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KEY Academy offers immersive experience with raptors, hummingbirds

Alumni Campus Life Jun 23, 2023
A woman holds a bird
A woman holds a bird

KOKOMO, Ind. — Get a close-up look at Indiana birds, and learn more about our role in protecting them, in a KEY Academy experience offered by Indiana University Kokomo.

Lina Rifai, resident ornithology expert, will lead the two-day program – “From Hawks to Hummingbirds: Indiana Birds” – which includes a trip to a raptor center and looking for songbirds and hummingbirds on campus.

“I’m very passionate about birds, and I love to share my passion and my research,” said Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology. “I want people to see what we are doing here in our local community, and the kind of research taking place on our campus.”

On August 12, participants will take a bus from IU Kokomo to the Indiana Raptor Center in Nashville, to meet and learn about raptors and the people who care for them.

“This center is well known for rehabilitating bald eagles,” Rifai said, adding that they have a flight cage and a tower with food and protection to allow for a soft release when they are ready to return to the wild.

“If they are young, they need to regain their strength to hunt,” she said. “The tower has an enclosure near the top where they can leave them. The eagles can fly out, but then come back for more food if they can’t hunt for themselves. It gives them a chance to build up their strength if they aren’t successful at first, with a soft place to protect them.”

The second session on August 19 will be on the IU Kokomo campus, as Rifai demonstrates how birds are banded for research. She noted the class is at the height of hummingbird season, when it’s most likely to see the state’s smallest birds. She offered a similar program in 2022, and participants saw the first-ever hummingbird banded on campus.

Rifai also will talk about what can be done to make yards bird-friendly, noting that about one-third of North American birds have been lost in the last 50 years.

“We’re seeing some rapid declines,” she said. “We can learn about what the threats are to birds, and what we can do in our own back yards to help the native wildlife and birds. By helping birds, we are preserving habitat, and by preserving habitat, we are helping all wildlife.”

Those interested may register for one or both sessions. Enrollment for the August 12 session is limited to 20 participants, and the cost is $110, which includes transportation and lunch. The cost for the August 19 day on campus is $10.

There is a $5 discount for IU Kokomo faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and a $10 discount for those who enroll for both days. For a discount code, email

Register for the August 12 event at August 19 registration is available at

What is the KEY Academy?

The Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) Academy provides residents with unique opportunities to engage in robust and hands-on learning experiences, and to expand their knowledge in topics covering a wide range of interests.

These experiences can include immersive events, such as trips to ballparks, opportunities to shadow professionals, attend guest lectures led by experts, and much more.

While the length and format of KEY Academy programs vary, a typical experience will include 4-6 sessions, usually conducted in person, over the span of a month or two, such as simulations, retreats, and field trips developed and led by IU Kokomo faculty.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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