Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coopers Hawk Mating Ritual

Following is a fascinating description of the Coopers Hawk mating ritual which was sent to us by guest contributor Jason G. Harrison.

All of these images were taken over a 1 week time frame, beginning with April 3, 2009.  I spent nearly 6 days observing this very active pair.  I observed several matings and I was very surprised with what I saw.  The male would fly out from the nest site in search of food.  He would very quickly catch a bird or small mammal, dispatch it, and then fly to a nearby tree close to the nest where the female was sitting.  He would carefully place the captured meal on a nice sized branch and fly off while calling out.

The female would then leave the nest and fly directly to the meal placed on the limb.  She began eating the meal.  Soon thereafter, the male would then return, and land directly next to her.  He would then mount her and mate while she ate the meal.

I observed this several times.  On one occasion, the male brought in a bird it had killed and like before, laid it upon a branch and called out and flew off.  The female flew right in, like always, and looked at the meal in front of her.  The male did not “clean” up the kill this time.  In all my other observations of this ritual, the male had just about perfectly removed every feather from the carcass before placing it out for the female to eat.  She looked at the feather-covered meal in front of her and she then called out and flew back to the nest. 

The male returned, and began cleaning the feathers off of the carcass.  Once done, he then called out again and the female returned.  She quickly accepted the meal this time and like before, as soon as she began eating, the male returned and mated with her.

Due to the location of the nest site, and the impending foliage that was growing thicker every day, I soon lost sight of the nest and could no longer observe them.  The thick canopy of the trees prevented any further study of the nest and this wonderful pair.

Story and photos submitted by guest contributor Jason G. Harrison.  

Monday, September 28, 2009


This morning I was treated to a most amazing aerobatic display through my office window!!

Our house is surrounded by forty year old trees, and we feed the birds.  Anyone who has this same set of circumstances knows that in addition to feeding the birds, you also feed the squirrels.  Not that we intentionally do it—it’s just a fact of life.  Our squirrels run in herds and sometimes it seems as if our lawn is alive!  Keeping food in the feeders and actually feeding the BIRDS is a daily challenge.  We’ve come to the conclusion that no adult human being is “…as smart as the average squirrel”… and have come to grudgingly accept that fact.  We’ve slowed them down a little by putting up so-called “squirrel proof” feeders that close when a squirrel hops on, and have found that they won’t eat the “hot pepper suet”, but by and large, the yard belongs to the squirrel herd.

This morning as I was working at my office computer, and watching three of “the herd” scamper up, down and around the trunk of our forty year old Burr Oak tree, from the corner of my eye I spied what at first appeared to be a huge leaf hurtling to the ground.  When I got up to look I was surprised to see a Cooper’s Hawk sitting at the base of the tree.  He (or she) had apparently tried to grab one of the squirrel herd and missed.  As I watched, he focused on another group of squirrels  in the neighbor’s yard, and took off in another attempt to catch breakfast—another miss! 

Now, a Cooper’s Hawk usually preys on birds and small rodents such as mice, and I believe this particular hawk has dined at my feeder before.  But this is a young bird, and apparently has big ideas.  This morning he had a real craving for squirrel tenderloin.  I watched in awe as he tried six more times to catch one of those #@!! squirrels with no success.  One time he even tried to pluck one off the trunk of the tree, wingtips coming within inches of the trunk!  Finally he flew off to find easier prey, leaving me in awe and the squirrel herd intact

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Love at First Sight

Do you remember where you were the first time you kissed a girl? 
The adrenaline, the excitement, the beauty of the moment. In the woods this past week, I saw her. No it was not a girl. But a beautiful Mushroom called Chicken Mushroom by the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide "Familiar Mushrooms" page 172. Copyright 1990. 
Back in 1988, my first one, no not the kiss, but the Chicken Mushroom also known as Sulfur Shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus, was witnessed in Crescent, Missouri.  Mike Kohler, a great naturalist and friend showed me this beautiful mostly orange mushroom growing out of a tree about 2 feet off the ground.  It was so gorgeous and so unexpected, this multi-layered bright pumpkin orange growth out the side of a tree!  The sulfur shelf always grows out of wood. It can be on the ground above buried tree roots, and is always stalkless.  The orange of the main mushroom is fringed with an outside ring of yellow while it is still growing.  The underneath side is yellow with pores and has large fan-shaped caps to 12" wide.

