Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Top Eleven

The Top Eleven Things You Can Do To Become A Super Bird Nerd!

WBS receives no federal or state funding.  Your Friend membership will help to support all aspects of our mission. In the photo above volunteer Jena Baumgarten educates visitors about Sassy the American Kestrel and her species. (photo: Gay Schroer)

Become A Friend Of World Bird Sanctuary – World Bird Sanctuary receives no state or Federal funding to do all we do.  That includes seeing 400+
birds per year at our wildlife hospital, conducting field studies such as banding and tracking bird populations, breeding birds both for reintroduction to the wild and for education purposes and presenting world class education programs to public and private audiences.  World Bird Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3), non profit, tax exempt organization.

Your WBS Friend Membership Includes:
*            One year’s subscription to our newsletter—the Mews News—printed three times per year.
*            Reusable WBS shopping bag
*            10% discount on all World Bird Sanctuary merchandise in our gift shop
*            10% discount on all public programs offered at World Bird Sanctuary, such as Owl Prowls, Nature Hikes, etc.
*            Invitations to members-only events held at World Bird Sanctuary

An individual membership costs just $35.00, a family membership is $50.00.  Click Here to become a friend.

Your $25 donation feeds me for one week  (photo subject - Captain, a young Bald Eagle) (photo: Dawn Griffard)
*            $25.00 feeds one Bald Eagle for one week
*            $10.00 feeds a Screech Owl for one month
*            $20.00 buys bedding for our rabbit for two months.

Your donated dollars go a long way to take care of our animals.  Click Here  to make a donation.

Your inscribed brick will be installed in our amphitheater and will be a lasting tribute to the honoree (photo: Gay Schroer)

Buy A Brick! – celebrate a special occasion, a bird-loving family member, your business or organization or your family by buying a brick to be installed in our amphitheater for all visitors to see!  Or commemorate the life of a loved one who has passed on.  Bricks cost between $125.00 - $425.00 depending on size, inscription and logos.  Click here to order your brick. 

You can adopt Goblin (or any of our other animals) for a year  (photo:  Dawn Griffard) 
Adopt A Bird! – All of the birds and animals that call the World Bird Sanctuary home are available for adoption.  An adoption fee helps us take care of your specially chosen animal for one full year.  In addition to the warm fuzzies you’ll have knowing that you are helping your favorite animal at the sanctuary, you’ll also receive the following!
*            Certificate of Adoption with a full color photograph of your special animal
*            World Bird Sanctuary sponsorship for one year
*            One year’s subscription to our newsletter – the Mews News – printed three times per year
*            Natural history and life history of your special adopted animal
*            Plush bird toy
*            Reusable WBS shopping bag

*            10% discount on all World Bird Sanctuary merchandise in our gift shop
*            10% discount on all public programs offered at World Bird Sanctuary, such as Owl Prowls, Nature Hikes, etc.
*            Visiting privileges and photo opportunities with your special new member of your family (just call ahead first to make sure your adopted friend won’t be out on a program).

To Adopt A Bird or other resident animal Click Here or call 636-861-3225 and ask for Marion.

Sign Up For A FREE Schnucks eScrip Card – Every Purchase Counts!
The World Bird Sanctuary can benefit every time you shop at Schnucks Supermarkets.
Sign up for an eScrip card and Schnucks will donate up to 3% of every dollar you spend to World Bird Sanctuary.  There is no cost to you!  Just present your card (which you can easily keep on your keychain)

You can get an eScrip card at any Schnucks store and activate it with World Bird Sanctuary as your beneficiary.
Fill out on-line at
Or download the form and we will send you one – it couldn’t be easier!

