Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Red-tailed Hawk, Female

The following is a description from guest author Lisa Minzer about her incredible experience as the result of her purchase at Fete du Feather (World Bird Sanctuary’s auction fundraiser) of the Rehabber For A Day package.

Red-tailed Hawk, female is having one bummer of a morning.  She’d barely had time to dig in to her hearty breakfast of chopped mouse and raw chicken before she was rudely prodded from her perch by a human bearing a long metal pole.  To top it off she was captured and imprisoned in a plastic animal carrier and carted away from the open air enclosure that had become her temporary home.

“She’s clearly in no mood to be handled right now, and she lets me know it.”  Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager for the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, MO, gingerly places her in my arms, instructing me to hold her carefully but firmly.  Her back is pressed to my front, and Joe moves my hands into position to grasp her legs just above her talons and hold her wings in place with my forearms.  The thick suede gloves I’m wearing make the task clumsy and the long leather apron covering me from throat to knee hampers my movement.  Joe steps back and nods in approval.

“Bring her down a little lower, Lisa,” he instructs.  “You’re holding her a bit too high.”

I glance down at the immobilized bird, and she’s scowling irritably at me, her mouth open wide.  I think she’s contemplating ripping off my bottom lip. I slide her down further so she’s beyond reach of my face.  I’m kinda attached to that lip.

Holding RTH female 
She’s known only as Red-tailed Hawk, female.  Despite her rehab stint at World Bird Sanctuary, she’s never been named. Naming implies ownership or attachment, and no one can lay claim to something wild like this, except perhaps nature herself.

Birds of prey such as this are instinctively wary—even fearful— of humans, so for their own safety, this natural reticence is carefully protected during their stay at World Bird Sanctuary.  Human interaction is kept to a minimum and birds that will be returned to the wild are deliberately kept away from the public eye.

 “Are you ready, Lisa?” asks Joe.

“I’m ready.”

This is the climactic moment of a long but very fulfilling (and enlightening) day at World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri.  

My sister Mary, me and friend Lisa 
I had arrived earlier that morning with my sister Mary, and friend Lisa, for a rare behind-the-scenes hands-on experience.  Joe Hoffmann, WBS Sanctuary Manager, and Catherine Redfern, Director of Development were kind enough to give us the grand tour and patiently allow us to assist them in their day-to-day duties.  And wow, some of the things we got to do!

Me holding Sirrocco, a beautiful Peregrine Falcon
I was able to meet (and handle) Sirrocco, WBS’s resident peregrine falcon.  Severely injured after a head-on collision with a chain link fence, Sirrocco is now a permanent resident at the Sanctuary, helping to educate the public about raptors like himself.

Holding the three baby Kestrels 
At the animal hospital on the premises, we assisted the vet as she examined the  American kestrel chicks pictured above– three sisters who had fallen from their nest.  Kestrels are the tiniest North American falcon. (They were all just fine, by the way.)

Holding a baby Red-tailed Hawk 
I volunteered to hold this baby (yes, baby) Red-tailed Hawk while my sister carefully used a tweezers to feed him delicious mouse gizzards or livers or something gross like that – it was pretty bloody.

Attaching a creance line to a soon to be released Great Horned Owl
Creancing helps handlers to assess a bird’s flying (and landing) ability.  A long, lightweight tether is attached to the bird and they are allowed to fly in an open field.   The creance allows us to get the bird back after the test flight.  It’s an efficient way to determine a bird’s readiness for release or if more rehab is necessary.  Here, Joe prepares a Great Horned Owl for his test flight.

But now--the release of Red-tailed Hawk female--is the best part of the day, and possibly more than anything else embodies the mission of World Bird Sanctuary – replenishing the wild populations of these birds of prey.

“I’m ready.”

“Okay,” says Joe.   “Then…1…2…3!

Releasing Red-tailed Hawk. female 
My throw is awful, just awful.

Thankfully, Red-tailed Hawk, female, skillfully recovers, and quickly soars high above the meadow as hoped.  A bystander who has paused to watch the release applauds and we wave at him.