I've seen the sulfur shelf almost every year since then, somewhere in the woods.  The last few years it has been while leading the "Sunrise With Songbirds" walks at World Bird Sanctuary.  Last year there was a tree by the middle bird feed station that had 20 or so layers of this orange mushroom. Catherine Redfern, a coworker at WBS, mentioned there was one by our last Eagle Exhibit on the left. It has since faded to white.

Like a kiss, you can put this mushroom to your lips.  It is considered one of the edibles by the publication put out by the Missouri Department of Conservation called "Mushrooms" copyright 1983.  Though I must warn you that both of the publications I read mentioned that it can cause sickness in some individuals, or a mild allergic reaction like swollen lips.

I love this Fungus Amongus...there I said it, had to say it in an article about Mushrooms.  You can see this orange mushroom in the summer or fall and it is widely distributed thoughout North America.

When you see something so beautiful, your mind often can remember the place and people you were with the first time you saw it.  Sulfur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom is the most beautiful mushroom I've experienced.  I hope you see one soon.

Text and photo submitted by Michael Zeloski, Naturalist, World Bird Sanctuary

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spooks, Goblins and Other Creatures

It's that time of year again, when children's thoughts turn to spooks, goblins and all other manner of creepy creatures!  

The World Bird Sanctuary's Creatures of Halloween program will entertain aspiring little ghouls by introducing them to some of the creatures that populate Halloween lore.  See a "Ghost" Owl, meet a snake (maybe even touch one--if you're brave enough), meet a spider, and many more of the world's creepiest critters!

Creatures of Halloween separates fact from fiction about those animals that make you squirm.  Discover the truth with our Naturalists and the live, creepy creatures that star in this program.  Come face to face with misunderstood animals, and discover how they are actually beneficial for humans. 

 Don't be left in the dark!

Location:  WBS Nature Center
Dates:  October 3, 24 & 30
Time:  7 p.m.

Price:  $9 per adult, $7 per child under 12  (10% discount for WBS sponsors)

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED:  636-225-4390, Ext. 0

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Evening in Victoria, B.C.

During our World Bird Sanctuary Alaska cruise, my husband and I spent an evening in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. 
We did not have much time in the city, due to the cruise ship’s schedule, but there was enough time for an orca whale watch that evening.  We took a smallish boat (could only carry 50 people max) out into the surrounding waters to see if we could find any of the beautiful creatures.  
On the way out of the harbor, we learned that Victoria’s airport is right off the bay and planes have to come in low over the water to hit the runway.  There was one day several years earlier when a couple of orcas wandered into the bay.  The protection laws for these marine mammals says that you cannot come within a certain distance of them, otherwise it is considered harassment.  Well, since the orcas were in the bay, and the planes had to fly right over the bay, no planes were allowed to take off or land.  This means that Victoria’s airport has the distinction of being the only international airport to be shut down due to orcas on the runway!!
While out on the watch, we were worried that we might not get to see any orcas, since they are wild animals and don’t necessarily run on our schedules!  Well, that fear was wiped out completely and utterly when we almost ran into not just a few, but all three local pods that were feeding in the same area!  There were over 90 orcas surrounding us!  The captain immediately cut the engines when we realized how close we were and we drifted in the rough water.  
It just so happened that our drift and the orcas journey intersected!  They were everywhere – one even spy-hopped right next to our boat to check us out!  It was the most incredible sight – they were so big, beautiful and majestic.  There was even a calf, but mom kept it a fairly good distance away.  They drifted and swam around us for about 45 - 60 minutes, and then they headed off to their own destination. 
This was the last stop on our cruise and it was the icing on the cake for us.  I’ve never seen an orca in the wild and I will never forget their beauty.  Wow!
Submitted by Laura MacLeod, Education Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Your Vulture Photos - from International Vulture Awareness Day!

Saturday, September 5th, was International Vulture Awareness Day. We asked our readers to send up pictures they have of vultures that they have seen in the area, or on their travels.

We received this post and photo from Lori, who wrote:
"I am a rural mail carrier in Willmar, Mn. I saw this vulture on the side of the road and no idea what it was until I looked it up. I had never seen one before.
Nice blog that you have!"

Thanks Lori!

Turkey Vultures eat carrion - or dead animals, so they are regularly seen on the side of the road taking advantage of road kill. It is also the reason why many of them are admitted to our wildlife hospital. They are so busy eating that they don't hear or see the cars, and they sustain wing and leg injuries from collisions with vehicles.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's Coming Soon!

Fall is just around the corner, and that means OPEN HOUSE will soon be here!  The World Bird Sanctuary Open House weekend will fall on October 17th and 18th this year.

Those of you who have joined us before for this, our biggest event of the year, already know what a fun weekend this can be for adults and children alike.  For those of you who have not attended before, be prepared to have a blast!

As always, admission is FREE!!

Entertainment is free.  There will be shows going on continuously throughout the day -- free flight and natural behaviors demonstrations by our birds, sing-alongs, story-telling, crafts for the kids, etc.

Wear your walking shoes and hike our trails.  See our Eagles, Owls, Hawks, and some of our more exotic species as you walk the trail past our exhibit enclosures.

See our wildlife hospital where we treat over 300 sick and injured birds every year.

Our staff and volunteers will be available to give educational talks and gladly answer questions about the birds.

For a minimal fee there will be food available for purchase, a face painting booth for the kids, a photo op holding a live bird of prey, and many other fun activities.

Mark your calendars now for October 17th and 18th.  Open House hours are 9 am - 4 pm.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Kee-oo (key-oh) is a female Augur Buzzard that lives at the Visitors Information Center at World Bird Sanctuary.  She is named for the distinctive call of the Augur Buzzard, and can often be heard 'chatting' to her visitors.  Augur Buzzards are native to Africa and are very similar to our Red-tailed Hawks.  They are beautiful birds with common hawk traits and two color phases or morphs, a dark and light color. 
Buzzard? Yes, I said Buzzard!  The term buzzard is simply another name for a hawk.  The United States is the only country in the world that calls these types of birds hawks.  Every other country calls them buzzards.  Wow!  So a buzzard is not a vulture, it’s a hawk!

Unlike many other birds, Augur Buzzards mate for life.  However, if one of the pair dies, the remaining one will seek out a new mate with breeding displays done in the air.  Their nests are created together in the branches of a tree or shrub, and they lay 1-3 red and white eggs, which hatch at intervals.  This causes violent inter-sibling rivalry, usually leading to the survival of only one chick.

Augur Buzzards are native to Africa and are also known as the African Red-tailed Hawk, and is equally as common in Eastern Africa.  Their habitat consists of mountainous, hilly areas and open woodland, savannas and grasslands, such as the highlands and plains of East Africa.  Occasionally, they can be seen in the central African plains.

Kee-oo has all of the normal characteristics specific to the Buteo group of hawks – the same group (or genus) as our American Red-tailed Hawks:
- Long, broad wings with five outer primary feathers, which aid in soaring
- A compact body
- Dark eyes
- A medium-sized, fan-shaped tail

Kee-oo is a dark morph Augur Buzzard, with her underside being wholly black. Although in the minority, dark morphs are quite common – making up 10% of the Kenyan population of Augur Buzzards.  In contrast, the light morph’s belly and chest are all white with specks of gray. The rest of the body is slate-gray with white specks, with a red, or a rufus tail.  The beak is completely yellow up to the very end, where it turns gray.  Immature Augur Buzzards are white with streaked or blotched blackish-brown feathers with a somewhat barred tail. They obtain their full adult plumage when they are about one and a half years old.

Kee-oo was hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary on March 3rd, 1992 in our Propagation Department.  The World Bird Sanctuary is the first organization to breed Augur Buzzards in captivity in the United States.  It is believed there are less than two-dozen Augur Buzzards in the United States.

