Saturday, November 28, 2015

Owl Prowls Are Filling Fast

Fall has arrived at World Bird Sanctuary, which means the start of Owl Prowl season.  Owl Prowls run from November through March on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
One of many European Barn Owls at the World Bird Sanctuary (photo: Cathy Spahn)

What is an Owl Prowl you ask?  The Owl Prowls start at 7 pm in our Nature Center with about a 1 hour program all about some of the owls of the world.  Some of them will even fly right over your head.  After that we take you for a short walk on our property to try to call in a wild owl.  Also during November and early December we will take you to our bird-banding field station to learn about a study we are doing on Saw-whet Owls.

Do you love owls?  Owls Prowls are a great way to learn more about these fascinating creatures of the night.  We also have a small gift shop where you can find lots of Owl merchandise for kids of all ages.
Xena, a member of the world's largest owl species (photo: Gay Schroer)

Do you know what the largest species of Owl is in the world?  Even better, you’ll have that bird fly right over the tops of your heads.  If you’ve guessed the Eurasian Eagle Owl, you’re right.
Minerva the Common Barn Owl demonstrates some of her head-turning ability (photo: Gay Schroer)

Learn which owl is known as the ghost owl and has the best hearing of any bird in the world. 

Ever wonder just how far an owl can turn its head or what makes them fly silently?

Have a scout group that you are looking to do something different with?  Have them join an Owl Prowl.  It’s not only fun, but it’s educational.

Are you an adult that would love to join us, but would prefer an “adults only” night out?  We have special “adults only” nights for the “kid at heart”.  Have a small group that just wants to do something different?  Come out and join us for a fun evening with owls. 

Call now to make your reservations.  Reservations are required.
Cost - $15 per adult; $10 per child under 12.

  Friends of World Bird Sanctuary receive a 10% discount.

Groups of ten or more: $10 per person, regardless of age.

To make your reservation call 636-225-4390, Ext. 101

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, November 26, 2015

We Are Thankful...

What We at WBS Are Thankful For….

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we all step back from our busy schedules and reflect on the things for which we are thankful.

Here at WBS we have many blessings…

*            The dedicated staff, interns and volunteers who work so tirelessly to rehabilitate the more than 300 injured birds that pass through our hospital doors each year

*            The Education Department staff who work long hours and give up their weekends and even some holidays to carry the message of environmental responsibility to schools and organizations across the country

*            The Propagation Department staff--the often unsung heroes and heroines of our organization--who remain “behind the scenes” caring for and training our large roster of non-releasable birds

*            The “Tuesday Crew” – a group of retired tradesmen who show up every Tuesday, rain or shine, to lend us their construction trade skills, and literally “keep us together”

*            The many volunteers without which we could not exist.  These dedicated individuals come from every walk of life and span every age group—all for the love of the birds

*            The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who choose the World Bird Sanctuary as their Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold project.  Most of our outdoor structures would not exist without them

*            The many wonderful corporate sponsors who support us financially and in so many other ways. 

*            The individuals who call us from out of the blue offering to donate anything from raptor food or birdseed to automobiles or tractors

*            Our wonderful visitors who purchase merchandise from our gift shop because they know that the profits help to feed house and care for the birds, or the drive through visitor who stops to drop a few dollars in our donation box as they enter our site.

*            All the diehard supporters who show up at WBS special events in spite of weather conditions ranging from rain and cold to hundred degree temperatures


To all of you out there—HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Named Fred

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, we thought we would share the story of Fred the Turkey, our popular cartoon mascot, with our readers. 

The cartoon was created by one of our talented volunteers to accompany a song created and performed by our in-house band, The Raptor Project.  This is just one of the many songs on the two Raptor Project CDs that can be purchased in our gift shop.

When you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, be sure to take a stroll down our exhibit line and visit with Fred and his harem. 

To see Fred’s cartoon Click Here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Birdlore: The Fleet-footed Quail of North America

Among the popular game bird species, quail are characteristic for their ability to hide exceedingly well in clumps of grass and brush from predators and human hunters.

In North America, 5 species of quail (not including the Northern Bobwhite) are native to the west and southwest of the United States and parts of Mexico.  These 5 species of quail are the Montezuma Quail, the California Quail, the Mountain Quail, the Scaled Quail, and lastly, the Gambel’s Quail.  They gather together in small groups called coveys.

The Montezuma Quail lives mostly in Mexico and parts of Arizona and New Mexico (photo: wikipedia)
When faced with the presence of a predator, the quail will hunker close to the ground and become very still.  Their plumage blends them in seamlessly with their grassy and brush-filled habitat so well that you could almost step on them without realizing it.  By the time a predator would close in on the quail’s precise location, the quail would burst from their hiding spot with a short and explosive flight through the field to safety.

Quail play a fairly minor role in Native American cultures.  However, the Pima tribe from Arizona tell one amusing tale of how a family of quail managed to outwit their predator, a coyote.

In a time long ago, Coyote slept so deeply that when a covey of quail came upon him, they cut off pieces of fleshy meat from his body without Coyote awaking up. 

Later after the quail had moved on, set up camp, and took to cooking the meat, Coyote walked up the trail to their encampment.

 “Where did you get that fresh meat? Give me some.”  He demanded.

Without protest, the quail gave it all to him.  After he had left and gone a ways down the trail, the quail called out to him, “Coyote, you were eating your own flesh.”

“What did you say?”  He questioned.

“Nothing, we heard something calling from behind the mountain.”

Coyote moved further down the trail, when the quail called again, “Coyote, you ate your own meat.”

“What did you say?” Coyote repeated.

“Nothing, we only heard somebody pounding his grinding stone.”  They replied.

Coyote left the quail, going further down the trail.  He then felt the places where the quail had cut him and understood what the quail had been saying.  He turned around and gave chase to the quail saying he would eat them.  The quail flew through the air with Coyote running beneath.  Finally, the quail could no longer fly because of exhaustion, but Coyote kept up the pursuit.  He was too angry.

When the quail came to a hole in the ground the cleverest of the quail picked up a piece of prickly cactus.  Pushing the cactus first into the hole, the rest followed in after it.  Coyote caught up to them and began digging up the hole to reach them.  He grabbed the  first quail and asked, “Was it you who told me I ate my own flesh?”

“No, I did not,” said the quail.

So Coyote released him and the quail flew away.  He then grabbed quail, one at a time, and asked the same question.  Each quail said “No,” and Coyote would release them to fly away until the last quail was gone.  When he finally came to the piece of cactus, Coyote mistook it for another quail as it was covered in feathers.  He asked the same question, but the cactus branch did not reply.

“I know it was you, because you do not answer”, he said at last.

So Coyote bit down hard onto the prickly cactus branch, and it killed him.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Hibernation, its not just for bears.

The definition of hibernation is “…to be in a dormant or torpid state during a cold period, typically winter”.  When most people think of hibernation, animals like snakes, bats, and bears come to mind.  But would you be shocked to find out that there is a bird that hibernates too?!  I know I certainly was! 

Common Poorwill watercolor (photo: wikipedia)

The Hopi Indians have known about this for a long time, calling a certain bird species Holchko, or “sleeping one”.  We call this bird the Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii).  Living in the dry hills of the western United States and Mexico, you can find this medium-sized bird nesting on the ground or making short vertical flights into the night air to grab insects.  As the smallest bird in the Nightjar family, it needs to be well camouflaged.  With dark browns, greys, and black, it has no problems hiding.

The Common Poorwill has an almost owl-like look to it, with short rounded wings and a round tail.  It does, however, have a large head with a tiny beak.  During periods of cold weather and scarce food sources, this bird needs to conserve energy.  So they will go into a state of torpor, or hibernation, for days and even up to a few weeks!  During this time they can slow down their metabolic rate, slowing down their breathing, heartbeat, and lowering their body temperature.  Once the weather warms up and all the insects start to come out for food, so does the common poorwill, eager to eat. 

These incredibly adaptive birds will lay 2 pinkish white eggs on the ground and do not build a nest.  However, if the area gets disturbed, they will move the eggs to a safer location.  The young start flying at around 20 days old, and before that they have been observed moving around by somersaulting across the ground.

There are no current extra protections for these birds because they are so plentiful from Washington to North Dakota all the way into Mexico.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whooo''s Who?