We quickly lose sight of her in the stand of trees nearby. As we gather our things to head back to the van, Joe stops in his tracks.


And then we hear it, barely discernible through the filter of the trees: that distinctive, high-pitched hawk call.  And then again…and again…and again.

Our little group chuckles as we muse about what she is saying in hawk-speak: Thank you! perhaps.  Or see ya later!  Or about time!  Or even bad throw, lady.  But of course, no one really knows for sure.

No one, that is, except red-tailed hawk, female.

Submitted by Lisa Minzer, Guest Author

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fowl Play at Birds in Concert this Thursday

Join The Raptor Project as they play family favorites “Turkey Named Fred,” “Roadkill Shiver,” and many more.

Be prepared to be entertained by Fowl Play

After a brief intermission, enjoy the music of Fowl Play and their comedic antics as they cover a variety of popular rock and pop songs ranging from Jimmy Hendrix to Bob Marley, Cheryl Crow, Supertramp, and other recent hits! 

Important Information
Date:            Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Time:            7:00 – 8:30 pm
Admission & Parking:            FREE!

The Birds in Concert series is sponsored by Ameren Missouri

Join us for the Raptor Project, followed by Fowl Play. 

Whole Foods Market will be there with a trail mix station for the kids

…and the Nationwide Hendrixson Agency will be giving away St. Louis Cardinals tickets to some lucky guests.

Bring your blankets, picnics and friends and join us for a fun evening of music!

Snack foods will be available for purchase.

For the safety of our animals and other guests, no pets please.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Albinism in Animals

Science class taught us that the traits of the parents get passed down to their offspring.  For example, two people who have genes for brown eyes will mostly likely have brown-eyed children.
A Leucistic American Goldfinch (photo: Gay Schroer)
But what happens when two perfectly normal parents produce an albino offspring?  Albinism is caused by a genetic mutation that prevents the development of melanin, the pigment that colors our eyes, skin, and hair.  That lack of pigment causes albino animals to appear entirely, or at least mostly, white, and have pale blue or pink eyes.  Some animals are naturally white, like Mute Swans for example, but only albinos will have the pale eyes.  Animals that depart from their normal coloration and have some white on their body, but not completely white, are leucistic.

In the wild, being albino can cause a variety of problems. The white coloration causes the animal to stand out, making it easier for potential predators to spot. However, the white coloration might also make the animal unrecognizable as a prey species.

Another issue caused by albinism is that members of the albino’s own species may reject it. Albino animals, especially birds, may not be able to find a mate because they lack the coloration and patterns necessary to catch the eye of the opposite sex.
A wild Albino Barred Owl (Photo: Kelly Bietsch)
Albinism also affects eyesight. Melanin helps in the development of the eye, and animals that lack melanin often have poor vision. An albino’s eyes are often more sensitive to light, less able to distinguish color, and less able to perceive depth. It is possible that an albino animal would have more trouble finding food or seeing danger, thus decreasing its chances of survival.

In the wild, albinism is not common. The frequency of albinism occurring varies from species to species, but generally albinism is more common in birds than in mammals. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, albinism occurs in approximately one out of every 10,000 mammal births, while approximately one out of every 1,764 birds is albino. Although most, if not all, species can produce albinos, the only commonly albino species are those that are domesticated. Many people like to have albino pets, whether it be a cat, snake, or rat.
Kahn, WBS's albino Burmese Python (photo: JoHanna Burton)
At the World Bird Sanctuary, we do have a couple of albino animals. One of the most popular animals (depending on how you feel about snakes) is Kahn, our albino Burmese python. A normally pigmented Burmese python is patterned tan and dark brown, with dark eyes. Kahn is patterned white and pale yellow, and if that weren’t enough to convince you that he is albino, you could take a look at his pink eyes.
Kahn enjoying his pool on a hot summer day (photo: JoHanna Burton)
You can come to visit Kahn at World Bird Sanctuary's Nature Center, and on warm summer days you might just find him outside with a naturalist, enjoying a refreshing bath.

Submitted by JoHanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Birdlore - Legend of the Red-tailed Hawk

Imagine you’re driving through the open countryside on a sunny day with a few puffy clouds drifting in the distance.   There’s little to no traffic, only farms and orchards passing by on the right and left as you cruise down the highway.  A very uneventful trip, you might say until a flurry of wings diving towards the ground captures your attention! (While still making glances towards the road for traffic, of course!)
Wagner displays the distinctive red tail feather for which the species is named (photo: Gay Schroer)

A Red-tailed Hawk, (buteo jamaiciensis) with its distinctive red tail feathers, has made an attempt to grab prey that it spotted in the tall grass or ditches alongside the road.  My frequent trips into the countryside are always filled with anticipation.  What birds am I going to see?  Where am I going to see them?  Are they just perching or flying?

A Red-tailed Hawk’s typical plummage (photo: The Wikipedia files)
Most of the time I see Red-tailed Hawks perching on branches, often on a specific fence post, or diving for their prey.  Once I even spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perched on the World Bird Sanctuary destination sign at the Highway 44/141 junction.  You simply never know where these hawks may appear next!

Despite how common they are, the Red-tailed Hawk is held in high esteem by Native Americans.  Native Americans treat the Red-tailed Hawk feathers as sacred objects, just as they do Bald Eagle feathers, and incorporate them into religious ceremonies and rituals. 

In the Legend of The Tlanuwa and The Uktena, a village of the Ani Yunwiya (the Cherokee people) rested near a place called Hogahega Uweyu i along the Wanegas, known today as the Tennessee River.  The caves at this place were an ancient home of the Tlanuwa.

The people in the village never had problems with the Tlanuwa before, until one day the great hawks came and carried away most of the young children.  The grieving mothers pleaded with the men to bring back the children stolen by the Tlanuwa.

So the men went to the Tlanuwa caves.  They made ropes from vines growing near by to climb down the cliffs to reach the caves and waited for the great hawks to leave again.  Once they lowered themselves into the caves and found the missing children, they heard more Tlanuwa returning with more children in their grasp.  In order to buy time and distract the great hawks, the men quickly threw the unhatched eggs of the Tlanuwa over the cliffs into the water below.  When the eggs hit the water, the great Uktena, horned serpents, came up from below the water and began eating the eggs as quickly as the men were throwing them.

The Tlanuwa, very angry, dropped the children from their talons to the waiting men below.  A long and terrible fight began between the Tlanuwa and Uktena.  The Tlanuwa destroyed the Uktena into four pieces and scattered its remains across the country.

After the terrible fight, the Tlanuwa were angry at the men for what they had done to their eggs and flew far away, beyond the sky, never to return.

Today, it is still said that on the banks of the Hogahega Uweyu i, one can still see the rocks that were stained from the blood of the Uktena and Tlanuwa from that terrible fight they had in ancient times.
Sequoia, a resident WBS Red-tailed Hawk (photo: Gay Schroer)

While we do not have a Tlanuwa at the World Bird Sanctuary, we do have their descendents (according to the legend—several Red-tailed Hawks on display.  As you stroll our paths and visit the Nature Center, look for the large hawk with the telltale rusty red tail.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thursday Night The Raptor Project Plays at Birds in Concert!

Join us on Thursday, August 14th, from 7pm – 8:30pm while World Bird Sanctuary’s in-house band, “The Raptor Project,” performs songs from their popular children’s environmental education CDs.

The Raptor Project (photo: Gay Schroer) 
Fan favorites from the "Save the Future" and "All Along the Watershed" albums include "Turkey Named Fred," "Roadkill Shiver," "What's the Matter," "The Greatest Possum," and "Animal Noises,"  plus a number of new songs.  Let the kids join in the fun with our dancing DoDo Bird!
The kids join in the fun with our dancing DoDo (photo: Gay Schroer)

Learn fun and exciting facts about the animals we share our planet with as they share the stage with The Raptor Project!  Enjoy the music as our birds swoop just inches over your head.