Rehabilitation of just one bird is costly .  Help to defray the cost and at the same time personally return a bird to the wild. (photo: Joe Hoffmann, WBS Hospital Manager, looks on as Dr. Stacey Schaeffer treats an injured Great Horned Owl) (photo: Gay Schroer)

Return to the Wild – Take part in the release of a rehabilitated bird!
Returning a bird of prey back to the wild can cost up to $1,000 in care and rehabilitation.  Your contribution of only $150 helps the sanctuary defer some of those costs and gives YOU the opportunity to participate in the release of a wild bird of prey!

Invite family and friends to join you in releasing a bird of prey at your home or nearby park.  Celebrate a wedding, birthday, anniversary, family reunion, school or corporate function with this special gift.

The World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital is a cornerstone of the World Bird Sanctuary and is entirely funded by donations from the public.

Help us give our patients a second chance to fly.  Click on the following link to sponsor a release today, then click on the Donate button – or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 101.

We train hard to be on the eagle flight team.  Your sponsorship helps to pay for our food, housing and training (Clark the Bald Eagle practices glove to glove flights)  (photo: Gay Schroer)

Sponsor Our Eagle Flight Team
Our Eagle Flight Team flies for special occasions such as St. Louis Cardinal’s ball games, corporate events, St. Louis Earth Day, Veteran’s Day events, and various local, state & government events.

Our team consists of four Bald Eagles:  Lewis, Clark, Buford and Norbert, who need their regular round-the-clock care along with travel and other expenses.  Your team sponsorship helps our eagle team with these expenses, but also celebrates the glory of the Bald Eagle’s survival in the wild in North America!  Together as a nation, we have brought these precious creatures back from the brink of extinction.

Every time our eagles fly it reminds all who experience the sight why these beautiful birds are our national symbol.  To sponsor an Eagle flight Click Here
We are so excited about our newest t-shirts.  They feature photos of our own birds!  Come check them out at the Raptique Gift Shop (photo: Dawn Griffard)

Purchase Items At Our Nature Center Gift Shop – The Raptique
Our gift shop features a variety of items for kids and adults alike.  Choose from plush birds and animals, geodes, pins, patches, hats, custom t-shirts (some featuring our own birds), toys, collectibles, hand painted glass mugs and wineglasses, jewelry and more!  All proceeds for the gift shop go directly to the support and care of our birds and animals.

During your visit ask one of the naturalists how I help the environment…I am a very interesting fella!  (Photo above is Kinsey the Turkey Vulture) (photo: Dawn Griffard

Come enjoy our sprawling 305 acres of oak-hickory forest.  Bring the family, take a hike, have a picnic at one of our picnic tables or under a shelter, talk to our birds and animals, watch the wild birds and animals, chat with one of our staff naturalists or volunteers.  Breathe deep the surrounding sweet air.  Become familiar with us and our animal family – become one of us.

Volunteers fill many niches at WBS-from working in the hospital to doing clerical & carpentry work.  For working with the birds volunteers receive on-the-job training from our experienced staff members.  (photo: Gay Schroer)

The World Bird Sanctuary offers many ways to volunteer with us.  You can be a Naturalist, an Animal Care Technician, a Rehabilitation Technician, a Docent, or assist with bird banding, maintenance or clerical work. 

Junior volunteers can start at age thirteen and can help as a Naturalist, in education programs and with animal maintenance.  To learn more about our Junior Volunteer program or to download a Junior Volunteer application Click Here.

Volunteering with us is a gratifying experience.  Some of our volunteers have been with us for twenty years or more!  Come fall in love with our birds and our lifestyle.  You’ll be glad you did. 

To learn more about our volunteer program or to download an application Click Here.

Submitted by Dawn Griffard, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, October 2, 2015

Meet Coal

The story of how Coal, the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), came to the World Bird Sanctuary is unusual to say the least! 

Coal, a Great Horned Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)

He arrived in 1984 while still an egg, from a coal plant in Florida.  A female owl had laid an egg under a seldom-used coal conveyor belt!  When they were getting ready to use this area a worker was inspecting it and found the “nest” under the conveyor. The owl had scraped a bowl in the coal dust and laid two eggs in it.

