Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last 2 Owl Prowls of the Year!!

With the owl breeding season here in Missouri winding down as the weather warms, we thought you might like to see some of the local owls that you may only hear when venturing out into the Missouri woods.

One of our commonest owls is the Eastern Screech Owl. 
Here you see two of The World Bird Sanctuary's most popular residents.  Twig is a good example of the grey phase of this charming little owl, and our ever popular Acorn is a good representative of the brown, or red color phase.  You are most likely to hear these small owls calling in the early hours of the morning, just before dawn.  Their call is not the typical call associated with owls.  It is more of a high pitched trill, with a quavering 00-0-0 toward the end - best described as "Who-oo-oo-o-o"

Even though they are unbearably cute, ounce for ounce they are one of the fiercest little predators in the bird kingdom.  If you are able to visit us, look for Acorn and Twig in the weathering area behind our Nature Center.

Another of Missouri's resident owls is the Great Horned Owl--the flying tiger of the bird world.  While it's miniature look-alike, the Screech Owl, preys mostly on small rodents and insects, the Great Horned Owl is equipped to take much larger prey--even at times preying on skunks!

You might hear a pair of these large owls calling to each other after dark.  Listen for the male's deep "ho-ho-hoo-hoo-hoo" and then a higher pitched "girlie" "ho-ho-hoo-hoo-hoo" answer.

Here you see Junior, one of our popular education birds, whose egg was found on a coal conveyor belt.  The egg was brought to the Sanctuary, and Junior was hatched in one of our incubators.  The year before, we had received another egg laid on the same coal conveyor belt, and hatched out a Great Horned Owl that we named Coal.  We believe the same female laid both eggs.  Both Coal and Junior help to educate thousands of audiences each year about their species.

The other most commonly heard owl in Missouri's forests is the Barred Owl.  He has a most distinctive call, usually described as "Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you-all?"

Here you see our resident (and vocal) barred owl, Shakespeare.  He is one of the star performers of our Owl Prowl programs--often delighting young visitors by answering their "hooting" attempts.

Owl Prowls are over for this season -- but watch for them to begin again late next fall.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How They Grow - Eurasian Eagle Owls

Let us introduce you to the largest owl in the world - the Eurasian Eagle Owl!   This species is indigenous to Europe, Asia and North Africa.

These little 11 day old hatchlings don't look so fierce do they?  However, when fully grown they are capable of capturing prey as large as a roe deer fawn.

Follow along with us as we track their development over their first ninety days.

At 14 days the first hatchling is becoming more alert and attuned to his surroundings.  

They're still sweet and cuddly though--right?

At 17 days, even though they're still cute and fluffy, we sometimes see a glimpse of the mischievous little predator hiding behind the fluff.

At 34 days are these innocent little stares hiding a bundle of mischief?

At 45 days - beginning to get his "big boy" feathers, and practicing his perching techniques. 

In the wild he would be getting ready to fledge the nest during the next week or two, although the parents may continue to care for him for as long as 140 to 168 days.

At 62 days we begin to see the natural hunting instinct that prompts them to pounce on anything that moves--or doesn't!  Here we see him practicing his mouse killing technique by pouncing on a twig

At 77 days he's beginning to resemble the adult of his species, and in the wild would be honing his hunting techniques, while still being cared for by his parents.  At this stage most of his swoops and pounces would probably be near misses.

At 83 days, he's almost fully feathered and full of mischief, but still trying to pull the innocent act.

In the wild he would be attempting to hunt and catch prey, which might include insects, small rodents, and small birds, as well as medium sized birds and mammals like opossums, hares, foxes, ducks, quail and pheasant.  If he lived in a coastal area he might feed mainly on ducks and seabirds.  Mom and dad would still be feeding him while he is refining his hunting techniques.
By 140 to 170 days old he will have perfected his hunting skills well enough that his parents will have stopped supporting him, and he will be on his own.

Once he has grown all of his adult plumage and reached full adulthood he will be as impressive as our resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Bogart, pictured here.  

To fully appreciate the size difference between the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the other species of owls with which you may be more familiar, come join us for one of our Owl Prowls.  

Only 4 Owl Prowls remaining: 2/20 & 21, and 2/27 & 28

For Reservations Call:  636-225-4390, Ext. 0

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cool Facts About a Cool Bird!

Who is that bird out there that looks suspiciously like Woody Woodpecker?

Cool Fact #1
The fact of the matter is, that bird (the Pileated Woodpecker) was, in fact, the inspiration for the world famous cartoon character.

Cool Fact #2
The roost of a Pileated Woodpecker usually has multiple entrance holes and is normally located  in old growth forests where one finds the large trees it prefers.  

Cool Fact #3
Pileated Woodpeckers characteristically dig rectangular holes in trees to find ants.  These excavations can be so large that they can cause small trees to break in half.

Cool Fact #4
A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory year round.  Their range covers the the eastern half of the United States as well as the southern Canadian provinces, with a rather narrow band extending down the West Coast of the U.S.  We in Missouri are fortunate to be in their year round range.

