Friday, January 30, 2015

What on earth is a Rhea?


If you enter the Environmental Education Center (also called our Visitor’s Center) at World Bird Sanctuary, one of the many displays you’ll see contains the eggs of various birds.  It shows you how similar – and different – eggs can be.

Note the Hummingbird egg (2nd shelf from bottom, 3rd egg from left) (photo: Gay Schroer)

The smallest egg in the display is that of a hummingbird, while an entire shelf is dedicated to the three largest eggs – those of the ostrich, emu, and rhea.  The ostrich is the largest bird, found loping across the African savannah.  The emu is slightly smaller, but looks somewhat similar.  But what on earth is a rhea?

A Common Rhea (photo: the wikipedia files)

Related to ostriches and emus, Greater Rheas are tall, long-legged, flightless birds.  They stand approximately four feet tall and are the largest bird found in South America.  Rheas, and other flightless birds, belong to a group called ratites.  Ratites do not have the bony protuberance on their sternum, called a keel, to which flight muscles attach.  Their wings are also very small for their body size, making them useless for flight, but useable for balance and helping to change direction.

A Greater Rhea (photo: the wikipedia files)

As I mentioned earlier, Rheas lay large eggs, and lay many at a time.  Rheas do not choose one mate for life like some other species.  Instead, one male will mate with many different females.  Those females (as many as twelve of them) all lay their eggs in the same nest.  The male, who built the nest for those females, then incubates the eggs and raises the chicks all by himself.  The females wander off on their own during this time…so much for maternal instincts.
Imagine the omelet you could make with this Rhea egg (photo: Gay Schroer)

Speaking of eggs, Rhea eggs are collected for food (imagine the omelet you could make with those!), and the birds themselves are hunted for their meat, skins, and feathers.  While Rheas are not endangered, they are considered to be Near Threatened.  Hunting regulations have restricted the harvesting of eggs and birds for commercial uses, but sport hunting is still a threat to these birds.

Next time you’re at the World Bird Sanctuary, be sure to wander into the Environmental Education Center and take a look at that egg display.  When someone asks you just what a Rhea is, you can tell them.

Submitted by JoHanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

There is still time to experience Eagle Days through February and March

If you haven't braved the January weather to celebrate Eagle Days, there's still time to join World Bird Sanctuary and our partners as we celebrate Bald Eagle Season around the region!  

For those of us who live along the Mississippi flyway the colder temperatures herald the arrival of some of the most admired and magnificent creatures of them all.  This is the season for eagle watching!

Eagle watchers regularly see Bald Eagles on the frozen Mississippi River during eagle days.
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
If you can bear braving the cold and wind along the river, chances are that you will see wild Bald Eagles in action, hunting their prey, perching in a tree, or soaring up above. Eagle watching is an annual tradition for many of us, even those of us that are lucky enough to see and work with them every day.

If you want to see a live bald eagle up close and in person, you can visit the World Bird Sanctuary, or catch one of the displays or presentations below:

Audubon Center at Riverlands
February 1st, 8th, 2015 | 10 am—2pm
301 Riverlands Way, West Alton, MO 63386
A bald eagle and naturalist will be on hand to talk to the public about bald eagles.  Get your picture taken next to a Bald Eagle.  Be sure to bring your camera!  After this personal encounter you can pick up an official ‘All Around Alton Eagle Watcher's Guide’ and set off along the Great River Road to see eagles in their natural habitat. 

Enjoy seeing a live bald eagle in person and talk to naturalists,
before heading outside to spot wild bald eagles.
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
Kaskaskia Lock and Dam
February 7th, 2015 | 10 am—2 pm
4800 Lock and Dam Road, Modoc, IL 62261
All About Eagles Program
Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as our national symbol instead of the Bald Eagle? Get an up close and personal view of a Bald Eagle and learn the reasons it was chosen instead of the turkey. 

