile away.
Mario – The Red Tailed Hawk who has been with us for about 16 years. He was found on a playground in Rome, Georgia by children on a playground. He is what’s known as a mal-imprint which means that he does not associate himself as being a hawk. He thinks he is a human! The Red Tail is the most common raptor in North America.
We have many more birds in our cast to meet! Join us 4 times daily to see them in action. It’s a fun, family show guaranteed to leave you in a fowl mood!”
If you’d like to learn more about the art and sport of falconry, take a look: