North Carolina Science Scene

A Duke community guide to science attractions across NC

#3 | Carolina Raptor Center

January 17, 2023
Science Magazine

Tired of feeling like a bird-brain in all of your classes? Owl by yourself and want to fly the cozy nest of your dorm for some science-y adventures? If you have your eagle eye set on seeing some cool critters, the Carolina Raptor Center is the place to go!

The highlight of the Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) is the Raptor Trail, a three-fourths mile walking path that displays over thirty types of raptors (for the bird nerds: families include corvids, eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, and vultures). Raptors, commonly known as birds of prey, are birds that hunt and feed on vertebrates. They are known for their sharp talons, curved beaks, and exceptional speed. 

But the Carolina Raptor Center is more than just a picturesque bird-filled walking trail. According to the CRC, the facility is one of — if not the — largest raptor treatment facility in the nation. More than 800 birds are brought to the facility for rehabilitation and medical care each year. Humans are the leading cause of raptor injuries: the most common afflictions seen at the center are the result of car collisions and gunshot wounds. The CRC also frequently sees injured or orphaned nestling chicks. Despite these obstacles, around 70% of the Carolina Raptor Center’s avian patients are successfully rehabilitated for release into the wild. You can get involved with CRC’s medical center by volunteering as a bird feeder, aviary caretaker, or rehabilitation volunteer. 

The CRC is dedicated to expanding raptor welfare and providing educational resources for raptor enthusiasts. The organization offers a set of professional development courses for people who work with raptors called Raptor Academy, covering topics such as welfare, anatomy, renesting, exercise, and training. The facility also hosts a consulting service that offers advice about raptor training, husbandry, medical care, and rehabilitation. Educational outreach is another large part of the Carolina Raptor Center’s mission. In addition to regular school field trips, the organization also offers free educational programs to low-income Title I schools. For raptor fans at home, the CRC has an ongoing series of short documentary videos called Avian Adventures, featured on their YouTube Channel.  

Located within the Latta Nature Preserve about 30 minutes from downtown Charlotte, the Carolina Raptor Center is an excellent detour from the city’s urban offerings. For an interactive experience at the CRC, make sure to download their app, BirdsInspire, before you go. Once your visit is complete, the Latta Nature Preserve has even more to explore. In addition to the Raptor Center, the preserve features beautiful Mountain Island Lake, the Historic Latta Plantation, over 16 miles of hiking trails, and opportunities for horseback riding and water sports. Next time you're in Charlotte, take a walk on the wild side, and stop by the CRC! 

Before You Go: 


Hours: Open daily in March – October and Wednesday through Sunday in November – February. Morning Session: 10:00am – 12:30pm, Afternoon Session: 1:30 – 4:00pm

Admission cost: students $8.00, adults $12.00

Recommended Excursion: weekend trip


Located on the outskirts of Charlotte, the Carolina Raptor Center is approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Duke University.

All photos belong to

Lydia Cox

Lydia (Trinity ’25) is from Charleston, SC and is majoring in Biology. She enjoys nature photography, arts and crafts, and game/movie nights with friends!

Related Articles