Moore excited for the future after Raptor Center internship opportunity

Working with raptors might sound like a job from “Jurassic Park,” but for Cornell College student Alina Moore, it was a very challenging and rewarding reality. (Unfortunately, we couldn’t locate any velociraptors in Iowa, so we had to stick with birds of prey instead.) 

Moore, an environmental studies major, first heard about the Iowa Raptor Project from Marin Dettweiler ’19. The Cornell senior decided to reach out and express her interest in the organization, and it didn’t take long to land a summer internship even though her experience with birds was limited to the cockatiels she had as pets growing up. 

Her tasks included presenting birds to visitors, cleaning the mews (birdhouses designed for birds of prey), office work, and training Tigerhawk, a peregrine falcon.

Alina Moore poses in front of one of the mews.
Alina Moore poses in front of one of the mews at the Iowa Raptor Project.

Animal training has always been a key interest to Moore. While she mainly envisions herself working with dogs rather than birds, she noted that there are many striking similarities when it comes to developing behaviors. Dedicating so many hours during her internship to raptor training has further cemented Moore’s plans for her future after graduating from Cornell: training animals (primarily dogs) for therapeutic and service purposes. 

Moore says the greatest aspect of her internship experience was that it gave her the opportunity to focus on her senior capstone, which follows her progress throughout the summer handling the birds. 

“When I first got here I could handle the little birds, like the American kestrels and the Eastern screech owl,” she said. “And then, you have to take a test to demonstrate your knowledge in order to handle the larger birds.”

Eventually, Moore was able to work with birds that were considered progressively more difficult.

Alina Moore and her favorite raptor, Saguaro.
Alina Moore and her favorite raptor, Saguaro, a Harris’s hawk.

“[My capstone] is about my progress in feeling more comfortable handling these bigger raptors, knowing the power they have, but then figuring out that I’m actually the one in charge.”

Holly Anthony, assistant director at the Iowa Raptor Project, pointed out that public speaking is another skill interns develop with their organization. 

“Being able to talk to people about these species is really important,” Anthony said. “It takes a lot of reading and learning to do that and watching [Moore] do that has been really impressive.”

While we may not be admitted to Jurassic Park any time soon, Moore knows spending time with the raptors in Iowa is definitely the next best thing.