Out in the wild Augur Buzzards eat mainly lizards, snakes, rodents and insects, as well as carrion from predator kills or road casualties. Prey is normally identified from a perch, although  Augur Buzzards will also hunt while in flight.  At the World Bird Sanctuary Kee-oo gets varied diet of rat, rabbit, deer and mice.

There are three ways to distinguish the sexes from one another, which helped us to identify Kee-oo as a female:
-         Males are approximately 1/3 the size smaller than females. Yes, this means the females are bigger and stronger than the males!
-         Females have a lower pitched call than the male. In fact, Kee-oo was named for her distinctive call. 
-         Females have black bibs on their throats, whereas the males’ throats are white.  This is different from most birds of prey because in most species there is no color differentiation between males and females.

Kee-oo has participated in countless education programs since her birth in 1992, traveling all over the U.S. including Sea World of Ohio, Grant’s Farm, Forth Worth Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  She continues to educate thousands of visitors a year at the Visitors Information Center.

She is available for adoption through the World Bird Sanctuary Adopt-A-Bird program.  If you choose to adopt Kee-oo, your adoption fee will help to house, feed and care for her for an entire year.  In addition, you will get an adoption certificate, photographs of Kee-oo, and visiting privileges.

For more information on adopting Kee-oo,email us. Her adoption fee is $100.00. 

Submitted by Liz Schuff, Naturalist, World Bird Sanctuary.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Good-By Old Friend

It is with a sad heart that we inform you that our beautiful Lizard Buzzard, Skyler, passed away suddenly on Saturday.

When we first saw Skyler he was being held in a very small cage made of chicken wire, and was eating a day old chick.  All his tail feathers and primaries were broken because the cage, which was sitting on the floor, was way too small for him.  Other than the broken feathers, he seemed to be in good shape, and didn't mind us standing over him as he ate his meal.  We received Skyler shortly after this in early 1988.  It was soon discovered that the company that was holding him in such deplorable conditions was also smuggling drugs into the U.S.

We have no way of knowing how old Skyler was at the time we received him.  However, we do know that he spent the next 22 years with the World Bird Sanctuary in much better circumstances than those in which we found him.

As with most raptors, both males and females have identical plumage, so we were not sure about the sex of this beautiful bird.  The only way to be certain would have been to do a surgical procedure to determine sex, and we are loathe to submit an animal to that kind of trauma unless it is medically necessary.  We have gone under the assumption that Skyler was a male.

Since Skyler was a tropical species and not adapted to our cold mid-west winters, he would always get the use of a heat lamp during the coldest days.  In his native Africa this species is suffering from human persecution and habitat destruction.  This made Skyler a perfect representative of his species, and he was a real trooper who traveled all over the country with our education team   Over the span of 22 years he took part in programs which educated millions of audience members about the problems faced by species such as his, whose habitat is being destroyed.

Skyler will be sorely missed by staff, volunteers and guests alike.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Scavenger

There's an old saying that says "Nature abhors a vacuum".

The truth of this saying was brought home to me on a recent Alaska trip with the World Bird Sanctuary.

Here in the "lower forty-eight" we are accustomed to seeing vultures soaring the skies looking for roadkill and other dead animals of various kinds.  They are nature's clean-up crew.

As we cruised the waters of the inside passage, and later, as my husband and I hiked the beaches and trails of Kodiak Island on an Alaska back country extension of our own, I realized that I had not seen one single vulture soaring.  There were plenty of eagles, and gulls of all kinds--but none of what we here recognize as the "clean-up crew".  I asked our guide, Mike, about this apparent absence of scavengers.  He said that, "Up here the eagles and gulls fill that niche."

Then it dawned on me!  I had seen lots of eagles.  They were everywhere--even soaring low in the middle of town!  Apparently these "city eagles" have learned that where there are fishing boats, there is fish carrion!  However, most of the eagles we saw seemed to be doing what we like to think of as "natural" behavior--fishing!