With the advent of Fall leaf color, Thanksgiving pumpkins, and cold crisp weather, love is in the air here in Missouri—at least it is if you’re an owl!

If you happen to be outdoors in the evening or late at night you may hear an owl calling.  At this time of the year our feathered creatures of the night are busy claiming a territory, and soon will be advertising for a mate. 

In our last blog we posed a little owl quiz with links to some audio bites of owl calls to test your knowledge.  Here are the answers to our quiz, as well as a few facts about each of those fascinating creatures.

Each of the photos is of a resident of the World Bird Sanctuary and represents his or her species.

Owl photo collage: Gay Schroer
Photo #1 is Timber the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
Photo #2 is Jake the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Photo #3 is Goblin the Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Photo #4 is Xena the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
Photo #5 is Olaf the Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Photo #6 is Buzz the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
Photo #7 is Jersey the Barred Owl  (Strix varia)
Photo #8 is Mia the Spectacled Owl  (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

Now for the answers to our quiz:
Jersey the Barred Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
A.            This owl’s call seems to be concerned about your dinner.  Photo #7 – Jersey the Barred Owl.  This bird’s call is said to sound like “Who, who, who cooks for-you” “Who, who, who cooks for-you-all”.  Barred owls are one of the most common owls in the Eastern U.S.  This bird is often locally referred to as a “hoot” owl.
Goblin a Common Barn Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
B.            No wimpy hooting for this bird—it communicates with a high-pitched hissing scream.  This would be #3.  Pictured is Goblin the Common Barn Owl.  Did you know that Barn Owls are found on every continent except Antarctica?  Barn Owls have been on the endangered list here in Missouri due to habitat loss.  For a number of years WBS has been at the forefront of an effort to release captive bred Barn Owls back into the wild to bolster declining populations.
Timber, an Eastern Screech Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
C.            Don’t let this bird’s sweet trilling call fool you—it’s a fierce little predator.  This would be #1.  Pictured here is Timber the Eastern Screech Owl. Eastern Screech Owls are generally seen in two color phases—red and grey, although there are occasionally intermediate brown shades of these two colors.  Their call is a mellow muted trill—no hooting for this bird.
Olaf, a Saw-whet Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
D.            This owl’s call is a monotonous “hoop-hoop-hoop”, but its volume belies its diminutive size!  #5 - The Northern Saw-whet Owl has a surprisingly loud call for such a small bird.  Pictured is Olaf, a World Bird Sanctuary resident bird. When prey is plentiful, a Saw-whet Owl will kill as many as 6 mice in rapid succession, without consuming any of them. The excess food is cached in safe places and, in winter, is thawed out later by "brooding" the frozen carcass. When food is plentiful, it is common for only the head of each prey item to be eaten.
Jake, a resident Great Horned Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
E.            The male of this species calls with a low-pitched monotone “ho ho-ho hoo hoo”, and is answered with a higher pitched “girly” version of the same call.  This would be #2, the Great-horned Owl.  Pictured is Jake, a WBS resident owl.  A Great Horned Owl is powerful enough to take prey two to three times heavier than itself.  Longevity is up to 13 years in the wild and as much as 29 to 38 years in captivity.
Mia, our beautiful Spectacled Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
F.            This owl’s vocalization sounds like a knocking or tapping, “Pup-pup-pup-pup-o” issued in a rising crescendo.  (Hint – This owl is not native to the U.S., but you may have heard it if you’ve been to the World Bird Sanctuary’s weathering area lately.)  #8 is Mia the Spectacled Owl, and she can usually be found in the weathering area behind the WBS’s Nature Center building.  This owl hales from Mexico, Central and South America, most frequently found in dense tropical rain forests.  Once fledged, at about 5-6 weeks, the chicks depend on the parents for up to a year.
Buzz, a Tawny Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
G.            This owl was the inspiration for the owl in the Winnie the Pooh tales and is the most common owl in Europe—especially in England.  #6 – The Eurasian Tawny Owl will usually nest in tree holes or nest boxes in trees, and pair bonds last for life.  Even though these owls are small they will defend their nest aggressively, even attacking humans on occasion if they perceive them as a threat to the nest.
Xena, everyone's favorite Eurasian Eagle Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
H.            This owl issues a long, booming “oo-hooh”, and may even bark and growl if it feels threatened.  This would be #4 – the Eurasian Eagle Owl.  Pictured is Xena, one of our most popular resident birds.  This largest owl species eats mainly voles and rats, but has been known to take prey as large as a Roe Deer fawn.  They nest on cliff ledges, crevices between rocks, and cave entrances, although they are not above using abandoned nests of large birds. 

To meet some of these fascinating creatures, join us for an OWL PROWL  For information on WBS Owl Prowls Click Here or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 101.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Whooo's Calling?

DID YOU KNOW? – That not all owls hoot.  Some hiss, some trill, and some even bark and growl!

Here’s a little quiz we thought you might enjoy.  How good is your Owl IQ?  First, see how many of the owls pictured you can identify, then see if you can match their calls (click on the link below the descriptions) to their pictures (Hint—you can use our blog site as a cheat sheet—at least for some of these).  Check our blog in the next few days to see how owl savvy you are.  Answers will be posted in a “Whooo’s Who?” blog post.

A.            This owl’s call seems to be concerned about your dinner.

B.            No wimpy hooting for this bird—it communicates with a high-pitched hissing scream.  It is often call the “ghost owl”.

C.            Don’t let this bird’s sweet trilling call fool you—it’s a fierce little predator.

D.            This owl’s call is a monotonous “hoop-hoop-hoop”, but its volume belies its size.

E.            The male owl of this species calls with a low-pitched “ho-ho-ho-ho-hoo-hoo”, and is answered with a higher pitched “girly” version of the same call.  It is native to the U.S. and fairly common in Missouri.

F.            This owl’s vocalization sounds like a knocking or tapping, “Pup-pup-pup-o” issued in a rising crescendo.  The female of this species has a hawklike ‘ker-WHEEER” call.  (Hint—This owl is not native to the U.S.—it lives south of the border.   However, you may have heard it if you’ve been to the World Bird Sanctuary’s weathering area lately.)

G..            This owl was the inspiration for the owl in the Winnie the Pooh tales, and is the most common owl in Europe—especially in England. 

H.            This owl issues a long, booming “oo-hooh”, and may even bark and growl if it feels threatened.  (Hint—This owl is not native to the U.S., but is one of the most popular residents at the World Bird Sanctuary and is notable for its size.)

To hear these birds’ calls Click Here.  Find the bird you are looking for and click on the name.  This will take you to a page with detailed information on the species and a link to its calls.

Find out the answers to our quiz and dozens of other facts about our planet’s amazing birds of the night by attending one of our Owl Prowls.  Prowls begin in our Nature Center building where you will meet some of these seldom seen creatures, and be given a short lesson on “hooting”.  Owl Prowl participants then proceed onto our outdoor trails, where we will try our hand at hooting to see if we can get some of our local wild owls to answer.

Owl Prowls are filling up fast!  There are still openings on some of our Owl Prowls beginning 12/11.  To view Owl Prowl dates still available Click Here—or—for more information or TO MAKE RESERVATIONS CALL 636-225-4390, Ext. 101.

Adults - $15.00
Children - $10.00

Owls Prowls start at 7 p.m. and last approximately 1-1/2 hour.

Be sure to dress for the weather, and wear comfortable and warm walking shoes.  Flashlights are not needed, as your Naturalist will provide the only lighting necessary.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

Friday, November 13, 2015


World Bird Sanctuary friend and poet, Marge Biermann, gives us the story of Patriot’s rescue and path back to good health.

The “bad guys” referred to in her prose are World Bird Sanctuary staff members Roger Holloway, Joe Hoffmann and Jeff Meshach, who nursed her back to health, but in the process had to do “bad things” to her such as restraining her to give medications.  Even though this all occurred in 1995, whenever she spies any of them—even at a distance—she loudly issues her territorial call.

Meet a Patriot

Patriot, the Bald Eagle, what a story to tell,
Starting her life from a tree that suddenly fell.
Though thought to die like her siblings in that storm,
She survived with loving hands that kept her warm.

Fed and nurtured, and nursed through pneumonia’s grip,
Her caretakers worked hard to not let her slip.
Finally she thrived and grew…seven pounds in two weeks.
These are the joyous results a true bird lover seeks.