Our founder, Walter Crawford, happened to be in Tampa on business at the time, and received a call saying that there were two black eggs under the conveyor belt.  The concept of black eggs sounded odd so he went to the plant to check it out.  He ended up taking the eggs because they would have been destroyed when the conveyer started, acquired permission from wildlife officials, and brought them back from Florida in his pocket.  He did not really think they would hatch but in the end Coal hatched and his origin is how he received his name.  Surprisingly, he did not have any ill effects from the coal dust.

Having been hatched and raised by humans, Coal is very calm and accustomed to being around people.  This makes him a great member of our education department as they travel all over the country and present hundreds of programs every year.  Each year our programs are viewed by close to a million people, and while Coal doesn’t take part in all of them, he certainly travels a lot!

Look for Coal in the weathering area (photo: Gay Schroer)

Lately, Coal has been busy with our ‘Owl Prowl’ programs, which take place from November to March.  We introduce our visitors to various owl species and then go for a night hike to see if we can ‘hoot’ to find any wild owls that live in the neighborhood.  Coal is a great part of the program because he will hoot at the least suggestion of another owl (or person!) hooting to him!  To hear an owl live and listen for wild ones to answer is such a big thrill!

When we refer to Coal as “he” it is because we believe him to be a male due to his small size.  As with most birds of prey, the females are larger than the males.  To determine the sex, as there are no external indications, we would need to take blood samples, which is a stressful procedure for the birds!

When you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, look for Coal in the weathering area behind the Nature Center.  This is where he usually resides when not traveling to an education program with our staff.

As with all of our animals, Coal is available for adoption through out Adopt A Bird program.  To adopt Coal, Click Here, or call 636-861-3225 and ask to speak to Marion.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Weathering Storms

This summer was particularly wet. There was plenty of rain, thunder, and lightning, and while we were likely holed up in our houses, warm, safe, and dry, our wild feathered friends were outside. Although they might not have the luxury of a roof and four walls, birds have their own methods of surviving inclement weather.
A typical Midwest thunderstorm (photo: the wikipedia files)
First and foremost, birds take shelter during a storm. Fortunately most of our backyard birds are small in size, allowing them to take advantage of microhabitats. Hiding in the small spaces inside a hedge or on the lee side of a tree can make all the difference during high winds. Instead of being buffeted by driving wind and rain, a little bird will stay relatively warm and dry.

Preparation for storms is crucial, because birds will not be foraging for food during inclement weather; instead, they will devote their energy to staying safe and warm. Birds may be able to detect changes in barometric pressure, which would explain how they know to increase foraging activity before a storm hits. The extra fats and other nutrients that a bird acquires during this foraging give the bird a better chance of survival.

Of course, some storms are too severe for birds to safely weather. Tornadoes, for example, are so destructive that even taking shelter in microhabitats is not likely to protect a bird. The only sure way to survive a tornado is to avoid one – which is exactly what some birds do. A recent study on migration accidentally discovered that birds that had already returned from migration went out of their way to avoid a storm system that was producing tornadoes.

Warblers (a group of birds within the songbird order called Passeriformes) that had been outfitted with trackers showed something odd: the birds suddenly traveled 400 miles south of their breeding grounds. A day later, scientists noted a massive storm system moving towards the area the warblers vacated. Because the weather conditions were still normal as far as the researchers could tell, they are not entirely sure exactly how the birds detected the storm.   They believe, though, the warblers may have been able to detect the low-frequency sound that tornadoes produce. Such a deep sound, below the hearing capacity of humans, can travel well ahead of the storm and warn any animals that can hear it.

Mother nature can be fickle, and birds must be resourceful to deal with the variety of conditions that nature can throw at them. Especially in a changing climate, birds must be able to adapt, and ultimately evolve, or else perish.

Submitted by JoHanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, September 28, 2015

Some People Are Just Mean!

