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The Faith of a Falconer

Rodney Stotts is the founder of Rodney’s Raptors, an organization that exposes people to nature and educates them about raptors and falconry.

Rodney Stotts is the founder of Rodney’s Raptors, an organization that exposes people to nature and educates them about raptors and falconry.

Rodney Stotts with one of his birds; photo by James Kegley

1 of 9 Directed

Growing up in Washington, D.C., Rodney Stotts saw the short life of a drug dealer as his only option. Then, as a teen, he got involved with a program reintroducing bald eagles to the Anacostia River and fell in love with raptors. He thanks God for the calling that saved him.


Rodney's aviaries; photo by James Kegley

2 of 9 Hawk Home

Rodney is one of about 30 Black master falconers in the country. He builds 8×8-foot aviaries for the birds he cares for.

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Rodney works with at-risk youth; photo by James Kegley

3 of 9 Rodney’s Raptors

He inspires at-risk youth to believe in themselves, sharing how being responsible for his birds helped him imagine a better life for himself.


Rodney on horseback on his rural Virginia land; photo by James Kegley

4 of 9 Outdoorsman

Rodney takes his raptors hunting on seven acres he bought in rural Virginia. He keeps up with them on horseback.


Mr. Hoots, a Eurasian eagle owl; photo by James Kegley

5 of 9 Love at First Sight

The first bird Rodney ever held was Mr. Hoots, a Eurasian eagle owl who is now 32 years old.


Rodney and one of his birds; photo by James Kegley

6 of 9 Dippy’s Dream

Rodney plans to create a “human sanctuary” on the land he purchased, where inner-city youth can camp and connect with nature, raptors and horses—a dream dedicated to his mother, who was known as Dippy.


A bird's talons on Rodney's falconer's glove; photo by James Kegley

7 of 9 Holding On

Naysayers told Rodney that Black people couldn’t handle the training and seven-year commitment required to become a master falconer. “Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something!” he says.

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Rodney stands before his memorial wall; photo by James Kegley

8 of 9 In Memory Of

Rodney asks each visitor to sign a wall memorializing a friend or relative. Four of his eight fellow founding members of the Earth Conservation Corps, the Anacostia River clean-up program, have died.


Rodney with Agnes, a Harris’s hawk; photo by James Kegley

9 of 9 Kindred Spirits

Most raptors in the wild don’t survive their first year. It’s a reality Rodney understands. “Without the birds, without God, where would I be?” He feels spiritually connected to Agnes, a Harris’s hawk, and the other birds of prey entrusted to him.

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