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James Eyring and Eleanor. Photo John Cronin

James Eyring and Eleanor, the Pace barn owl. Photo John Cronin

IF YOU WATCH Pace University’s James Eyring in action you will swear he casts a spell over the falcons, hawks, owls and kestrel that are his wards. But he will be the first to tell you his seemingly mystical powers are based on one simple principle: food.

Trainer and caretaker, he flies the birds around the corral of the Pace Nature Center and lures them to return to his gloved, food-holding, hand, to the delight of students, visitors, staff and faculty. Of course, there is more to it than that, such as three decades of experience and the distinction of being a state-licensed, master falconer.

James also frequents classrooms throughout the region where students of diverse ages and communities share in a common fascination:

With the demonstrations we do, the birds serve as an equalizer. I could walk into a school in Darien, Connecticut, or into a school in the South Bronx and the kids will have the same reactions. I walk in with an owl on my glove and there’s this aha moment that the bird’s presence offers. It really jump-starts the learning.

For more on James and the Pace birds of prey, follow this link.