By far the most plentiful birds were the gulls.  We had seen hundreds.  They were everywhere, and I remembered that when we watched a pod of humpback whales bubblenet feeding, it was the gulls circling overhead that alerted us to where the whales would surface in their feeding frenzy.  Then the gulls would swoop in to clean up the scraps left from the carnage.

Likewise, when we walked into a remote area to do some bear viewing, and there didn't happen to be a bear in sight at the time--it was the circling gulls that alerted us to the location of a sow and her cub.

And when we were on the tidal flat watching the bears catching the salmon that were traveling upstream to spawn, the gulls appeared from nowhere the minute one of the bears caught a fish.

They would circle frantically while the bear devoured most of the fish, and then swoop in to clean up the scraps.

Even though we were on an isolated island with no roads, no electricity to operate a garbage disposal, and no trash pickup service, there was no garbage of the edible kind, or carrion, laying around.

So, let's hear it for old cliches..."Nature abhors a vacuum", "You can't fool mother nature", etc., etc.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, Volunteer/Photographer for the World Bird Sanctuary

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steps to becoming a responsible parrot owner

Parrots can make great pets, but owners have responsibilities towards them and the rest of the family.  A parrot lives a long time (some macaws can live up to 80 years), so you need to be able to provide a good home for the life of your parrot, and includes planning for who should look after your parrot if anything should happen to you.
Living with a parrot is like having a perpetual two-year-old child in the house – it a lot of attention, and will resort to behavior that will try your patience if it doesn’t get the attention it’s looking for.  The first responsibility is to give it the right size housing – so that it is comfortable, without feeling confined.  Most good books about parrots will give you the minimum size cage for your species of bird.  A reputable parrot store will also be able to assist you with this.  The biggest factor to consider when looking at a cage for your bird is to make sure that the width between the bars is appropriate – so that your bird does not get its head stuck between the bars.
Parrots also need different materials to perch on.  There are a variety of different perches you can purchase for your bird.  I suggest having a minimum of two different perching surfaces for your parrot, including one with a rough surface to assist with keeping your birds nails trimmed.
Parrots need a healthy diet.  There are many debates over what exactly is the best diet for parrots – seeds or pellets.  Personally, I believe in providing as much variety as possible, with a mixture of produce, pellets, some seeds and a few nuts.  Weighing your bird will help you keep a record of your bird’s health and keep it at a healthy weight.  You also need to be aware that there are some foods that are dangerous to parrots – again, your handbook will tell you what is safe to feed your parrots.

Responsible parrot owners need to provide your bird with sources of enrichment.  This is very important to keeping a happy, well-adjusted parrot, and will minimize destructive behaviors.  Enrichment comes in the following forms: social, dietary, auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile.  Now you are probably thinking, “How can I do all this” or “I am on a limited budget.”  Well, enrichment can range from very simple to very complicated.

Here are some simple easy things you can do that meet many of the different forms of enrichment: First, provide toys that vary in color, texture, and even potential noise.  Remember to make sure that your toys are safe for your parrot – they can be very dexterous and get caught up in long ropes and cords.
Second, when you leave for the day, leave the radio or TV on.  The radio provides auditory enrichment and the TV provides both audio and visual enrichment.  I find Nogin TV to be great – I never have to worry about the content since the station is geared towards preschoolers.

Another very simple thing you can do for your bird is provide different types of produce, rather than the same thing all the time.  Take advantage of seasonal produce.  Move the food dishes around, put some food on the floor of the cage, feed whole fruit or veggies, put a piece of paper over the bowl, etc.  Enrichment is a simple thing to do to provide variety in your bird’s life, but always remember: BE SAFE!

Lastly, be aware that the odors and fumes of different household cleaners and cooking surfaces can suffocate your parrots – so make sure that it is kept in a well-ventilated area when cooking and cleaning.  Refer to your parrot handbook to find out what poses a threat to your bird.