Whole Foods Market will be there with a trail mix station for the kids.

The Hendrixson Agency will be giving away St. Louis Cardinals tickets.

Mark your calendars!

When:                       Thursday, August 14th
Where:                     The World Bird Sanctuary Amphitheater
Time:                        7:00 – 8:30 pm

Admission and parking are FREE.  No reservations required.  Just bring yourself and your picnic.  Snack foods will be available.  For directions Click Here .

Birds In Concert is Sponsored by Ameren Missouri

For the safety of our other guests and our animals, please no pets.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Following is an email from the World Bird Sanctuary’s Volunteer Coordinator, Melissa Moore.

“It is with a sad heart that I need to tell you of the passing of one of our educational birds.  Early this morning, 8/1,  Millennium, the Peregrine Falcon, left this world.  Some of you may be aware that she had been ill for the past week or so, and had been receiving treatment from our excellent vets and medical staff.  However, they were unable to see her through this illness; we are awaiting results of tests to find out more about the cause, as previous tests were inconclusive.” 

“I only knew Millennium a brief time, but I know that she was much loved by many people.  As an ambassador bird, she represented her species and the World Bird Sanctuary at many events including parades and programs too numerous to mention.  As a Peregrine, she represented the success of the Endangered Species Program and the drawing together of people to fight environmental contaminants.  To those of us who knew her personally, she represented a gentle and beautiful member of our bird team.  We will be sad without her, but will continue our work for birds and the environment with her memory close by.”

Hatched in the spring of 2008, Millenium was a beautiful young Peregrine Falcon who was with us because it was discovered by her falconer/breeder that she was partially blind at hatch.  Rather than having her euthanized because she could not hunt they contacted the World Bird Sanctuary to see if we could use her as an education bird. 

Millenium quickly settled into life at the World Bird Sanctuary’s Office of Wildlife Learning and became a favorite of everyone who met her.  Over the course of her life she educated thousands of audience members about the plight and remarkable comeback of her species.

She will be sorely missed by all.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Javier Mendoza Returns to WBS Birds In Concert

Join us on Thursday, August 7th, from 7pm – 8:30pm to enjoy Raptor Project music, followed by the ever-popular Javier Mendoza.  Javier has been a staunch supporter of the World Bird Sanctuary, returning every year to perform for our Birds in Concert guests.

Javier has sold over 50,000 albums and has received many honors throughout his career, including “Best Solo Artist”, “Best Male Vocalist” & “Best Pop Artist” by the Riverfront Times Music Awards.  He was also a finalist in the Independent Music Awards and was selected as a Budweiser True Music Artist.
Javier Mendoza returns to the World Bird Sanctuary stage Thursday, 8/7 (photo:  Gay Schroer)
Javier has released 14 albums and shared the stage with such notable artists as Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, The Roots, Ben Folds and many more.  His dedication to creating new and different material and his passion for live performance keeps bringing the fans back again and again.  Whether he’s playing for 10 people or a crowd of 10,000, Javier makes each show unforgettable.  The physical and emotional energy he delivers is truly amazing and must be experienced to be believed.

Rather than focusing primarily on the future, Javier’s music focuses on “Now” and how incredible the journey of life can be if you let it.  For Javier living in the “Now” is about personal growth, working with great musicians, new fans, long time fans, and welcoming all that life has to offer without hesitation. 

Last year Javier was invited by the non-profit “Pan Y Amor” to travel to Bolivia to help raise support for neglected and abused children.  A new short video  has been created to help raise support for this amazing program and Javier produced an original song to accompany the film.  All proceeds from the song “The Forgotten” will be donated to “Pan Y Amor”.

There will also be games and giveaways from:

Whole Foods Market 

St. Louis Sprout & About 

and The Hendrixson Agency 

Don’t miss this outstanding musical performance – Mark your calendars!

Where:              The World Bird Sanctuary amphitheater
When:              Thursday, August 7th
Time:                        7:00 – 8:30 pm

Admission and parking are FREE.  No reservations required.  Just bring yourself and your picnic.  Snack food will be available.  For the safety of our other guests and our animals, please no pets.

Birds in Concert is sponsored by Ameren Missouri

Saturday, August 2, 2014

WBS Consulting Services

World Bird Sanctuary has been a consultant on Industrial Properties since the 1990’s.

Our goal is to coach companies on actions they can take to prevent bird deaths, during the company’s normal operation. We do this in a variety of ways.
Roger Holloway, WBS Facilities Management Director, taking part in a field census

First we census the property to find which species regularly use the property.  Then we perform a bird census seasonally or quarterly.  We also look for Endangered Species.

We want to help the companies tailor their operation so as to have as little impact on bird populations as possible.  In order to do this we use a variety of methods to prevent bird deaths, and also instruct them on placing nest boxes to enhance nesting habitat.

Our Field Teams are OSHA and MSHA trained, and we maintain our training with annual refresher courses.

We maintain confidentiality with our clients.

Our goal is to prevent Bird Deaths.

Let us help your operation be safer for birds.  For more information contact us at 636-225-4390 ext 104 and ask for Jeff Meshach, World Bird Sanctuary Director.

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education & Field Team Member


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Whether it be on an outdoor adventure or simply in your backyard, you may have spotted a tree with rows of holes in the bark and wondered to yourself, “What sort of creature made these?” 
A dying Birch tree with rows of sapwells (photo: The Wikipedia files)
I recently came upon one such tree and was struck with a great curiosity to learn more. As you can see in the photograph, there are many rows of holes.
A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo: The Wikipedia files)
The creature who made the holes is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  It is mostly black and white with a red and black face.  The black head feather parts curve down from the bill and eyes to the back of the head and breast shield.  Males have a red throat whereas females’ throats are more of a buff brown.  Keep an eye open for that thick white wing bar as well.
A female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo: The Wikipedia files)

This woodpecker, as its name suggests, drills what are called sapwells into a tree’s bark and laps at the sap and any unlucky insects hidden within the tree.  The brush-like tongue allows for easy access to those yummy treats.  Although they prefer Maples and Birches, this bird will feed from many tree species with sap that has high sugar content. 

Not only do Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers eat sap and insects from beneath the tree bark, they have also been known to eat fruit.  And, don’t forget to keep an eye on those suet feeders as they will occasionally take an easy snack found in your neighborhood.

Don’t be surprised if you have some other visitors to a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sapwell.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird will delight in a sap stop as will many other birds.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to keep an eye out for these interesting birds.  You never know what birds you may see when walking our trails or sitting on the benches surrounding our bird feeding stations.

Submitted by Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Grants Farm Show Trainer


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That's The Spot

Earlier this month I received news that World Bird Sanctuary’s Education Training Center, or ETC, would be housing a white pelican nicknamed Nigel. I have written about him in a previous blog, but for those who don’t know, Nigel was rehabilitated at the wildlife hospital located at WBS.
 From this perspective Nigel is all beak (photo: Adam Triska)
After several months of rehab, Nigel has shown some improvement but still is unable to walk. It was decided that the best thing would be to keep Nigel in the care of people for the remainder of his life. The injury to his left leg and foot is just too debilitating for him to survive in the wild.

 Nigel spends his days in an indoor pool where he swims and eats at his leisure.  One of Nigel’s favorite activities of the day is when we help him preen the feathers around his head and neck. Preening can be described as the behaviors associated with the cleaning or upkeep of the feathers on a bird.  We noticed that he was unable to remove the outer casing of the new feathers growing in, and it seemed uncomfortable for him, so daily we help him out by lightly scratching around his head and neck.  I scratched on the back of his head and he stretched his neck out and started to move his bad leg in a scratching motion, just like a dog does when you scratch behind its ears!  It was a great indication that he was enjoying the extra attention.  It was also a comical and gratifying experience for me.