Though now not able to take to the skies,
And feeling her saviors were really the “bad guys”,
She has become a much-loved celebrity…A star,
Having made appearances in places near and far.

Her favorite “Gig” was home plate as our anthem played.
She stood with great pride, her every feather displayed.
Showing us that all creatures can peacefully abide,
Because WBS restored Patriot and her national pride.

To share the satisfaction of the experience in caring,
You might consider a donation in a way of sharing.
Who knows, someday you may see an eagle high in a tree,
And you’ll feel in your heart you helped him fly free.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary look for Patriot in the weathering area behind the visitor’s center.  That’s where she usually resides when she’s not traveling with our Education Department staff.

As with all of our residents, Patriot is available for adoption through our Adopt A Bird program.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


With the advent of fall the leaves change colors (at least here in the Midwestern U.S.) signaling that it is migration time.

Many bird species will be flying south for the colder months of the year.  There are about 4,000 species of birds in the world that migrate.  Not all birds migrate, but of the ones that do, their migrations are very different from bird to bird. 

The Arctic Tern does a round trip migration of over 40,000 miles (photo: wikipedia)

Some birds only migrate a short distance, while others have a very long way to go.  For example, the Arctic Tern will do a round trip migration of over 40 THOUSAND miles.  It is the longest migration of any bird.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird only migrates about 600 miles. 
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird travels about 600 miles (photo: wikipedia)

The record for the bird with the longest non-stop flight is the Bar-tailed Godwit.  It flew almost 7,000 miles over a period of eight days.  Some birds even fly over oceans and gulfs during their migrations, spending 100 hours or more in the air before they reach land.  These birds are known as transoceanic migrants. 
The Bartailed Godwit holds the record for the longest non-stop flight (photo: wikipedia)

Some birds only fly 20 or so miles a day, where others have been known to fly for around 600 miles in a day.  The Great Snipe is the fastest migrator, traveling at 60 miles per hour during its migration.  Most raptor species, like hawks, migrate during the day, whereas many songbirds will migrate at night, mostly to stay away from becoming hawk food. 

Speaking of food, many birds go through a stage of hyperphagia before their migration.  This is the technical term for eating A LOT of food.  Some birds, like the Blackpoll Warbler, will even double their body weight for the long trips. 

Flying birds aren’t the only ones that migrate.  Many penguins will swim for their migrations, and Emus will run for miles.  Migrating birds face a lot of threats though.  Weather, temperature, endurance, predators, but most migration deaths are because of people.  Billions of birds die every year due to collisions with windows, TV and radio towers, and power lines.  Even the bright lights of a city can alter a bird’s migration. 

A few things we as individuals can do to help these birds out include: keeping cats indoors all the time (cats are one of the leading causes of bird deaths), put up window stickers or tint your windows to prevent collisions, keep your bird feeders and birdbaths clean, and create a good pit stop for the birds in your backyard.  Keeping native grasses, plants, and trees will greatly help the birds and their environment as they migrate.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Monday, November 9, 2015

Meet Consuela

Meet Consuela

Naturalist Trina Whitener introduces us to Consuela, an Orbweaver spider who took up residence on her truck in the World Bird Sanctuary parking lot.

Click Here to view her video.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Kid In Town

If you have been out to World Bird Sanctuary this past summer you may have noticed an area of the exhibit line that was roped off.

 If you took the time to stop and look at the area you might have noticed a small brown fuzz ball on legs in the early part of the summer, and toward the end of the summer a teenager sized crane hanging out.  Our two injured Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) Shawnee and Menomenee, originally from Wisconsin, hatched their first chick this summer.

 New Sandhill Crane baby (photo: Cathy Spahn)
Sandhill Cranes are found throughout North America.  The northern populations are migratory.  Sandhill cranes have the largest wildlife spectacle we can see here in North America.  As the cranes migrate From February to early April hundreds of thousands to over a million Sandhill Cranes will pass through and temporarily stay in a small area of Nebraska along the Platte River.

I have always enjoyed cranes, but when I first saw their gathering along the Platte River I fell in love with this amazing species.  Seeing the amazing amount of birds, hearing their call, and then watching this bird dance I could not help but fall in love. 