We have all met someone who fits that description. 

Some people might be rude and pushy to other humans, but when someone directs their venom at animals, they are wrong inside and out.  It seems to sometimes be a judgment call on the worth of life. 

A Mississippi Kite recovering from a gunshot wound in our hospital (photo: Joe Hoffmann)

Recently, a group of kids chose to kick an injured hawk around like a soccer ball and a kind young man stood up and stopped them. Then, with the help of his parents, the young man delivered the bird to the World Bird Sanctuary.  Some people are heroes and some we should call ignorant no matter what the age. 

There are so many cases of animal cruelty that we hear of or that we experience, but conversely there are a great majority of cases of people who go out of their way to help animals. 

It is illegal to harm or harass any migratory bird according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act adds more restrictions and penalties if someone was to injure or kill a Bald or Golden Eagle.   Many birds are targeted because of misconceptions about eagles or owls killing livestock or flying away carrying someone’s pet.  These of course are myths and legends; not fact.

Raptors might be seen eating a dead animal, but something else killed it and the bird of prey is just scavenging an easy meal.  As far as a threat to your domestic pets, birds of prey usually hunt the smallest and easiest prey.  Cats kill millions of songbirds and other wildlife each year and feral dogs have overtaken many wild areas.  It is more likely your pet might be killed by a fox, coyote, raccoon, bobcat, or a long list of possible culprits. 

This week we received a hawk from the St. Louis area that was shot by someone because they had a small dog.  This was a juvenile hawk that was just hatched in the spring and was starting to hunt. It was only nearby, but these people felt this was their solution. It is wrong, as well as illegal. 

A few months ago we received two Mississippi Kites from the Affton, MO, area that were shot.  They primarily eat large insects, but the person who shot them thought they might eat the birds in their yard. No matter what someone’s excuse is, shooting these raptors is pure ignorance. 

One of the reasons World Bird Sanctuary is in existence is to help change the minds of people about birds and wildlife.  We have naturalists available from 8 to 5 almost every day of the year that can answer any question anyone may have.  The information almost always helps people learn the correct facts about them, and helps dispel myths and ignorance.  Please give us a visit.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary Hospital Manager

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Keeper Talks

Did you know that you could shadow one of the World Bird Sanctuary’s Keepers on his or her morning feeding rounds every Saturday or Sunday?  No reservations necessary.

Guests following our Keeper on her morning rounds. (photo: Gay Schroer)
Meet one of our Keepers on the front porch of our Wildlife Hospital at 9 am any Saturday or Sunday or catch up with them as they make their way down the exhibit line path.   You can accompany him/her on the morning rounds as they feed the birds on our exhibit line.

As you accompany our keeper you will be given information and backgrounds on the individual birds and their species and have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about them. 

This is a year-round program and is like having your own informal personalized tour—and it’s FREE!

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Monarch Miracle

On Saturday, 9/19, I was witness to a miracle that occurs twice every year! 

Monarch butterflies on a Common Milkweed plant (photo: Gay Schroer)

Every year—usually during March in the spring and the last week or two of September—the Monarch butterflies migrate through our yard.  This miracle of nature never ceases to amaze me.  Now I’m not talking about the 3 or 4 Monarchs you may see feeding or resting in your flower garden during the summer months.  These migrating Monarchs are already three or four generations removed from those summer butterflies.  The summer Monarch generations have a short adult lifespan—only three to five weeks, compared to eight to nine months for the migrators, or the so called super generation.

In the spring of the year, usually during the second week of March, clouds of Monarch butterflies migrate from their wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico to various locations in North America as far north as Canada.  This generation of Monarchs has already survived a long southward flight in the fall.  They have evaded a host of dangers, including predatory birds and vehicle collisions, storms, winds and cold.  Those that reach their wintering grounds in Mexico are the only Monarchs left that can produce a new generation.