Most Eagle Days events provide expert eagle spotters who can help you find
wild bald eagles after enjoying a World Bird Sanctuary eagle presentation.
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
Dickson Mounds Museum
February 7th, 2015 | 11 am—2 pm
10956 North Dickson Mounds Road, Lewistown, IL 61542
Features birds of prey including an eagle, falcons, hawks, owls and vultures. Not only will you see different species of raptors, but you'll also learn a vulture's secret weapon and how to identify a bird of prey in the wild. Sit back and enjoy an up close view as some of the birds soar right over your head!

Palisades Yacht Club—Riverbill Eagle Watching
February 7th, 2015 | 3 pm—5pm
1670 Riverview Drive, Portage De Sioux, MO 63373
A bald eagle and naturalist will be on hand to talk to the public about bald eagles.  Get your picture taken next to a Bald Eagle.  Be sure to bring your camera! 

Experience the beauty of a bald eagle in person!
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
National Great Rivers Museum
February 14th, 2015 | 10 am—4 pm
February 15th, 2015 | 11 am—4 pm
February 16th, 2015 | 10 am—1 pm
Route 3 South, East Alton, Il 62024
Masters of the Sky Program with eagle
Features birds of prey including an eagle, falcons, hawks, owls and vultures. Not only will you see different species of raptors, but you'll also learn a vulture's secret weapon and how to identify a bird of prey in the wild. Sit back and enjoy an up close view as some of the birds soar right over your head!

A Bald Eagle takes flight along the Mississippi River - a common sight
during Bald Eagle Days.
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower
February 21st, 2015 | 10 am—2 pm
435 Confluence Tower Drive, Hartford, Il 62048
A bald eagle and naturalist will be on hand to talk to the public about bald eagles.  Get your picture taken next to a Bald Eagle.  Be sure to bring your camera!

Bald Eagle Winter Watch—Saint Charles County Parks Department
February 28th, 2015 | 9:30 am—11:30 am
1550 Hide Away Harbor Drive, Portage De Sioux, MO 63373
A bald eagle and naturalist will be on hand to talk to the public about bald eagles.  Get your picture taken next to a Bald Eagle.  Be sure to bring your camera!

Master Naturalist of Missouri Meramec Hills
March 10th, 2015 | 5:30 pm & 7 pm
Rolla Middle School Auditorium
1111 Soest Road, Rolla, MO 65401
Raptor Awareness Program with eagle
Features birds of prey including an eagle, falcons, hawks, owls and vultures. Not only will you see different species of raptors, but you'll also learn a vulture's secret weapon and how to identify a bird of prey in the wild. Sit back and enjoy an up close view as some of the birds soar right over your head!

Wetlands for Kids—Missouri Department of Conservation
April 4th, 2015 | 10 am—3pm
Busch Wildlife Area, 2360 Hwy D, Saint Charles, MO 63304
A wetlands themed 4 bird display featuring birds of prey.  Naturalists will be on hand to talk about the animals.

With all these eagle programs, indoors and outdoors, there is no reason for you not to get outside this winter to enjoy our National Symbol!

Submitted by Catherine Redfern




Monday, January 26, 2015

The Last Owl Prowls of the Season have just a few spaces left. Book Today!

There are just a handful of spaces left on each Owl Prowl before the season is over!  This popular program, awarded the AAA’s Midwest Traveler's Travel Treasure for the Midwest, will be over at the end of February and are selling out quickly.

Wild Barred Owl.
Photo used with kind permission of Patrick Lanham Photography
Come over to the Dark Side and meet the amazing birds that exist by moonlight.  World Bird Sanctuary Owl Prowls offer an exciting opportunity to learn more about the fascinating lives of owls.

Join one of our Naturalists at our evening programs - a 30 minute presentation featuring live flying owls, followed by an easy night hike around our grounds as we try and find wild Barred Owls and Great-horned Owls who are busy setting up territories and finding mates for the winter owl breeding season!

Owl Prowls offer a unique opportunity to see owls in flight!
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
Owl Programs with spaces available on selected evenings from February thru March 2015
We have a limited number of dates with some spaces for remaining Owl Prowls, so book today to avoid last minute disappointment. 

