Monday, September 1, 2014
The World Bird Sanctuary is known for our work with birds of prey, but we also have some cute, fluffy little friends running around the Lower Site.
A few of this year's crop of chicks (photo: Adam Triska)
Twenty-four Araucana and Cochin chicks have hatched within a 3-week period out of our incubators. Just about every day there is a new little one peeping from the back hallway where the incubators are located. The two species are unique in their own way and fascinating to work with.
Every morning when I come into work, I find myself going to the incubators in the ETC (Education Training Center) to look for another new hatchling. Some chicks we find completely hatched, but others are slow to emerge from their shells. We remove them from the top incubator racks that are designed to hold the eggs, then put them on the more secure bottom racks to dry for 24 hours. After a full day of drying, the little chicks join the other hatchlings in our baby room.
Here you can see the rumpless characteristic of the Aruacana chickens (photo: Gay Schroer)
The Araucana chicken originated in Chile. This fowl is actually a hybrid between two separate species of South American chickens. The Colloncas are rumpless, meaning they have no tail or pygostyle (bony structure to support the tail), and are known for their brilliant blue colored eggs.
Here you can see the odd feather tufts sported by many individuals (photo: Gay Schroer)
Queteros are known for their loud, beautiful sounding males and tufted ears. The Araucana is a delightful combination of these two exquisite species, bringing together some of their most distinguishing features. Breed standards vary dependent upon region. The North American standard for an Araucana calls for a rumpless chicken that lays blue eggs and has ear-tufts.
The Cochin Bantam chicken initially came to us from China. There are two variations of the story about how this species gained popularity with the rest of the world. One account tells that the private collection of the Emperor of Beijing was stolen by British soldiers. The lighter version of the tale says that the Emperor gifted a flock to Queen Victoria. Both versions convey that the Queen fell in love with her new feathered friends.
Bantam Cochin chickens look like they're wearing pantaloons (photo: Gay Schroer)
Bantams are known for their short, round shape and feathers that cover their feet. The hens are very good egg sitters and have been used as surrogate mothers for raptor eggs. Their friendly disposition and fluffy appearance have earned them a great reputation as kind, gentle pets!
It’s a refreshing change of pace to work with such cute, defenseless little fuzz balls. I will never lose interest in tending to the babies and watching them grow up. Before you know it, the males will start strutting and the females will lay eggs!
The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary see if you can spot these two distinctive chicken breeds. The Aruacanas are the odd looking tailless chickens with the funny looking feather puffs on the sides of their faces. The Cochins can be found in the Nature Center and in the Environmental Education Center (often running loose to greet visitors)—they are the little chickens that look like they’re wearing pantaloons!
Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Educational Training Center Superviso
Saturday, August 30, 2014
The Greater Sage Grouse is found in the grasslands and plains of the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Their range used to cover 13 western states and 3 Canadian provinces. Currently, it is only found in half their historic range.
A male Greater Sage Grouse (photo: The wikipedia files)
The Greater Sage Grouse is the largest grouse in North America. Grouse are chicken-like game birds ranging in height from 12 to 37 inches and from less than 1 to 14 pounds. They have feathers covering their feet and toes in winter to protect them when walking on snow. The Greater Sage Grouse ranges in height from 22 to 29.5 inches and from 2 to 7 pounds. Adults have long pointed tail feathers. The males have a small yellow patch above their eyes, grayish brown plumage, with white around their neck and breast.
What makes the Greater Sage Grouse unique is their courtship display and complex mating rituals. The adult males also possess two yellow sacs on their chest, which are inflated with air and produce interesting sounds. Some sound like popping sounds similar to the uncorking of a bottle. Males will also strut and dance and fan their spiky tails out.
Please click here to watch a video of a male performing a strut display. These birds return to the same breeding grounds every year. The places where males come together and engage in competitive displays in hopes of enticing viewing females are called leks. Dozens of males will be on display but only one or two will be chosen by the females for mating.
After mating, the females leave and find suitable nesting grounds. They will nest on the ground, preferably under sagebrush for cover. They lay between 6 and 10 eggs, which hatch after 25-29 days. The chicks are precocial, which means their eyes are open and they are covered in downy feathers when they hatch. They are able to walk soon after hatching. Sage grouse spend 60 percent of their day eating insects, leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit. By five weeks old the chicks are strong flyers. Come winter, they may flock together or disperse.
The Greater Sage Grouse is listed as a near threatened species due to human development, conversion of land for farming, oil and gas development, and climate change. The only other species of sage grouse, called the Gunnison Sage Grouse, is on the endangered species list for the same reasons.
Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Here is another poetic flight of fancy by guest author Marge Biermann. While bats and owls would never coexist side by side in the real world, Marge’s tale poses the question….what if?
Once in the still of a dark, cold night,
A single black bat took to his flight.
He was looking for a friend that would fly with him,
And maybe hang out on a Sycamore limb.
Flying solo was a lonely place to be….
What fun to have company, perhaps two or three.
Suddenly Bat saw a strange camouflaged kind of bird,
With the oddest call he had ever heard.
Oliver the Eastern Screech Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
Great large round eyes held him in his gaze.
Bat wondered if he worked nights and also slept days.
No harm in asking, though most birds didn’t like bats,
Being often associated with Black Halloween Cats.
But in no time at all these two were fast friends.
They would never, however, make attractive bookends….
One…coal black, small and quite fast,
While Owl was large and stoic in contrast.
Scar, an African Fruit Bat (photo: Gay Schroer)
Both had radar to fly easily in the dark,
But in a tree they had different methods on how to park!
One sitting upright to take in the panoramic view,
While Bat hung by his feet….all the better to look at you!
Talks were filled with Owl wisdom and Bat’s latest escapade,
So between these two a permanent bond was being made.
God created many animals….feathered and furred,
Different voices across the world to be heard.
He also made man the very same way….
All can’t understand what the other has to say.
Maybe we should take a lesson from our little bird friend.
How do Owl and Bat find that comfortable blend?
Understanding of equality comes to mind.
Sometimes of this fact man seems somewhat blind.
Often it helps thinking with one’s heart in gear….
Helps us to see the road ahead quite clear.
Tucking a small bit of love in our every act...,
Will help us make kindness a daily fact.
We can then enjoy what Bat and Owl know….
We are all brothers, why not let it show?
To see both owls and bats (just not side by side) come out and visit the World Bird Sanctuary. For more information about our hours and location Click Here.
Submitted by Guest Author, Marge Biermann
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I first started volunteering (as a part of the World Bird Sanctuary Junior Volunteer Program) in 2007 when I was 13 years old.
I spent my first seven years volunteering at the World Bird Sanctuary’s ETC (Educational Training Center) doing pretty much anything I was told. Whether it was cleaning mews, prepping food, or doing whatever projects we had that day, I was always on it.
For the first 3 years I was always at the ETC, but when I turned 16 I was brought into a whole new world. Now able to handle birds, I was getting more into my work as a whole. Since I was able to do more with bird handling I would tag along with staff members on trips to feed and care for some of the birds on the exhibit “line” at the upper site (This is the area that is always open to the public.)
While I was there I was finally able to interact with the public. It was something new and amazing to be able to talk to people who thought what I did was incredible. I now had a whole new appreciation for what I do. But I wanted to get out more without leaving the ETC, so I volunteered to work at any special events that appeared on the calendar.
There is World Eagle Day that I always enjoyed being apart of. It gave me a chance to help out on the upper site. I got the chance to walk the “line” and answer people’s questions, and I found that to be one of my favorite things to do. It always made me feel good to help anyone out or help clarify an “old wives tale” about birds.
Whenever a new event would come along I would do anything to try and be able to lend a helping hand to the public. But there was no event quite like Open House. It gave me a chance to be at the ETC and also interact with the public--working displays, answering questions, and most of all giving tours. This gave me the chance to share the store of information that I had learned over the past seven years with guests, and they truly appreciate it.
After seven years of hard work I now know what it was all for—WBS Bird Shows that we present at zoos! That is what I have been training for most of my life--flying birds every day, hearing the “ooos” and “aaahs” from the crowd as our birds fly over their heads, and being front and center to bring the public a show like they have never seen before. Every day I get to meet hundreds of new people and a few old familiar acquaintances.
I truly feel like the bird show is where I am meant to be. I feel it’s what I am meant to do. Now I know the energy I get from performing a show will never leave me.
Submitted by Ian Wright, World Bird Sanctuary Milwaukee County Zoo Show Trainer
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Babaloo is here! This Thursday, August 28th! Our final Birds in Concert of the 2014 season is the hugely popular Babaloo. Bring the kids and prepare them to get into the act!
Where else but World Bird Sanctuary could you enjoy free family entertainment that includes not only a concert, but live birds of prey and other animals?
Babaloo performing to a packed house - 2013 (photo: Gay Schroer)
Ready for something different? Then join us this Thursday night, August 28, for a high energy, often hilarious, musical comedy act for kids (and parents) of all ages. Be warned—this is not your usual run-of-the-mill kids’ crooner. Babaloo’s show is fast-paced, totally interactive, full of fun props, hilarious tunes and wacky stunts. Everybody gets into the act.
This prize-winning Pied Piper packs more fun than seems possible into every show, and he performs over 300 shows per year. The Children’s Music Web Awards named him “Best Entertainer”, and he placed 1st and 2nd in the world’s largest songwriting contest. St. Louis Magazine voted him, “The region’s best family entertainer,” and he’s a selected touring performer for the Missouri Arts Council and Mid-America Arts Alliance.
Birds in Concert 2014 is sponsored by Ameren Missouri
Date: Thursday, August 28, 2014
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm (Babaloo starts at 7:00, Raptor Project at 8:00)
Admission and Parking: FREE!
Snacks and beverages may be purchased from our concession stand—or bring your own picnics and blankets. Since Babaloo usually draws a full house you may want to bring blankets or folding chairs to take advantage of lawn seating.
Whole Foods Market will have a trail mix station for the kids.
St. Louis Sprout and About will be here with their prize wheel, giveaways and an opportunity to win tickets to Disney on Ice.
Nationwide Hendrixson Agency will be giving away St. Louis Cardinals tickets
Bring your picnics—bring your blankets (or chairs)—but most of all bring your kids and be prepared to be entertained!
For directions Click Here
For the safety of our animals and our other guests, no pets please.
Friday, August 22, 2014
World Bird Sanctuary will be hosting its hugely popular Avian Training Workshop Thursday, October 30-Sunday, November 2nd, 2013.
If you've considered attending the World Bird Sanctuary Avian Training Workshop in the past but couldn’t work it into your schedule, now is your chance to plan ahead. There's still plenty of time to arrange your schedule and take advantage of the early registration bonus! Save $100 by registering before October 1st!
What is an Avian Training Workshop you may ask?
The WBS Avian Training Workshop is an intensive 4-day workshop, which covers all aspects of housing, training, feeding and caring for raptors, parrots, corvids, and many other species. The workshop includes both classroom and hands-on training.
Subjects covered in the classroom section include:
* Establishing your own program--permits, insurance, facilities, staff & volunteers
* Working with and training your bird--manning and positive reinforcement, desensitizing
* Choosing the correct species to work with
* Transportation--crates, permits, driving, flying, shipping
* Housing--mews, jumpboxes, A-frames, flight cages, climate, hotwiring enclosures, substrates
* Perch types--bow, platform, screen, etc.--which perch works best for which species
* Diets--food types, frozen vs. live, storage, prep, raising food colonies, vitamins
* Training your birds for flying--weight management, base weights, target weights, flyer food
Everybody's favorite--the hands-on section:
Our staff believes the only way to learn is through the hands-on experience of doing things yourself. At our workshop you will have the opportunity to actually do the following:
* Make jesses & anklets
* Practice imping feathers
* Experience coping and trimming of a raptor
* Participate in simple public speaking games and learn how different elements make you a better public speaker
* Fly a Harris' Hawk and/or Barn Owl with WBS staff
* Help train a new behavior with a Raven or crow (continues throughout the workshop)
* "Be the Bird" in our training game
* Participate in emergency medical care and do a gross necropsy on a raptor
The workshop also includes an extensive tour of WBS' facilities and opportunities to see birds and housing in use and up close.
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Workshop has a minimum of 10 participants and a maximum of 25.
WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 30 through Sunday, Nov. 2
EARLY REGISTRATION: Sign up by October 1st - Cost - $650/person
LATE REGISTRATION: Sign up after October 1st - Cost - $750/person
$100 non-refundable deposit required by 10/01/13 for early registration, balance due by 10/15/13.
Registration fee includes lunch each day.
Transportation to and from St. Louis, hotel accommodations and breakfast & dinner are the responsibility of each participant.
To download a registration form CLICK HERE
Further questions? Contact Melissa Moore, 636-225-4390, ext. 0 or email email@example.com
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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.
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.
“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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
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
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.