As they pursue their migration path north and eastward in the spring they seek out the milkweed plants necessary to the survival of their species, upon which they lay their eggs, recolonizing the southern United States before they die.  Soon these eggs hatch and the emerging caterpillars feed on the milkweed plant, which is so crucial to their survival.  These caterpillars then metamorphose into the familiar orange and black adults, which in turn pursue the milkweed ever northward as winter loses its grip on the land.  They in turn lay their eggs, etc., etc., continuing this life cycle throughout the summer.  Before the summer’s end there are once again millions of Monarchs inhabiting the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

When the late Summer and early Fall generation emerges they are biologically and behaviorly different from their summer ancestors.  The shorter days and cooler temperatures trigger changes.  Even though these “migrators” look like the summer adults, they won’t mate or lay eggs until the following spring when their generation has left the mountains of Mexico.  These are the Monarchs that migrate through my St. Peters, Missouri, yard each late summer and early autumn.

At first you may ask, “What’s so great about that?  Other animals migrate.”  But stop to think—this is a creature that weighs less than a paper clip and is as fragile as a piece of tissue paper; yet it survives a journey of thousands of miles against huge odds.  This is not even the creature that made the original journey.  It is several generations removed from that original Monarch.  How did it know to find it’s final destination—right down to the same specific tree that it’s ancestor rested upon in Mexico several generations ago?  How does it know, each year, to rest for a night in one particular pin oak tree in my back yard—even though there are dozens of trees of the same species in my yard and surrounding yards?   To learn more about the amazing Monarch Butterfly and its life cycle Click Here.
Butterfly Weed, with its striking orange blossoms, attracts other creatures as well as Monarchs (photo: Gay Schroer)

I consider this creature a true miracle of nature—but there is a problem.  As we humans spread out more and more into the suburbs and the surrounding countryside, we destroy the natural growing habitat for the milkweed plant.  In addition, as more and more land is cleared for agriculture, shopping malls, parking lots and other accoutrements of civilization we rely on herbicides to keep the “weeds” down.  There is less and less milkweed to nurture the Monarchs.  In recent years scientists who study the Monarchs have noted an alarming decrease in their populations. 

What can I do, you may ask?  We as individuals may not be able to solve the whole problem, but we can help by growing milkweed in our gardens.  If every gardener nurtured a small patch of milkweed it would give this valiant little flyer a place to lay eggs for the next generation. Milkweed is a sun loving plant, so shade gardens are not to its liking.  However, my husband grows Butterfly Weed in a pot on the deck of our Ozarks cabin, and each year it draws dozens of Monarchs to its bright orange flowers.

 To learn more about growing milkweed in your garden Click Here.  Even though common milkweed presents a containment problem in the garden, this website offers several tips on containment measures.  It also gives information on other forms of milkweed—most notably, Butterfly Weed, which is a very striking plant if your garden has a suitable site for it.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Philippine Eagle

The importance of a species or what is necessary for a species to survive is one very complicated subject.  Wild animals don’t have stores to buy food and apartments to crowd into.  While we take this fact for granted every day, one of the world’s largest raptors is in a whole lot of trouble.

The Philippine Eagle (photo: the wikipedia files)

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is one gigantic bird!  Another name for this bird is the Monkey-Eating Eagle because, well, it eats monkeys--primarily Macaques.

When I say this bird is gigantic, what I’m saying is it stands 3 feet tall and weighs around 15 pounds!  I can’t even imagine having an eagle of that size on the glove.  It would be more than half of my height!
This species is, unfortunately, critically endangered and it is endemic (restricted) to the Philippines.  But, over the last 20 years it has been completely removed from all but four of the Philippine Islands: Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar.  There are now less than 200 individuals remaining, most of which are located on the islands of Mindanao and Luzon--with only a few nesting pairs being found on Leyte and Samar.  Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution are the main reasons for their decline. 

These birds have always been prized for their size but locals killed them to protect livestock as well.