There are 6 subspecies of Sandhill Crane; 5 of them are found here in North America. 

Sandhill Cranes stand between 34-48 inches tall and have a wingspan of 73-90 inches.

When our two cranes first arrived at WBS I worked on doing some basic training, which helped with getting them more comfortable around me.  With the help of me rewarding them with superworms (a beetle larva that kind of looks like a worm), the cranes became more relaxed and would allow me to enter the cage.  As long as I kept 6 or more feet between them and I, they were comfortable.

Over the last few years they have become more vocal.  This year they laid a few eggs, and one of them hatched.  This little one we nicknamed Clyde after the middle name of Walter C. Crawford Jr, our Founder and Executive Director, who passed away in July.  This youngster was one of Walt’s last projects with us.
As with all birds, Sandhill Cranes grow rapidly...almost ready for release (photo: Cathy Spahn)

Clyde, our youngster, has now been released at the Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge in the northwestern part of Missouri.  In fact, Clyde is the first ever, captive bred Sandhill Crane to be released into the wild in the State of Missouri.  Clyde seems to be integrating well with a small flock of Sandhill Cranes that resides in that area.

If you like Shawnee or Menomenee (named after places in Wisconsin where they are from) you may adopt one or both of them.  To adopt a bird Click Here, or call 636-861-3225 and ask for Marion.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Birdlore: The Great Garuda

Mythology has a mixed bag of giant raptor legends, like the Thunderbird and the Roc, or creatures that looked like they came out of a blender with mixed characteristics, like the Piasa Bird.  

Another bird-like creature depicted in Hindu and Buddhist mythology is the part-man, part bird deity, Garuda.   The bird characteristics are usually referred to as eagle-like or kite-like depending on the source.

Garuda, half-man and half-bird (photo: the wikipedia files)

In Hinduism, Garuda was born from a huge egg with the torso and limbs of a man, and the talons, wings, and beak of an eagle.  His father was Kasyapa, an ancient sage, and his mother, Vinata, mother of all birds.  He was born with a radiance that made the gods cry in fear for the end of the world and at their request, Garuda diminished his splendor.

Before his birth, his mother was tricked into slavery with a bet by her sister-in-law, Kadru, mother of serpents.  In a bid to free her, Garuda asked Kadru and her serpent sons what he must do for his mother’s release.  Kadru decreed he must bring them the drink of the gods, amrita, so that she and her sons may become immortal.

However, the amrita was jealously guarded by Indra, King of the gods.  The elixir was protected by a massive fire covering the sky, a spinning mechanical door with spokes on the side blocking the way, and two large venomous snakes guarding the elixir’s resting place.  Not deterred, Garuda fought and defeated the host of gods with his power and drank from many nearby rivers to put out the fire in the sky.  He decreased his size to pass through the deadly spikes of the spinning door.  He snuck past the giant venomous serpents by blowing dust into their eyes.  Garuda took the elixir into his mouth without swallowing it and rose to the heavens.

On his journey back, Garuda was met by Indra, King of the gods.  Indra struck Garuda with his thunderbolt, but Garuda remained unharmed by the strike except for the loss of a single feather.  Faced with the reality of Garuda’s true strength, Indra called for a cease in fighting and formed a pact with the bird-man.  Garuda would be allowed to deliver the elixir to the serpents to fulfill his end of the deal and earn his mother’s freedom.  In return, Garuda would make it possible for Indra to reclaim the elixir from the serpents.  Indra also permitted Garuda to hunt the snakes as food.

Delivering the elixir, Garuda convinced the serpents that a bath of purification was required before partaking in the drink of the gods.  In the serpents’ brief absence, Indra descended from the sky to retrieve the elixir and left for the heavens.  When the serpents returned, they licked the grass on which the elixir had rested, slicing their tongues.  All modern snakes have forked tongues as a result. 

From that day forward, Garuda was a friend to the gods and enemy to snakes everywhere, devouring them at every opportunity.

To learn more about the contemporary bird species that inspire these amazing myths and legends, come to the World Bird Sanctuary and speak with one of our amazing Naturalists.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Santuary Naturalist/Trainer