WINGMASTERS is a partnership of two people
dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of North
American birds of prey. Julie Anne Collier and Jim Parks are both licensed
raptor rehabilitators based in Massachusetts. Together they care for
injured birds of prey. Most of the birds they rehabilitate can ultimately
be released back into the wild, but in some cases the birds are left
permanently handicapped. Julie and Jim are further licensed to provide
a home for these nonreleasable raptors, and to use them for educational
programs. Since 1994 WINGMASTERS has presented over 5000 programs at
schools, libraries and museums throughout New England.
WINGMASTERS can trace its roots back to the 1970s, when Julie began her apprenticeship as a falconer and raptor rehabilitator with longtime raptor expert Dick Lucius (see "Can an Eagle Really Love Dick Lucius?" by Julie Anne Collier in the August 1982 issue of Yankee magazine). Dick pioneered the use of nonreleasable birds of prey in educational programs in Massachusetts, and it wasn't long before Julie was giving presentations with him. In the process she made a discovery that would change her career - she loved teaching as much as she loved raptors. As she advanced through the apprenticeship period and earned her licenses in falconry and raptor rehabilitation, Julie began to gather together a group of nonreleasable raptors (some of which are still with her) and to give programs on her own. In 1990 she quit her job as a dictionary editor and illustrator at Merriam Webster Inc. to become a full-time educator. That same year Jim Parks visited Julie to photograph her birds. Soon he was joining her at programs, and he in his turn discovered a love for teaching that changed his life. In 1994 he left his job in management in the Boston area to give raptor programs with Julie full-time. The partnership they had named WINGMASTERS had taken flight.
A unique part of WINGMASTERS educational programs
is Julie and Jim's use of raptor-related artifacts. Many of these are
of museum quality, and they span many centuries and many diverse cultures.
Julie is part Creek and Chickasaw Indian, and from the start of her
involvement with birds of prey she was interested in showing audiences
the strong connections between Native Americans and birds of prey. She
began recreating headdresses, shields, weapons and clothing that incorporated
her birds' molted feathers, researching and learning as she worked.
She also scoured antique shops for Native American baskets, jewelry,
pottery and beadwork. Over two decades, she has expanded her interests
to include artifacts from around the world and across the millennia.
Julie and Jim integrate this vast collection of raptor-related artifacts
into the different educational programs they offer. WINGMASTERS is the
only traveling program to do so on this scale and with this degree of
diversity and quality.