Finally, if you have questions or concerns about your bird speak with your bird’s veterinarian.  Veterinarians should be able to assist with diet and overall health questions.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn – Field Studies Coordinator, parrot owner and bird trainer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Some things to think about before you get a Parrot as a Pet

Rio - Red & Green Macaw enjoys some time outside his cage at World Bird Sanctuary.
At World Bird Sanctuary we got a lot of visitors who see our parrots perform trained behaviors.  Many of them enjoy what they see and have a lot of questions about getting a parrot as a pet.  As a parrot owner and bird trainer I have a few suggestions for people to consider before getting a parrot for a pet.

My first suggestion, when I hear that people are thinking about getting a parrot, or any exotic animal, as a pet, is to do research.  The first thing you need to do is buy a book about keeping a parrot as a pet, and read about your potential animal’s needs.  There are many good books available from reputable pet stores.  These books will tell you what diet is required; contain care suggestions and minimum space requirements for each species.  I always say it is better to invest the $15-$20 in a book than several hundred dollars into an animal that does not fit your lifestyle.

One of the biggest factors to consider before getting a parrot as a pet is that parrots live a long time.  For example, my African Grey Parrot will live about 40 years, so you need to be aware that you will have that bird for a long time.

One of the main reasons people enjoy parrots is because of their ability to mimic human speech. This means both the good and the bad!  Not only that, but remember that in the wild, parrots must communicate with family members over large dense forest areas, so parrots can be very noisy.  Make sure that you’re going to be able to tolerate this!

The last thing to take into consideration is that anything that has a mouth has the ability to bite.  A parrot can exert about a thousand pounds of pressure per square inch, and it only takes seven pounds of pressure per square inch to break your finger.  Make sure that you have the information that you need to train your parrot to behave appropriately.

I don’t wish to discourage any parrot-lover or potential parrot-owner from benefiting from the joy of owning a parrot, but please take the time to make sure that you are able to commit the time and effort needed to maintain a happy, healthy parrot.   You really need to know what you are getting into if you are both going to be happy and enjoy each other’s company.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn – Field Studies Coordinator, and happy owner of Simon, the happy African Grey Parrot.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pet Parrots

Green is the color of Mean!
There's a being in my household that hates me with a passion. He is a green-over-grey four-ounce winged creature who thinks he is ten feet tall and bulletproof. His name is Dash. He's a Quaker, or monk, parrot. He can fly like the Green Hornet, turn on a dime, expertly land on the back of your neck, remove a chunk of flesh, and fly off with it, cackling madly. He has a favorite human in the household --Rick. When Dash is around, Rick must not be touched, looked at, or spoken to -- or else.

Dash speaks both Quakerese and human. I used to be a smoker so, in his language, he decided that my name was that nasty morning smoker's cough. He will tell me to "Be QUIET, Be QUIET, Be QUIET" if I speak too loudly. He is very sensitive to human emotional voice tone and volume. Like many parrots, his tribe is part of a flock. Body language, voice tone, and actions are always closely observed so that actions can be determined -- Should we fly and escape? Should we come closer and see if that is something good to eat?

Dash came to be my master because a family had purchased him from a pet store. They kept him for four years, but their lifestyle and his behaviors became too much for them to deal with. This is very common with pet parrots. They gave him to me, and he has been part of my family (and part of my heart) since 2003... even though he hates me. I suspect though that he doesn't truly hate me. I am merely the rival for his chosen mate, Rick, so therefore must be chased away. Parrots are emotional beings and form lifelong bonds with mates. Jealousy is
part of that bond.

Young psittacines must be taught by their parents to find food, escape predators, recognize threats and safety, so they spend much longer with their parents than do other birds. Therefore, the parents must form a strong bond pair to nurture their offspring. Humans love parrots for this ability to form strong bonds. It is, sadly, also why many parrots are given up for adoption. Simply purchasing a parrot is no guarantee that he will love you!

