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.

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