February 2015
Friday, February 6th
Saturday, February 7th
Friday, February 20th

March 2015
Saturday, March 14th

Meet beautiful owls like Tundra, the Snowy Owl, at a WBS Owl Prowl!
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
All Owl Prowls start at 7pm and are concluded by 9pm.
To book, call our Education Center at 636-225-4390 ext. 1.
$11 per adult; $9 per child under 12.
Friends of World Bird Sanctuary receive a 10% discount.
Groups of 10 or more pay $9 per person, regardless of age.

With only 30 people per Owl Prowl and selected dates available, call today to make your reservation!

Blog submitted by Catherine Redfern


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Raptors in the Wetlands


In the “World of Warcraft” gaming crowd, you will find maps on the Internet of Raptor Ridge Wetlands in the Eastern Kingdom. 

It is the place in that virtual world that is considered a ‘contested territory,’ full of various marshes full of different types of fauna and wildlife.  The rocky ridge overlooks the watery flats below.  The raptors are attracted to the cliffs, where they can take off and soar over the marshes, looking down for easy prey.  The marshes (wetlands) below make for a whole world full of watery surprises of life, diverse and thriving, including the humans who wander into it and carry on their activities for living there.
A Peregrine Falcon feeding on a kill (photo: the wikipedia files)
It often works that way in the real life worlds of wetlands, waterfowl, and raptors -- especially the Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Great Horned Owls.  In doing limited research for this blog, I found a great source of information from the “Ducks Unlimited” website, written by Scott Yaich, PhD:  “While it would be easy to assume that fewer raptors would mean more ducks, no studies have indicated that these birds take enough waterfowl to significantly depress their populations. Waterfowl and raptors have shared the same habitats for hundreds of thousands of years, and in healthy ecosystems both groups of birds thrive in "the balance of nature." Like most predators, raptors tend to take the small, the sick and the weak. For example, a study of crippled mallards in Wisconsin found that most of the birds were killed by predators.  Raptors, including Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Great Horned Owls accounted for about half of the predation.”

Now, let’s add human activity to this biological diversity.  Wetlands have long been identified by the Army Corp of Engineers and other wildlife managers as very necessary corridors for migrating waterfowl.  Also, various hunting organizations who lobby Washington have fed plenty of research dollars into restoring, maintaining, and even adding habitats for the waterfowl.  An added benefit is that most wetlands, by the physics of water running through roots, dirt, and rocks, are considered ‘nature’s filtration system’ and are often constructed to help clean up sources of pollution while also supporting a resurgence of wildlife in the neighborhoods where they are placed, even around subdivisions. 

All of these protected areas, even the seasonal marshes that may dry up during the hot summers, add to the rich diversity of life’s food chain from the ‘bottom feeders’ of mice and insects, on up to the ducks and waterfowl of open water marshes, and to the ‘top feeders’ of raptors.  It stands to reason that a well-designed, well-managed wetlands project can add great biodiversity to any construction project.  The best part is more release sites for rehabilitated raptors  into areas where we civilized humans may not be so accustomed to seeing soaring raptors anymore.

In upcoming blogs, the multi-tiered diversity of wetlands and raptors will be explored more.  It offers another great insight into how human activity and development projects can still be ‘inter-connected’ to our conservation practices, especially for the benefit of raptors.  Our human activities – our daily lives – can add to the diversity of the ecosystem in a healthy way.

Submitted by Paula Arbuthnot, World Bird Sanctuary Part-time Employee



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Staff Member Cathy Spahn And The New Snowblower


In the winter of 2013 World Bird Sanctuary staff member Cathy Spahn's family donated a brand new Snow Blower to help ease the staff’s workload.

If you think shoveling your driveway is a chore, try hand shoveling an amphitheater! (photo: Mike Zieloski)

When Mr. and Mrs. Spahn visited last year they saw the vast areas from which we must remove snow to be safely open for our guests.  They saw a need and decided to do something about it.  They donated a very nice snow blower to World Bird Sanctuary for use on the stage, driveway and parking areas attached to the Nature Center.

For years Cathy and I and a few others have shoveled our stage and steps by hand; it takes hours!  Cathy and I are not as young as we once were, so shoveling snow is getting to be more and more challenging.  We still have many steps that require hand shoveling. But now thanks to the kindness of Cathy's parents, who are sponsors, we have an easier time with the snow on stage, and where our education vans must park to load for programs.

From the pictures you can see that we had a beautiful snowfall last winter on which to test our new snow blower. Cathy was shooting snow 15 feet in the air--quite an interesting sight. 

Cathy was shooting snow at least 15 feet in the air! (photo: Mike Zieloski)

Staff member Cathy Spahn grew up in Webster, New York.  She has been bird watching with her father since she was a small child.  At age 10 she helped band songbirds and raptors.  She volunteered at Seneca Park Zoo at age 13, and has volunteered at Cape May New Jersey for the American Birding Association.  She interned with Braddock Bay Bird Observatory.

Cathy graduated from Elmira College in New York in 1999 and shortly after that, in 2000, World Bird Sanctuary hired Cathy as a Naturalist.  Cathy has also held supervisory positions in our Care For Critters program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she wrote many of her own scripted programs.  Cathy served for a time as Director of Development and has been a key member on our Field Studies Teams.  She is currently the Lead Trainer at World Bird Sanctuary. Cathy was awarded the Staff Person of the Year plaque in 2003.

Cathy works hard every day to make the lives of our creatures better and is a pillar of the Education Department Staff.  Cathy gives a solid effort every day.  She opens up the Nature Center early, to get things going for animals, staff and guests.  She often assists our Founder Walt Crawford at many very early Television Spots.  Cathy is dedicated every day to making the World Bird Sanctuary a better place for our guests and for the animals in our care.

Our backs are thankful to the Spahns.  Their donation of a much needed snow blower means we can get back to being "Open to the public" sooner after bad weather and have more time to devote to caring for the birds.

Even with the snow blower, we are still in need of assistance to clear our roads after a snowfall.  Call 636-225-4390 if you would like to help out.

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, Director of Education, World Bird Sanctuary
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Love Is In The Air


It’s now almost the end of January, and love is in the air—at least it is for the owls that are sending their amorous hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo messages out into the night air seeking a mate.

However, owls are not the only species expressing their amorous sentiments.   The human species (Homo sapiens) are preparing to celebrate the most romantic day of the year—Valentine’s Day.  Some will exchange cards, others will show up at their lady-love’s door with flowers or a box of chocolates, which will either wilt in a few days or be eaten in short order. 
An example of  the presentation certificate  (photo: Gay Schroer)
The true romantics will show up with a certificate for a World Bird Sanctuary brick!  You don’t think that sounds so romantic?  Think about it—the flowers will be wilted and dead within a few days; the candy will quickly be long gone; but the inscribed brick will be a lasting testament to your true love.  You may choose any sentiment you like (within the constraints of space and taste, of course). 


 You and your love will be able to find your brick years from now by visiting the World Bird Sanctuary amphitheater on your anniversary—or any time you choose.  Your children and grandchildren can make a trip to WBS to find their “family brick” generations from now and reminisce about how their family tree started.
Your brick will be installed in the main landing of the amphitheater (photo: Gay Schroer)

We will be submitting our order for this spring’s brick installation by the end of January.  In order to get your certificate in time for Valentine’s Day and be included in our spring installation, order now.

Brick prices begin at $125 for text only inscriptions.  Additional options are available for a small fee, such as Gift presentation certificates for $7.50, and stock symbols for an additional $25.  To order your brick on-line Click Here.  If you would prefer to pay by check or credit card call 626-225-4390, Ext. 0, and tell the person who answers that you would like to buy a brick.

Don’t delay—the ordering deadline for this installation is January 28, 2015.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer




Sunday, January 18, 2015

Really Weird Birds: Vulturine Guineafowl


Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinumare found in sub-Saharan Africa, from Uganda to eastern Kenya.  Their habitat consists of dry desert areas with patches of scrub, bushes, and tall grass.

Currently, there are seven species of guineafowl, all found in Africa.  This family of birds is related to turkeys, grouse, quail, pheasants and chickens (Order Galliformes).

