Merlin's story is a little sad. He was brought to the center in 1987 as a juevenile. He had spent several weeks (illegally) with humans, who took him from his nest, which resulted in Merlin becoming imprinted on human beings. Imprinting means a bird will relate to humans, not their own species, which leaves them with no hunting or other survival skills.
There is a small window of opportunity where birds imprint on their caregivers, whether it is human, animal, or another bird. From that point on, the bird will try to learn the behaviors of their caregiver for survival, and if it is a human versus another bird (in my case, an owl), well it leaves little room for the bird to learn how to live as a bird.
After arriving imprinted on humans, Merlin was place in a large aviary with other owls. Sensing that Merlin was "different" from them, the owls attacked him, leading to the loss of his left eye. So, now Merlin cannot be housed with other owls, but is now an Ambassador of the center and helps teach children and adults about owls.I have to say that he has one of the most espressive, soulful faces I've ever seen on an animal.
My friend Mary adopted a Red Shouldered Hawk named Picasso who also lost an eye. I don't remember Picasso's story, but he sure was beautiful.
We also got to see some of the center's absolutely gorgeous bald eagles. Up close, they are very LARGE and so very stoic. All in all, it was a beautiful day!