Conserve Wildlife Blog

Species on the Edge Contest Winners from Previous Years Visit The Raptor Trust

April 18th, 2023

by Rachel McGovern, Director of Education

Each year, CWF hosts the Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest for fifth grade students in New Jersey. Thousands of students submit artwork and essays advocating for the protection of a threatened or endangered New Jersey species of their choice. Winners of this contest attend field trips and events during their winning year and are invited to events for years after to continue learning about wildlife and related careers in New Jersey.

Past contest winners, along with a parent or guardian, gathered at The Raptor Trust’s education center to learn about avian rehabilitation.

Last month, a group of past contest winners braved the rain and cold to attend a special program and tour at The Raptor Trust in Millington, New Jersey. The Raptor Trust provides medical care and rehabilitation to injured and orphaned birds, leads educational programs to benefit native birds, and provides permanent homes to many non-releasable raptors.

Our day began in the Education Center, where we studied avian artifacts and learned about the job of a wildlife rehabilitator and the process of rehabilitation. In the past, the facility received many birds that did not truly need to come in for care. In response, a pre-admittance screening was initiated. This screening asks people that found a bird to send a picture in for rehabilitators to review. As a group, we examined some of those pictures and tested our ability to determine if a bird is healthy or should come in for treatment.

Despite rainy conditions, we enjoyed a tour of the outdoor aviaries

We also toured the facility with Heather, the Education Director at The Raptor Trust. Heather walked us around the outdoor facility and “introduced” us to many of their permanent residents— these are raptors that could not be released after rehabilitation. The goal of rehabilitation is always release, but occasionally there are animals that would not survive if placed back in the wild. On our tour, we saw vultures, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, barred owls, and many other species.

Along the way, Heather told us the stories of some individual birds and how they came to live at The Raptor Trust. She also brought a female American kestrel named Zizi out of her enclosure for us to see. Zizi was found in New York City and was brought to The Raptor Trust in 2015 where she is now an education ambassador for her species.

Zizi is a female American kestrel that has been under The Raptor Trust’s care since 2015.

Our day at The Raptor Trust was enjoyable and educational. More importantly, it showed our Species on the Edge winners the negative and positive impact people can have on wildlife. A simple act like feeding bread to wild ducks can cause severe, life-altering trauma. Yet, there are caring individuals who bring injured animals to places like the Raptor Trust where dedicated rehabilitators work to restore their health. We are proud of our Species on the Edge winners’ commitment to protecting New Jersey’s vulnerable wildlife.

The winners for the 2023 Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest have been chosen! You can view the list of winners now at

We are grateful to our Species on the Edge sponsors for making this program possible: PSEG Foundation, NJEA, Atlantic City Electric, Church & Dwight, Pure Storage, Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery, and the Zoological Society of New Jersey.

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