 Vulturine Guineafowl showing full plumage (photo: the wikipedia files)

Vulturine guineafowl are the tallest and most colorful of the guineafowl.  They have longer wings, necks, legs, and tails than any other in their family.  An individual stands between 2 and 2.5 feet tall and weighs between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds. 

They have mostly a cobalt blue body with black and white striped feathers draping from the neck and small white dots on the side and back feathers.  What makes them strange is that they have mostly featherless faces and heads like vultures, except for some fluffy brown feathers on the back of their head (which resembles a monk’s haircut!).  They also have featherless necks.  Their skin is bluish-gray and their eyes are red.  Other guineafowl have featherless heads as well, but this species, especially up close, looks like a vulture.
Vulturine Guineafowl closeup - notice the bald head which resembles that of a vulture (photo: the wikipedia files)
Vulturine guineafowl are usually seen living in groups of 25-30.  Males and females look the same, with the female being slightly smaller.  Males tend to be aggressive towards females most of the time.  One way to tell them apart is by looking at their posture.  Males tend to stand as tall as possible.  In contrast females portray a more submissive posture.

Females lay 3-18 eggs, and sometimes nests contain eggs from more than one mother.  The shells are very thick and hard to crack and the chicks outgrow the egg and break out rather than chip their way out.  They are well developed when they hatch and are ready to fly within a few days.

Vulturine Guineafowl are omnivorous and eat seeds, roots, grubs, rodents, small reptiles, and insects.  When there is competition for food, they have been known to fatally injure their own kind, and even chicks will attack one another!

This species in not threatened or endangered in the wild.  These birds do well in captivity and can become very tame.  They are popular and highly sought after in aviculture.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to check out this unusual bird’s relatives—the turkeys and chickens that reside on our display line.


Submitted by Sara Oliver, former World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist          

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City of Arnold, Missouri, 911 Memorial Service, September 11, 2014


On September 11, 2014, World Bird Sanctuary was invited to participate in the Arnold City Memorial Service and to bring a Bald Eagle to th Ceremony.

Wold Bird Sanctuary intern Crystal Meyers and I brought Patriot, our 19 year old Bald Eagle to the event.  We arrived at the City of Arnold Recreation Center at 8:30 am for the 9:00 am service.  We met with Susie Boone and Teresa Kohut who organized the event.  They let us know when and where the Bald Eagle would be in the procession and where to stand next to the Memorial Statue.  The Eagle and I would end up on the right side of the monument.
Event organizers had Patriot stand next to the monument (photo: Crystal Meyers)

Arnold has a piece of an actual contorted metal beam from one of the Towers of the World Trade Center.  They received the twisted metal beam from the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey.

The 911 Monument in Arnold, Missouri (photo: Mike Zieloski)

Fire Fighters, Police Officers, The Master Gardeners, City Officials and the general public were in attendance on this beautiful morning.  The Bald Eagle followed the Fire Fighters and the Police in the procession.  Music played and recordings of newscasts from that day were replayed.  We heard President George Bush’s voice telling us of the terrible events of that day.

All of the above brought back memories of where I was that September morning.  Just as with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, most people can tell you just where they were when they heard the terrible news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Capitol Building.  I was at the old site of the World Bird Sanctuary, which was in Washington University’s Tyson Research Center.  I was getting ready to clean bird transport crates from our recently returned Sea World of Ohio Bird show birds when Marion Ernst, our Newsletter Editor told me the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.  Then soon she told me another plane flew into the other Tower of the World Trade Center.  Then we all knew these events were not one random accident.


My dad called and said that my mom was flying back from an East Coast reunion and she was in the air at the time.  He figured that planes would be diverted and he was right.  He later called again, once he found out she was diverted to Pittsburgh.  I got off work immediately and dad and I drove to Pittsburgh to pick mom up at a hotel there.  What an intense day for my family and the whole country.


Do you remember that there were no airplanes flyng for four days?  Remember how quiet the skies were during those days?  Those events changed America.