Cool Fact #5
The male and female can be told apart by their markings.  The male has a red crown and forehead, and red in the black mustache stripe.  The female has a gray to yellow-brown forehead and no red in the mustache stripe.

Cool Fact #6
When walking in the woods you may hear rather than see these large crow sized birds.  They can be heard calling to each other with a very loud "kuk-kuk-kuk" call.  Usually if you hear one call you will soon hear a response from another direction.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Woodpecker By Any Other Name....

Is it pronounced "pill-ee-ated" or "pile-ee-ated"?

According to the Natureworks website, either prounciation is correct.  But, no matter which way you choose to pronounce it, this large native woodpecker (second only to the nearly extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker), is a very wary and elusive creature--at least for this photographer!

I had been trying for months to capture photos of a pair that my husband said had been coming to the suet feeder at our little lake cabin.  However, each time I would lay in wait with camera ready, they didn't appear.  Or, if they did appear, they fled at the slightest movement, unlike their smaller cousins the Red-bellied woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers or downy woodpeckers who are regular visitors to our feeders and don't seem to care if anyone is watching.

Finally, one January weekend when we had our eight year old granddaughter with us, we spotted the female at the suet feeder on our deck.  Now, if you know anything at all about eight year olds, you know that sitting still for more than three minutes ranks right up there with cruel and unusual punishment!  However, she's been watching birds with me since before she could walk, so with many reminders about sitting absolutely still we were able to capture these photos through the glass of the kitchen window.  Even then, the bird knew that something wasn't quite right and she played hide and seek with us from behind the tree trunk for quite a while.  I was quite excited to have gotten the photos--but not nearly as excited as I was about having shared the moment with my granddaughter, who hopefully will someday pass this experience on to another generation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Even more Dorothy!

I really can't get enough of Dorothy the Andean condor. She's just so pretty and BIG! Here's a little clip of Dorothy cleaning out her bowl after a training session:

At three years of age, young Dorothy hasn't molted into her adult plumage, but her juvenile feathers are beautiful and varied shades of brown.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We're Going to Alaska!!!

Bears, and Whales, and Eagles, OH MY!!!  

On July 26, 2009 our small group will board ship in Seattle for a week long cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage with our Executive Director, Walter Crawford, Jr.  Here's the best part--you don't have to be affiliated with The World Bird Sanctuary in any way to come along!!  

The trip is being sponsored by The World Bird Sanctuary, and Walter and several of us who are affiliated with the Sanctuary will be on the trip.  However, anyone who is interested is invited to come cruise with  us.  All you need is a sense of adventure and the desire to explore this amazing area!!  

On July 26 we will leave Seattle's Puget Sound aboard Holland America's ms Westerdam.  As we sail past Vancouver Island and Queen Charlotte Islands on our way to Glacier Bay National Park, we can spend this first day at sea enjoying the luxurious amenities of our ship, or watching for marine wildlife from one of the many observation decks.  Hopefully, we will sight whales and other marine wildlife along the way.  

Once we reach Glacier Bay, we will spend an entire day cruising this spellbinding area, seeing the glaciers up close, viewing the marine wildlife and land mammals for which this world renowned National Park is famous, and taking in the incredible scenery.  There are no roads to Glacier Bay; you can reach the park only by air and water.  Wildlife viewing possibilities include humpback, Menke, and Killer whales; Dall's porpoises; Stellar sea lions; harbor seals; Puffins; sea otters; black bears; brown bears; moose; wolves; coyotes; marmots; bald eagles; plus a large variety of seabirds, songbirds, terns and jaegers.  For more information and photos of Glacier Bay go to the National Park Service website .

After spending the entire day cruising Glacier Bay, we will then proceed to Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan where we will have the opportunity each day to explore these interesting and historic Alaskan cities on our own, or with land tour groups of our choice.  

On Saturday we will cruise scenic Vancouver Island, making port in Victoria, British Columbia.  There we will have the opportunity to explore this beautiful Canadian city's nightlife.

On Sunday morning, August 2, we debark ship in Seattle in time to catch our return flights for home.

For more information call 314-968-9600, Ext. 251 (Melissa Garrison) or 800-794-9271.  Tell her you are interested in the World Bird Sanctuary cruise to Alaska with Walter Crawford.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Adopt A Bird Spotlight: Tigger (Tawny Owl)

Tigger's Story

Species:  Tawny Owl
Hatched:  1992

Tigger was sent to the World Bird Sanctuary from another center in 1992.  He had been injured as a young chick and was unreleasable.  Tigger loves mice and venison, and is known to call in public, even during the day.  

This medium sized round owl (just over one foot tall) is native to Britain and much of Europe.  They live in woods and open areas with large trees for perching.  With the loss of much of their rural habitat, tawny owls are moving into cities and suburbs.  Their hunting techniques seem to be changing with their new environment, and it is hoped that these adaptations will allow them to survive where other species have failed.  Even though Tigger is considered sweet and easy going by his handlers, his species as a whole can also be fierce little hunters.