Quaker parrots have been kept as pets since the Europeans colonized the Americas centuries ago. These small grey-and-green parrots are native to Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil and Argentina. Quakers are very social in nature. They live in large communal nests built of twigs and sticks. They are the only parrot species which builds nests; other psittacine species typically nest in hollow trees. Quaker parrots are able to endure cold winter temperatures, despite their native climate. This has enabled escaped pet Quakers to colonize in the United States, even as far north as Brooklyn, New York. An interesting website about the Brooklyn colonies can be found at:

Quakers are illegal to be kept as pets in many U.S. states because of their ability to adapt to a variety of conditions if they escape outside. Thriving feral Quaker colonies exist in many states, including Texas, Florida, and California. No data exists that proves that they have devastated crops or displaced native species, but the risk with any introduced animal or plant is always present. For a list of state regulations on ownership of Quakers, please see

As for us, we hope to continue to enjoy our four-ounce green entertainment center for many years to come.

Submitted by Sue Owens, Volunteer, World Bird Sanctuary.

Sue has a long history of working with parrots and understands their behaviors and needs. We strongly advise all prospective parrot owners to do thorough research into captive parrot behaviors and needs. They are a lifelong commitment and a great deal of time and attention needs to be invested in building a positive relationship with your parrot . In the coming weeks we will be featuring articles on responsible parrot ownership which will guide you in deciding whether or not a parrot is the right pet for you, and how to go about evaluating what kind of parrot would be best for you and your household.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Volunteering in the Wildlife Hospital

Volunteering at the World Bird Sanctuary's Wildlife Hospital is a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

How do you see yourself?
A Naturalist? Conservationist? A Birder? A Falconer? Pre Veterinarian? Or maybe just an average Guy or Gal?

Craig Lanham handfeeding a shot Red-tailed Hawk with Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann.

How do you want others to see you?
Knowledgeable about Birds of Prey? Passionate about living creatures? Compassionate about the Planet?

What inspires you?
Eagle Fishing in a river? The Hoot of an Owl? An Injured Falcon with a broken wing or a very ill Black Crowned Night Heron. What about a Red Tailed Hawk suffering with gunshot wounds by a Poacher. What about seeing these birds released back into the Wild?
The World Bird Sanctuary’s Wildlife Hospital sees roughly 300 injured, orphaned or sick birds of prey a year come through its doors. Some are fortunate enough to respond to treatment and are returned to the wild. They return to their home ranges. They get another chance to be exactly what they are made to be!
Craig Lanham preparing a Great-horned Owl for release.

By becoming a volunteer at the Hospital I get to care for the truly magnificent wonders of the Planet. By being a Volunteer I get to be part of something bigger than us all, the Natural World. By being a volunteer at the Hospital I can become what I aspire to be. You can too.
So….. how do you see yourself?

Click here to find out more about volunteering at World Bird Sanctuary.

Submitted by Craig Lanham, Volunteer, World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peregrines in Forest Park

The Next Time You're in Forest Park, Look Up!

That speeding bullet you see swooping overhead isn't Superman. It could be a Peregrine Falcon!

On July 30th of this year photographer Jason G. Harrison was on a photo op in Forest Park near the fishing ponds. He was photographing Yellow Crowned Night Herons with a fellow professional photographer whose photos appear in the "Missouri Conservationist". They noticed a bird of prey fly overhead, and could see it was a Peregrine Falcon. However, the bird flew on before they could get a photo.

After some time had passed a Peregrine again flew by, this time landing in a large Sycamore tree. Jason quickly packed his gear and began a long circling approach in order not to scare off the bird. The bird stayed perched while he made his long walk. It was very focused on several small ducks and other birds on the ponds, which allowed him to get close enough to take some images. It stayed perched there for about 15 minutes, and then flew off to the west.

The two photographers spent several days in this location, and EACH day they saw a Peregrine flying overhead. Whether it was this same bird, he couldn't tell. One day they did see a mature Peregrine flying low.

Upon examining the images that he took that day, Jason discovered that the bird had been banded, and was able to make out enough of the numbers on the bands that he contacted the World Bird Sanctuary to see if he could find out the particulars of where and when the bird had been banded. As it turned out, this was a Peregrine that had been banded this year as part of our Peregrine Falcon reintroduction program. Following is an excerpt of a letter that was sent to Jason from Roger Holloway, Director of Operations for the World Bird Sanctuary, giving the bird's particulars:

"I am writing to give you some background on the Peregrine Falcon who became your "subject" in Forest Park this summer. I was very glad to hear she was out and about touring her new territory.