Jack Poitras, bugler, his dog Bliss, and I pose next to the Arnold 911 monument (photo: Crystal Meyers)


The City of Arnold will not forget.  The Memorial Service was well organized and very meaningful to me and many others that day.  I was glad Patriot the Bald Eagle was there to represent World Bird Sanctuary, Arnold and America.


Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education

Monday, January 12, 2015

Time to Leave Missouri


Sometimes animals migrate; it could be from the bottom of a mountain to higher pastures or it could be to another hemisphere. Sometimes animals just don’t know when to leave, or they may have an injury that prevents them from migrating.

The Broad-winged Hawk migrates through the Midwest on its way to and from central and South America each year.  There is a small window of time when these birds pass through the area. 

The World Bird Sanctuary’s Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife hospital admits a number of Broad-winged Hawks each year and most get released well before the migration south.  This year, however, there were two Broad-wings that each had broken wings.  It takes 6 weeks for a fracture to bond, and then another 5 to 6 weeks of physical therapy after the wing is unwrapped before a bird can be released. 

Even after a bird has recovered from its injuries, it does not mean it is ready to fly to South America.   Some years we have kept late migrants through the winter and released them in the early spring when the other birds return.  Since Broad-wings leave Missouri to escape the cold winters, and we didn’t have suitable indoor housing to keep them warm, we had to come up with an alternative plan.  This year we had the opportunity to send these birds to the Gladys Porter Zoo in south Texas.   This zoo has a small rehabilitation center for birds, and several of their staff released them shortly after they arrived.

A photo of the imped feathers from another hawk species which will  help our released bird in its flight.  

The birds were flying great after being in captivity for 4 months, but they had broken a few tail feathers.  After imping (super gluing) 5 new feathers onto each bird’s tail, then wrapping the tails in postal tape to protect them during shipping, the hawks were almost ready. 


An ingenious temporary hood created by Sanctuary Manager Joe Hoffman for shipping this Broad-winged Hawk to its release site

They only needed falconry hoods to calm them as they traveled.  Hoods are made by stitching leather and fashioning a pattern to fit over the head of a species.  No one makes hoods to fit a Broad-winged Hawk because they are not used in the sport of falconry, so we needed one-time use temporary hoods. I invented the duct tape hood.  None of the tape’s sticky part touches the bird of course. 

Then it was time to leave the sanctuary, Missouri, and soon maybe even the United States.  Being shipped by jet liner to a place so far south in Texas got the hawks closer to other Broad-wings staying the winter in central Mexico.  Even if the hawks stayed near the town of Brownsville, TX, until the spring migration, their winters are much warmer than here in Missouri.

Following are photos of the actual release:


Ready to fly (photo: Gwyn Carmean)
 Flying free at last (photo: Gwyn Carmean)
 Resting in a tree after the release (photo: Gwyn Carmean)

We would like to thank Dr. Tom Damaar and staff of the Gladys Porter Zoo for all their help in accepting, housing and releasing the hawks and Gwyn Carmean for allowing us to use her photos of the release. 

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary’s Sanctuary Manager 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

ETC Experiences: Stork Training


One of the most interesting experiences working at World Bird Sanctuary’s ETC (Education and Training Center) over the summer was participating in the initial training of a couple of different birds, which I never really got to do before. 

Azizi the young Abdim's Stork (photo: Gay Schroer)

The bird I had the most interactions with was a young Abdim's, or White-Bellied Stork, named Azizi.  I'm not sure if it's because he's still young or if it's just the way he is, but he's a skittish bird, so the first part of his training was one that I didn't realize I was doing — just being around.  Any bird or animal that is in training needs to first get used to people in general, and then the specific people who will be doing said training.  Even though I wasn't one of the initial people training him, just walking past Azizi every now and then on my way to do something else, he slowly got used to seeing me around.

If you do an internship with the World Bird Sanctuary, one of the things you get is an intern project, which could entail just about anything.  For a couple of the interns this summer it happened to be beginning Azizi's training; but once their internships were done, the training still needed to continue.  My supervisor suggested that since I'd been around all summer, I should give it a shot and see how Azizi responded to me. 