As much as we enjoy Nigel, hopefully his stay at the ETC will be short.  We are currently working to place Nigel at a different facility.  We want to send him to a place where he will be able to enjoy an outdoor pond and some new pelican friends.  He has been a great resident and teacher to the new interns and volunteers and will be sorely missed when he goes to his new home.
Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary ETC Supervisor

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Year Three of My 365 Photo Project

May has been a very busy month with lots of photography options.  My first opportunity came with a work adventure.
One of the Osprey parents circling overhead (photo:  Cathy Spahn)

 World Bird Sanctuary works with many organizations when it comes to bird issues.  In this case it came with an Osprey that had nested on a crane over 180 feet in the air.  The organization wanted to help the birds, yet the crane was needed.  So, several of us went on an adventure to rescue the eggs.  I stayed on the ground taking photos, since I have a very large fear of heights.
An unhappy Osprey parent (photo: Cathy Spahn)
Walter and Adam adventured up in a lift to the nest to rescue the eggs.  While taking photos of what was going on I took a few nice photos of the Osprey parents as they hovered overhead.   The eggs were taken to World Bird Sanctuary to be put in the incubator.  If the eggs hatch we will then raise the young for release back into the wild.

The next photo opportunity came at World Bird Sanctuary’s Annual Spring Camera Day.  I usually work the event, so I do not have a ton of time to take photos, but I can usually take a few.  There are two photos that came out of this day that I really like.  The first is Rustle, the Nine-banded Armadillo.
Rustle the Nine-banded Armadillo (photo: Cathy Spahn)
This year I decided to try something different and went for Rustle.  Rustle is a very challenging subject to photograph because he does not sit still.  We put Rustle on table with logs, leaves, flowers, and rocks.  He went to town plowing it all over and knocking about 80% on to the ground.  Then he discovered a small colony of ants that came out of the log and he got a nice big snack!  He had a good time and will be a guest again at camera day, but possibly in a different set up.
Oliver (above) & Timber (in box) demonstrating the two Screech Owl color phases (photo: Cathy Spahn)

The next Camera Day photo opportunity came at the end of the day.  I really wanted to try getting a few photos of our two Eastern Screech Owls Timber and Oliver in the same photo.  First the trick to this photo was to keep the birds separated so they could not get to each other.  The first set up involved a large log and one screech owl up high and one down low.  That was a good idea, but the photo was still very distant.  Then I remembered that we have a screech owl box set up.  We put Timber inside the box, since he does not mind the box.  Then we put Oliver on top, since he was not sure of the box earlier in the day.  They both sat perfectly!  This was my favorite of the two birds and a nice way to show the two different color phases.
Jim, the farmer, and me with two of the babies (photo: Jeff Meshach)

The last work adventure that resulted in many photos was a sudden trip.  One day I was leaving to head out bird watching when Jeff Meshach, WBS director, pulled up and asked if I would like to go with him to place Barn Owls for release.  Away we went heading south to a farm with 6 Barn Owls to be hacked into the wild. 
The Barn Owl fledglings adjusting to their new environment (photo: Cathy Spahn)
Hacking is the process of putting young birds into an artificial nest, or in this case a barn.  The nest is closed for a period of time (so the babies can’t leave) and humans provide food.  Then the doors are opened.  As the babies fly to and from the artificial nest, humans provide food for anywhere from a few days to a week.  This supplements food they may catch as they develop their flight skills.  The young are then off and on their own.  This method has been used for a long time and has helped to bring many endangered species back from the brink of extinction, such as the Peregrine Falcon.  This photo was taken by Jeff of Jim the farmer and me with two of the owls ready to go.

So these are just a few of my photos for the month.  Sometimes the photo opportunities are planned and other times they just happen.  I have had people say they want to come with me to take photos.  I can fully admit sometimes it really is just dumb luck on what comes about.  What makes the big difference is just getting out and taking photos--not just sitting at home waiting for something to happen.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist