Wingspan's beloved birds have been revelling in being back in the freedom of the skies and the centre is enjoying support from the community since reopening after lockdown.

Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre director and founder Debbie Stewart says the period of Covid-19 has been a hard time for everyone, including the centre.

She says onsite visitors, trading, and school visitors and education were all affected by lockdown, which are integral to the centre's programme.

"Of course economic depression too, those sorts of things, and at the same time our birds have been in lockdown too, so it's been hard times."


However, through all of that the centre was still doing admin and education work, albeit virtually through social media, which included podcasts and virtual visits.

"What did happen is we had an increase in bird sightings of falcons in people's backyards.

"People were taking note of the wildlife and feeding through that information."

Debbie says there were also still rescues going on, and there were injured birds being found which Wingspan was able to look after and then release.

"So now we are planning the new Wingspan post-Covid-19. Our birds have had a bit of cabin fever and now they are striding the skies over the ancestral lands here.

"I think they are just happy to be outside."

She says one problem has been since their birds had been lounging in their aviaries they had put on a bit of weight, so their muscles need to be built back up.

Debbie says Wingspan opened for the first time since lockdown last weekend, and that the centre was touched by the local support.


Recently, local support has also included a giveaway which the Ngongotahā Four Square is currently holding.

This giveaway is supporting one of the initiatives Wingspan is developing.

She says the initiative is promoting rest boxes for people to put up in their backyards to help provide shelter for ruru morepork owls, and provides the birds with an opportunity for nesting and a safe haven.

"It's about wildlife engagement in people's backyards."

Four Square Ngongotahā will be giving away one of these Ruru Rooms, along with a family membership to visit Wingspan. For more information go to the Four Square Ngongotahā Facebook page.

Debbie says, "The messages have been to support local and certainly that's exactly what they are doing here, which we are grateful for".

"Wingspan has a long association with the Ngongotahā village. We would like to think that the visitors to Wingspan helps the businesses in Ngongotahā too."

At the moment, bookings are essential at Wingspan and people can reserve spaces.

"We've spread out our seating so people have their own bubbles, and we are capping the numbers of people at events, but it's not so bad now that we've moved to 100."

They will be waiting until level 1 to let children hold falcons on the gloves.

Looking into the future for Wingspan post-Covid-19, Debbie says the centre is always developing its programme and working towards fundraising for its new research and education centre

She says they are excited by the support of a lot of local sponsorships, such as from Timberlands, Treewalk and Nissan.