To my surprise, he responded relatively well, eating out of my hand with no aggression, and going to his stump when cued.  After debating what the next step should be, my supervisor decided crate training should be the next step.  Getting birds accustomed to being in crates is very important, because that's how we transport them, so the more comfortable the birds are inside the crates, the better.

Azizi took quite well to initial training--now for the next step (photo: Gay Schroer)

For Azizi, crate training meant first getting him accustomed to a carpet square that eventually ended up being put inside the crate.  Once he became accustomed to the carpet I began throwing food onto the carpet for him to eat.  Once he became accustomed to eating his treats on the carpet I began slowly moving the carpet farther and farther back inside the crate to try and convince Azizi to go farther and farther into the crate.  Since he's skittish and fearful of strange things this part took time.  For a while, he'd stretch his long, skinny neck as far inside the crate as it would go, so he could avoid stepping inside the crate.  Eventually he became more accustomed to the crate and started stepping inside to get the food that was thrown inside.  After a good deal more time, he finally started going fully inside the crate, which meant it was time for the next couple of steps.

At first Azizi would stretch his long skinny neck as far as it would go to get his treat (photo: Gay Schroer)

The next step was putting a feeding hole in the back of the crate and putting the crate door back on.  This way, food could be slipped in through the back of the crate to keep Azizi inside for longer periods of time (we’re talking seconds here).  The food also provided positive reinforcement for the fact that the door was being closed, and all other parts of the training.  After leaving it closed for around 10 seconds, I would open the door, Azizi would leave the crate, and then a couple seconds later I would throw food in the crate to get him to go back inside, close the door, wait a few seconds longer, and then repeat.

So far, he's taking well to the training, which hopefully means that in a couple years, if you happen to be at a zoo where the World Bird Sanctuary presents shows over the summer, you just might see an Abdim's Stork named Azizi running across the stage while you learn all about his kind!

Submitted by Matt Levin, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Eagles of the World: Madagascar Fish Eagle


The Madagascar Fish Eagle has been described as one of the rarest birds on Earth with only about 40 breeding pairs in existence today.

A rare Madagascar Fish Eagle (photo: The wikipedia files)

The Madagascar Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides) is a large diurnal bird of prey that surprisingly resides within the Madagascar dry deciduous forests.  No irony there.  They are actually confined to Madagascar where they survive in small quantity along the west coast

This eagle is considered a medium size eagle with a wingspan averaging around 65-70 inches long.  Male Madagascar Fish Eagles have been recorded weighing anywhere up to 6 pounds, while the slightly larger females can weigh up to 8 pounds.

The Madagascar Fish Eagle feeds mostly on fish and other aquatic life (photo: The wikipedia files)

These birds are characterized by having a dark body and wings, a light brown head with a white throat and cheeks, a white tail, a dark grey colored beak with a paler base, and pale grey legs.  Unlike adult Madagascar Fish Eagles the juveniles have paler bellies with yellow markings, a dark tail, and streaking on their heads.  It is not until a juvenile has reached five years of age that they develop their full adult plumage.

These Eagles, being endemic to the island of Madagascar, mostly feed on fish and other aquatic life, such as crabs and turtles.
 
These rare birds of prey face diminishing numbers due to many threats to its breeding habitat, including deforestation, soil erosion, and the development of wetland areas for rice paddies.  Not only does this raptor have to face the significant impacts from losing its habitat, but also faces harsh competition for fish from human competitors.

Two Madagascar Fish Eagles(photo: The wikipedia files)

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, also known as the IUCN, this species holds the rank of critically endangered.  According to this index this species has been assigned this rank because it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
 
The Madagascar Fish Eagle population has remained at low numbers for what some believe to be hundreds to even thousands of years.  This means that although the population is small, it may also be stable, which will hopefully lead to a less critical ranking in the near future.

Even though the World Bird Sanctuary does not have one of these rare eagles in our collection, we do have two of its cousins—the Bald Eagle and the White-tailed Sea Eagle on the exhibit line, which is open to the public 363 days of the year.   

Submitted by Callie Plakovic, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator