Prospect Park’s got talon: Raptor Fest touches down in Brooklyn’s backyard

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SHE’S OWL THAT: Wildlife rehabilitator Cathy Horvath holds a Eurasian eagle owl.
BIRDS ON PARADE: Park ranger Rob Mastrianni holds a red tailed hawk at Raptor Fest.
LET FREEDOM WING: A bald eagle reveals its impressive wingspan as it takes off.
DON’T LOOK NOW: No, that’s not an owl hat. Young Madelyn Payne is standing in front of an expertly handled bird.
PUT A BIRD ON IT: Sadie Horvath holds an American kestrel, which her family is rehabilitating at their home in Long Island.

Call it a talon show.

Bird lovers gathered in Prospect Park on Oct. 5 to learn about the kind of raptors you can see without queueing up “Jurassic Park.” The families in attendance were thrilled to see the feathery beasts up close and personal, a falconer who participated said.

“People were really excited,” said Cathy Horvath, a wildlife rehabilitator from Long Island who brought birds to show off for the annual event called “Raptor Fest.”

The predator pageant is meant to teach people about the winged hunters native to Brooklyn’s backyard. The term “raptor” describes all birds of prey, including owls, falcons, eagles, and others.

Every year, Horvath releases a rehabilitated raptor into Prospect Park several days before the event. This year’s new tenant was a red-tailed hawk who city officials had rescued from Marine Park and turned over to the Horvath family.

Horvath, a veterinary technician, and her husband Bobby have been nursing animals back to health for more than 20 years at their Massapequa, Long Island home, she said. They have, she added, spent most of that time working with the city to care for injured animals found in any of the five boroughs.

“From Montauk to Manhattan, we rescue,” she said.

Horvath brought many of the birds for this year’s Raptor Fest, including an American kestrel, a Eurasian eagle owl, and several other fierce flyers, all of which she and her beau are currently in the process of treating. And the birds were only a small sample of the wildlife staying temporarily in the Horvath home. The whole family pitches in to take care of a house that is full of animals year-round, Horvath said, explaining that she hasn’t taken a vacation in years.

Horvath has been doing this work as long as she can remember, she said. As a child she used to sneak injured animals into her bedroom and care for them under the radar of her largely unsympathetic parents.

“I was always getting grounded,” she said. “But now I’m a big girl and I can take home whatever I want.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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