Earthplace is saving a seat at the dinner table for visitors when the creatures in its menagerie chow down.
The new three-times weekly program allows the public to watch the spirited birds of prey being fed by naturalists and trained volunteers. On alternating days, denizens of the Animal Hall likewise can be joined for lunch.
"We thought it would be a way to make our display more interactive," said Sarah Ferrante, the Earthplace development and marketing manager.
"We feed the animals every day, so we decided to open it up to the public and our members," said Amanda Chisholm, a naturalist educator at the nature center.
On a recent Tuesday, Erika Labrie, an animal-care technician, brought out a carefully selected "luncheon" assortment of rats, mice, hamsters and, for Edgar, the resident raven, and his compatriot crow, Poe, some cat food and an assortment of vegetables.
Labrie and Chisholm explained that dining-time visits are designed to help some of the birds become better acclimated to human contact. Feeding is a key time to allow them to gain familiarity with naturalists, which will eventually lead to their comfort in being handled for education events, or simply for health checkups.
"All of our animals are either rehabilitation animals, permanently disabled or domesticated pets" that people put up for adoption, Ferrante said.
The feeding program is planned in Earthplace's Animal Hall weekly at 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the birds of prey will be fed at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The public is invited to attend for the price of admission to Earthplace, while members of the center can visit at no charge.
For more information, visit www.earthplace.org, or call 203-227-7253.