Deforestation is a major concern; it reduces habitat for their prey, and reduces their available home range.  Philippine Eagles have been known to have a territory of up to 50 square miles.  To date around 80 percent of the rainforest has been lost to deforestation.  Philippine eagles search for the tallest of trees in the tropical rainforest.  Choice trees rise above the canopy and they need those old growth, very large trees in which to nest.  Newly planted, smaller trees just don’t work.

We tend to look around us at all of the trees and think that deforestation isn’t a problem.  We hear about new trees being planted to replace old ones and believe that we are repairing damage; that those new trees make up for the damage.  However, the fact remains that habitat has been lost.  Old growth trees can be hundreds of years old and these birds don’t have the time to wait around for us to mend our mistakes. 

By the time our attempts at reparation reach a real habitat gain this animal may already be gone.

To learn more about the Philippine Eagle and programs that are currently being implemented by the Philippine Eagle Foundation to save this magnificent creature from extinction Click Here.

Submitted by W. Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's In A Name?

Many people know that a group of birds can be called either a flock or colony, but little do they know you can also call a group of geese a gaggle, or a group of loons an asylum.  Birds by themselves are called by their species name, but when you get a group of them together we like to refer to them as a whole.
The origin of many collective nouns for animals can be traced back to the 15th century to one of the first published books, The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms (also known as The Book of Saint Albans) by Dame Juliana Barnes (1486).

It is unknown if Barnes coined these terms herself, or rather recorded the terms that were considered proper at the time.  The section on hunting contains the list of special collective nouns for animals, which are rarely used today, with some exceptions that have been resurrected in the last 100 years or so.

A murmuration of Starlings (photo: wikipedia)

The animal group names typically refer to a particular behavior the animals have when they are gathered together.  A group of flamingos is called a flamboyance for their brightly colored feathers and elaborate/showy display when walking together.  A group of starlings is called a murmuration (murmur: a low/indistinct, continuous sound) for their highly social roosting behavior that can number in the thousands. 

A group of raptors can be called either a cauldron or kettle due to the tendency of birds circling in a thermal updraft, to communicate, gain altitude to help their daily movements, and conserve strength for either upcoming hunting or migration.  A group of falcons or hawks can be called a cast (falconers term for flying multiple birds together), while a group of eagles is called a convocation (a large formal assembly), and a group of owls is called a parliament (a discussion; a group of people who meet to discuss matters of state).

While some of the group names are silly (a gulp of cormorants) some have more serious origins (like a murder of crows).  Most of these terms are rarely used today, even in science, but they embody our linguistic ingenuity and affinity for nature and its' beauty.

Submitted by William (Derek) Oberbeck III, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Friday, September 18, 2015


The Military Macaw, also known as Ara militaris, is a large sized parrot.  They are native to the regions of Mexico and South America.  They are officially listed as endangered, mostly due to deforestation.  Although endangered, they are still available in the pet trade industry.
Our resident Military Macaw, Murdock (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

Military Macaws can be identified by their bright green feathers and blue flight feathers, along with a red patch around the beak area.  These birds can reach up to 30 inches in length.  In the wild, they can be found in large flocks.  Their diet consists mostly of fruits, seeds, and nuts.  The sounds they make are identified as loud shrieks.

If you are thinking about adding a Military Macaw to your family, there are many different facts about this bird that you should take into consideration.  These birds are very intelligent and easy to train, as long as you have experience in training birds.  They are even capable of learning how to mimic a few words if you take the time to work with them. 

Ideally, however, these beautiful birds are suited for experienced bird owners, as they can be stubborn and crabby.  Military Macaws are social and animated birds.  This means they require a great deal of attention.  If they do not receive the attention they crave, they can become difficult and destructive pets.  It is suggested to always have a large parrot toy in their cage, along with old papers for them to chew on as a way to keep their lives enriched.  These birds are very vocal.  They are capable of making extremely loud, crackling, shrieking sounds.  It can sometimes be ear piercing.  Military Macaws require regular exercise outside of their cage.  Daily exercise is recommended.