"I was very fortunate to be involved in banding 11 of the juvenile Peregrines in the St. Louis region in 2009. The banding and monitoring of these once highly endangered raptors has helped track their comeback and taught us a lot about their "peregrinations" over the past 25 years.

"Your young lady was banded on May 18, 2009 at a wild nest located at the Washington University Medical School next to Barnes Hospital. There, the parents nest in a box built into an opening in the side of the building where an old air intake used to be. Accessing it requires crawling on one's belly and hands and knees through a 30-yard long dark and dingy crawlspace. This is when we love being biologists...! Once at the nest, we looked through the peepholes to see who was home. We were treated to the mother feeding all three Peregrine babies. They were sitting patiently in a semi-circle as she ripped up a pigeon one piece at a time. Once we made enough noise, mom left. We slid the front door of the box closed and opened the back. We had to carry the three babies back through the crawlspace so we could band them and collect a small blood sample from each.

"There were two females and one male. With Peregrines, we can tell by the larger size of the females, especially their feet. Once banded, back to the nest they went. At that point, I think Mom Peregrine said the equivalent of, "Where have the three of you been? I was worried sick. Now finish your pigeon."

It is indeed special to get close to a bird like the Peregrine Falcon. Through your images, you will give many that opportunity. What will become of this bird is hard to say. Only 25% will survive their first year. Hopefully, this young female will fit into the 25% of perseverant youngsters that will live on despite the many challenges ahead. Will she come back as an adult to nest in St. Louis? Will she move on to an exotic city in South America? If I ever find out, I'll be sure to let you know.

Thanks for your interest and involvement."

All photos courtesy of Jason G. Harrison.

Friday, September 4, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day!

World Bird Sanctuary is proud to be part of International Vulture Awareness Day 2009.

The Birds of Prey Working Group of EWT in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England are proud to host the first International Vulture Awareness Day. Organizations in Africa, Europe, the Americas and South-Asia
are celebrating this day with a variety of events worldwide.

Vulture Awareness Day aims to create greater awareness of vultures and to highlight the important work done by the world’s vulture conservationists. Each participating organization will organize activities that highlight vulture conservation and awareness.

If you are near St. Louis, come to World Bird Sanctuary on Saturday September 5th where we have vulture exhibits, and you can meet Turk, our resident Turkey Vulture in our Amazing Animal Encounter programs at 11.30am and 2pm. If you aren't in the St. Louis area, click here to find out what is happening near you.

Our in-house band, The Raptor Project, wrote and produced the popular Vulture Song for their CD "Save the Future" - listen to "Eeew!, vultures are gross, but we need them the most" here! If you like it, you can support our Raptor Hospital by buying it from our website, itunes or on Rhapsody.

A Day with Dumpling

Anytime I work at our Visitor’s Information Center (VIC), I look forward to a little feathered friend that shadows me as I do my chores. Her name is Dumpling. She is a Bantam Cochin Chicken that was hatched at WBS in 1995.

During my work day, I let her roam free in the VIC building. She spends the majority of her time literally running after me, which the guests really get a kick out of. She was trained to run with her friend “Duster” in zoo shows, but I think she follows me in hopes that I will give her a treat. I take her outside at lunchtime, and she’ll get so excited that she almost jumps into my lap. You can bet that I have to share my lunch with her and that she won’t take “no” for an answer!

Dumpling has a sweet personality and has been used in zoo shows, children’s educational programs, BirdDay Parties and is a great educational bird. For instance, today a special needs group came by the Visitor’s Center, and Dumpling received all kinds of extra attention, and let the visitor’s pet her. She is enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Dumpling is just one of the birds at WBS that can be “adopted”. To adopt Dumpling, just click here, make a donation of $50.00, and specify in your payment notes “Adopt-A-Bird: Dumpling”.

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 ahead to schedule 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
  • 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

Submitted by Billie Baumann, Outreach Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary.