Master Falconer Gives Birds Second Chances

Rodney Stotts feels a link with birds of prey. He appreciates their independence and electricity and revels in giving injured birds 2nd odds.

Stotts is aware the sensation. Now a master falconer, he was after caught up in the planet of drug dealing in Washington, D.C. His mom employed crack, his father was murdered, and he viewed pals grow to be lost to street violence.

But Stotts eventually observed a way to go after his desires to get the job done with wildlife and he’s now 1 of only about 30 black master falconers in the U.S.

In his new ebook, “Hen Brother: A Falconer’s Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife,” Stotts talks about the very first river cleanup occupation that got him off the streets and his daily life-transforming come upon with a Eurasian eagle-owl named Mr. Hoots.

Stotts talked to Treehugger about his track record, his passion for raptors, and how he performs as a mentor for kids in will need.

Treehugger: When you ended up in your 20s, you explained on your own as a mid-level drug vendor in Washington, D.C. Why did you believe that you would in no way be the place you are today: both carrying out what you’re undertaking or even becoming alive?

Rodney Stotts: It is not so much that I could not visualize what my upcoming could be. It’s much more like the plan of getting a long run at all just was not a actuality. Expanding up at that time in Southeast Washington, D.C., the alternatives for young males ended up fairly restricted. Generally, our life could go in one of only a few directions: experienced athlete, which was just a fantasy for most of us drug person or drug seller. I selected the third selection, which worked for a while until eventually it didn’t.

Exactly where did your appreciate for character and animals very first commence?

Since I was a minor child, I was curious about animals. Even increasing up in the city, a link to mother nature generally ran by means of my body, as purely natural as blood in my veins. If I had to guess, I’d say it arrived from my mom’s facet. Her grandmother experienced a farm in Falls Church, Virginia. Cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, you identify it, it was on my good-granny’s farm.

Often Mom would choose us there on weekends. The scent of hay, manure, contemporary earth, and animal created me laugh out loud. I do not know why—it just designed me pleased. When we went to the farm, I felt like I was home—not only in a actual physical way, but in my coronary heart. Like my coronary heart was property. 

In the 1st a few months of your career cleansing the Anacostia River, you assisted haul away extra than 5,000 car or truck tires and filled almost 20 dumpsters with river refuse. How crucial was that preliminary position in altering the route of your daily life?

It certainly didn’t come about overnight. At very first, it was just a occupation, like any other work. I required to go out of my mom’s apartment and get my own location. But to do that, I necessary to display a number of pay out stubs to prove to the landlord that I experienced a work and could manage rent. You really don’t get a W-2 when you’re hustling medication. So I would say working on the Anacostia was important simply because it was the very first career I experienced operating in nature, but it took many years for me to know it was time to go on to other points.

How did you satisfy your initially chicken of prey and how did that eventually propel you into a job in falconry?

I never actually recall the initial hen of prey I fulfilled, but the first bird of prey I ever held was a Eurasian eagle owl named Mr. Hoots. At the time, Earth Conservation Corps, where I was performing, experienced begun getting in some injured raptors. Since individuals birds would under no circumstances be equipped to fly again, we would care for them and ultimately use them to educate persons about the lives of raptors and why areas like the Anacostia River were being so critical to their survival. 

Mr. Hoots was a single of the initial wounded birds we took in. When he hopped on to my protecting glove, I was mesmerized. He experienced a wingspan of about six toes, and when he looked at me with his deep, burnt-orange eyes, I felt some thing tug at my soul. 

My link with Mr. Hoots designed me speculate what else was out there for me. Right after a while, I started off thinking how I could begin operating with nutritious birds and support retain them alive. That’s when I acquired about falconry and once I started out, I was hooked.

What is it about birds that fascinates you? How do you attract parallels among them and your possess lifetime?

I really like all animals it just so takes place that I get the job done with raptors. They fascinate me simply because they are independent and highly effective. I see connections not only in between birds of prey and my life but concerning them and the younger people today I function with. So with falconry, when I trap a juvenile raptor, I consider care of it, get it by that very first critical 12 months of lifetime when so quite a few of them die, and then launch it to are living its existence. 

When I get the job done with youthful people—many of whom are at possibility like I was back in the day—I try to educate them about character and wildlife and most of all, that they have choices and possibilities in their life. With any luck , they see that if I experienced the electric power to alter my existence, so do they. 

Who are the youngsters you get the job done with now and how do birds enable them with their own hurdles?

In the past, I have worked with at-risk from several diverse businesses. I also give displays to youthful men and women from different general public faculties. Regrettably, the onset of the pandemic in 2020 curtailed some of individuals functions. But the superior matter is that it gave me time to work on Dippy’s Aspiration. Named just after my mother (her nickname was Dippy), I think of it as a human sanctuary.

Found in Charlotte Courthouse, Virginia on seven acres of land, I’m setting up a place in which folks can arrive to get absent from the town, from their troubles, and camp, find out to grow food, interact with my animals, and just heal from everyday living. People will pay back what they can to occur and experience Dippy’s Aspiration. Just since someone does not have a large amount of money, doesn’t suggest they really don’t are worthy of to have a meaningful expertise. 

I can use all the assist I can get in building Dippy’s Dream, which I’m in essence developing by myself. People today can visit my website to discover a lot more about how they assistance.

What birds and other rescue animals do you live with now? What are their personalities like? How various are they?

I have four birds of prey, three horses, and three dogs. They all have their own personalities. For instance, Agnes is a Harris’s hawk, and she is feisty and humorous. Squeal is additional subdued. And of system, my horses and canine also have their have personalities. The additional you function with them and the more time you have them, the far more you master about them.

Your son wants to adhere to in your footsteps. How did you truly feel when he told you he desired to do what you do?

Mike is a D.C. firefighter and a dad, so he doesn’t have tons of time to go after falconry, but ideal now is at the second amount, which is known as common falconer. I am at the maximum stage, which is known as grasp falconer. Mike and I have normally been close, and I could explain to that he was interested in falconry, but he experienced to come to that final decision by himself.

Becoming a falconer is a critical commitment, and Mike generally understood that. I was so pleased when, back in 2017, Mike instructed me he desired to be a falconer. I knew he was proud of me and factors I have finished in my lifestyle, but to hear him say he preferred to pursue falconry and be like me, it was a very pleased second.