There is one last matter to consider before making one of these birds a part of your family.  Military Macaws can live 50+ years.  This means they may outlive you.  I highly recommend you create a backup plan of someone that can adopt your macaw from you if the day comes that you are unable to physically care for it.

To learn more about Military Macaws, visit our resident macaw, Murdock, in the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center.  He loves entertaining the visitors and playing peek-a-boo as well.  

Submitted by Erica O’Donnell, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It’s Windy Out There

Almost every day after each of the World Bird Sanctuary Stone Zoo bird shows, one of the staff gets asked how much Norbert our Bald Eagle weighs.
Norbert, the Bald Eagle (photo: Sandra Lowe)

Usually we respond with a question, asking kids and adults how much they think he weighs.  The answers are almost always higher than 20lbs, because most people don’t understand bird anatomy (Norbert weighs just 7 pounds). 

The reason for this faulty weight perception is twofold; the first is something that’s not visible to the naked eye.  Unlike we mammals, birds have hollow bones!  The second reason is one that we can easily see, but usually don’t take into account when doing our weight calculations—feathers!   Feathers are very lightweight—even though there may be several thousand of them on a bird such as an eagle. 

Let’s talk about feathers--that amazing adaptation that gives birds their beauty, insulates them from the heat and cold, and most importantly—allows them to fly.  (Of course, there are some flightless feathered birds, but that’s a discussion for another day.) 

Flight feathers are common to the majority of bird species.  Birds’ feathers will help to catch air, which allows them to stay in flight.  Their wings allow them to direct the air so that they can create lift.  They also will use their wings to flap, soar, and hover, but that depends on what their wings are built for.
Diablo, a Tawny Eagle, has passive soaring wings (photo: Aurora Potts)

There are four different wing shapes.  The first one is Passive soaring wings, which means these birds have long primary feathers (the outermost feathers on the wing).  These long feathers, with slots between each of the outermost five, allow these birds to catch the upward movement of vertical columns of hot air called “thermals” and to fly higher in the sky.  Some examples of these birds are eagles, hawks, and storks.

The second type of wing is the Active soaring wing.  This means that these bird wings are narrow and long, allowing them to soar for long periods of time on horizontal wind currents.  Examples of these birds are gulls, albatrosses, and gannets.

Another type of wing is the Elliptical wing.  These wings are very good for a short burst of high speed flying.  Crows, ravens and sparrows are some examples of birds that have Elliptical wings.
This American Kestrel is a good example of High Speed Wings (photo: Gay Schroer)

The last type of wing is the High speed wing.  The birds in this category have long narrow wings, which allow them to fly very fast for a long period of time.  Swifts, ducks, falcons and sandpipers are some examples of these birds.

As mentioned above, although all these birds are very different, they all have one thing in common... hollow bones, which allow them to be lightweight.  This is a key factor to why birds are able to fly.  Since birds are so lightweight, wind does tend to affect them while they are flying.
Riley the Barn Owl (photo: Aurora Potts)

At WBS’s Stone Zoo bird show in Boston we definitely have windy days that have affected our birds.  For our Barn Owl, Riley, wind can cause him to have to flap harder and longer to fly through the wind to get from one trainer’s glove to another.  Diablo our Tawny Eagle does sometimes get blown off course of his flight pattern on very windy days, but because he’s physically fit from all the practicing we do with him, he always fights through the wind to come back.  Our Red and Green Macaw Rio actually is the exact opposite of my other two examples; she would rather wait for the wind to die down, then fly.
Rio, the Red & Green Macaw (photo: Aurora Potts)

Those windy days can definitely make bird shows very interesting.

Submitted by Taylor Zant, World Bird Sanctuary Stone Zoo Naturalist/Trainer