Tigger can often be seen in the education portion of our Owl Prowl programs, where he frequently exhibits his willingness to hoot in public.

To adopt Tigger, simply click our donation button, make a donation of $75, and specify in your payment notes:  Adopt-a-Bird: TIGGER.  Also include your name, phone number, and mailing address so that we can send your adoption materials!

Every donation helps to feed, house, and provide medical care for the bird of your choice!  Adopt-A-Bird Parents receive:

* A personal visit with the bird you adopt!!!!!  Call 636-861-3225 to set up a time for your 
personal visit.
* Certificate of Adoption
* Color photo of the bird you've adopted
* Sponsorship Card
* One year's subscription to Mews News (our quarterly newsletter)
* Life History and Natural History of the bird
* 10% Discount off WBS merchandise
* Invitation to Sponsors-only events like Camera Day
* Discounts on WBS Special Events
* WBS Decal

Natural History

tawny owl
Strix aluco

Description:  plumage is chestnut brown, heavily mottled with grey, brown and black streaks; face is round with deep-set black eyes; plumage pattern gives this bird a blocky, thick-set look; like the American Barred Owl to which it is related, it lacks ear tufts

Sex:  male and female similar in appearance; females slight larger than males

Length:  12-15"

Wingspan:  36-42"

Weight:  14-20 oz.

Habitat:  mostly woodlands, parks, and recently, urban areas

Status:  most common and widespread owl in Europe

Range:  with the exception of Ireland, distributed across Europe from Britain to Scandinavia; into North Africa; North and West Asia

Behavior:  territorial owls that use the same range through their lives; almost exclusively nocturnal, it hunts by swooping down on it's prey from a perch from which it may locate it's prey with it's keen hearing; males and females bond for life; the female lays 2-4 eggs in March or early April, in a hole in a tree or an abandoned nest; the female incubates the young while the male hunts, and feeds the brood for about 21 days; then both parents feed the chicks; the young owlets leave the nest at 32-37 days and scramble around on nearby branches (at this point they are known as "branchers"); by 2 months old they are flying and beginning to hunt for themselves; by 3 months they are independent and begin to disperse

Diet:  small mammals and rodents, small birds, frogs, fish, insects and worms

Vocalization:  the normal call is a duet:  the female calls "To-whit", to which the male replies "To-woo"; another call heard primarily in the fall is a loud "kee-wick"

This owl is so popular in Great Britain that it makes an appearance in many pieces of English literature, including "Winnie the Pooh" and the "Harry Potter" books

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's Dorothy!!!

Here you see Dorothy, our female Andean condor. Dorothy was hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary and is currently being trained for education programs. Though she's still a youngster at three years, her training skills put her at the head of the class!

Here you see target training in progress. Dorothy has learned to target (touch with her beak) a stick. In return for her effort, she gets a yummy bit of liver:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How They Grow - Tawny Owls

This little owl is so popular in Great Britain that it makes an appearance in many pieces of English literature--the most well known being "Winnie the Pooh" and the "Harry Potter" books.

Above you see our Tawny Owl baby at 7 days old.

This photo, taken at 30 days, shows a remarkable change in appearance.  He (she) is already showing characteristics of the beautiful little bird he will become

At 43 days our little baby is assuming the rounded, blocky shape, by which his species is generally described.  I personally think he looks  like a kid who's been caught in the act, and is saying "Who me?"  

In the wild he would now be scrambling around on branches near the nest, beginning to explore his world, although his parents would still be feeding him.

At 58 days you can see that our little character is beginning to get some of his adult plumage, even though he is still quite fuzzy.

As you can see, at 64 days he now has most of his adult feathers, even though there is still some down left.  In the wild he would be flying and beginning to hunt for himself.

At three months (about 90 days), he would be independent and he and his siblings would be starting to disperse.  

This photo is Tigger, our resident adult Tawny Owl.

Isn't it an incredible transformation from photo #1 to this beautiful, amazing creature in such a short time?


Owl Prowls begin at 7 p.m. and last approximately 1-1/2 hour.  The first half hour is held inside our Nature Center where you will meet several of our owls close up and our Naturalists will teach participants how to  "hoot".  We will then proceed outside and walk the trails of our grounds, while attempting to coax our local owls to return our "hoots".

For more Owl Prowl information, or to Make a Reservation, call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0.

Cost for this entertaining and informative program is:  $9.00 for adults and $7.00 for children.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A very, VERY belated Beak of the Week!

Our last Beak happened long ago, but was neither gone nor forgotten. Jane, you guessed it: an Andean Condor. I'll be posting video of another A.C. for my next post and she's a beauty.

This week we have a raptor that is native to the U.S. and I'll give you a big hint: not a red-tailed hawk.

Though most winter in Argentina, you sometimes see these feet in Florida during the cold season:

This eye looks for dragonflies to feast on, but won't say no to the occasional reptile or rodent:

Good luck beakers!