Dick Lucius and his raptors give nature lessons

Spring is the time of year when many ``fair-weather'' birdwatchers dust off their binoculars, hoping to catch glimpses of their favorite birds singing high in the branches of budding trees. Dick Lucius is a different kind of bird enthusiast. He travels thousands of miles a year to sing the praises of his favorite type of bird -- the raptor, or bird of prey.

A retired Springfield, Mass., firefighter, Mr. Lucius -- with his menagerie of two falcons, two hawks, and a golden eagle -- now works full time boosting public appreciation for birds of prey, which he feels have been wrongly maligned by many because of their predatory nature. He visits as many schools as he can each year.

Lucius says he hopes that through seeing these birds up close his young audiences will grow to admire their beauty and their role in nature.

Even though all raptors, including owls, have been fully protected by federal and state laws since the 1960s, they still are occasionally trapped, poisoned, or shot. ``Keneu'' the golden eagle pictured on page B-1, cannot fly because someone shot off one of its wingtips. It is this type of destruction that Lucius wants to help end through his educational efforts.

Julie Collier, who frequently assists Lucius, says, ``There is just something about these birds that fills one's eye. We're trying to share our enthusiasm for these birds and help people appreciate the natural beauty and dignity that they represent.''

Photographed at a branch library in Hartford, where they appeared recently, Lucius and company seemed to make a strong impression.

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