Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fred the Turkey's Thanksgiving Wishes

Fred the Turkey says "I am thankful for...."

*  Waking up the morning after Thanksgiving NOT surrounded by dressing
*  Hearing my theme song, "A Turkey Named Fred" being played on local radio stations
*  The sound of the food buckets bringing breakfast to me and all my friends on "the line"
*  The trainers at WBS who have made me a "star"
*  The naturalists, interns and volunteers who cater to my every need
*  All you folks out there who support the World Bird Sanctuary and make it possible for me to stay off the dinner table!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

If Nature Calls, Are You Listening??

Do you know how to talk to the animals?

I have had the good fortune of volunteering at WBS for several years, and became a staff member earlier this year.  My time here has allowed me to work with a variety of bird species, reptiles and mammals.  My favorites will always be the birds, and over time I have come to know some of our residents fairly well.  Strangely, they seem to have come to know me too. Before my introduction to WBS, I hadn’t given much thought to a bird of prey having a personality.  I certainly believe otherwise now.

One of my favorite ways to interact with our birds is simply by trying to “speak” their language.  With a keen ear and a little practice, one can learn the calls of the numerous birds on our site, from birds of prey to a wide variety of songbirds.  I can’t seem to go anywhere on this property without hooting or “barking” at one of the birds in hope that they will respond.  When they do, it’s pretty fantastic.  I have actually had guests follow me around as I visit some of our exhibits just to hear the bantering between us.

During the summer months, some of my favorite birds to interact with are the Laughing Kookaburra’s.  They are quite entertaining as they call back and forth.

In the fall I love to get the Great Horned, Barred and Eurasian Eagle Owls hooting.  They are generally more responsive as they approach their nesting season.  Throughout the year I have pretty good success at getting a response from the Screech Owls, Tawny Eagles, Tawny Owl,  Fred the Turkey and many more.  Our ravens and a variety of parrots are pretty vocal, and will ham it up for most anyone.

I have been referred to as “Dr. Dolittle” by some, because they say that I “talk” to the animals.  I just take it in stride, and try not to turn red in the face, which is easier said than done.  I love to interact with the birds one on one, but am shy about making silly owl noises in front of folks.

If you develop your calling skills well enough, you may be able to call in a wild owl on our site, or even in your neighborhood.  For a great and unique opportunity to hone up on your calling abilities, join us for one of our “Owl Prowls”. 

Owl Prowl dates are:
Nov. 20, 21, & 28
Dec. 12, 18 & 19
Jan. 2, 8, 9, 22, 29, & 30
Feb. 5, 12, 20, 26, & 27

Location:  World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center (for directions click HERE)
Time:  7 pm (prowls last 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.)
Cost:  $9/adult, $7/child under 12

Call for reservations:  636-225-4390, Ext. 0  (Owl Prowls fill quickly -- call today!)

Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Friday, November 20, 2009

Last Chance for Early Sign-up Discount!

Have you bargain shoppers been putting off signing up for the Christmas Is For The Birds event?

If so, don't delay any further!  Friday, 11/27, is the last opportunity to take advantage of our $20.00 early sign-up discount!  After 11/27 the price goes up to $25.00 per child!   This is one of the best bargains in town for photos of your youngsters with Santa.

Where else can you get a photo with Santa and a magnificent Eurasian Eagle Owl all in one photo?

 In addition to the photo there is a treat of cookies and milk for your little one, PLUS a story telling performance,

PLUS an animal themed Christmas Sing-along

PLUS a Christmas craft for them to make, !  Now THAT'S a bargain!!

In addition to all the above you may purchase a photo CD of your child's photo to be used for this year's Christmas card for an additional $5.00.  Now there's a REAL bargain.  Most Santa photo CDs run in the neighborhood of $15.00.  If you would prefer a family or group photo for your card, we can handle that also!  The cost would be $10.00--$5.00 for the family or group sitting and $5.00 for the photo CD.

Reservations are required:  Saturday, 12/5 - 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Early registration Discount $20.00 per child until 11/27
Late registration (after 11/27)  - $25.00 per child
10% group discount for groups of 10 or more

Call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0 to reserve your time slot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Bird Sanctuary Inspired My Daughter!

Every once in a while we receive a letter or comment from an audience member that reminds us why we do what we do!  

Each year World Bird Sanctuary presents environmental education programs in the Quad Cities featuring bald eagles.  In early November 2009, World Bird Sanctuary received the following letter from proud father, Mr. Shawn Cisna:

“My name is Mr. Shawn Cisna. My family and I live in the country outside of Galva, Illinois about an hour south of the Quad Cities.

I wanted to share with you a story about my daughter Jennalynn Cisna. For the past four years we have attended the Bald Eagle Days at the Quad City Expo Center. My daughter was so inspired by the program conducted by the World Bird Sanctuary that she wrote a story and illustrated it. She then decided to enter her storybook entitled “The Bald Eagle” into the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators contest through our local public television station (WTVP).

Jennalynn won first place in the Second Grade category. Her story went on as an entry in the national level. Her story was posted on the national website. Jennalynn was so proud of herself and her accomplishments.

As a proud father, I wanted to thank you folks for your educational programs and hard work.

Last year about this time, we had several bald eagles hanging out at our farm roughly an hour away from the Mississippi. My kids were so excited about that and enjoyed nature’s educational opportunity. We are keeping our eyes to the sky in hopes we see them again this year.

Please send our appreciation to the people who are doing good things at World Bird Sanctuary. We will see you at the next Bald Eagle Days for sure.”

You can read Jennalynn’s storybook here:

World Bird Sanctuary would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jennalyn on her winning submission to the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Ilustrators Content.  At World Bird Sanctuary it is stories like these that let us know our hard work is paying off, and we are successful at achieving our mission.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Alaska Experience

Alaska is truly a land of unspoiled beauty.

On a recent trip to Alaska with the World Bird Sanctuary's Alaska Cruise group we were awe-struck by the incredible scenery and abundant wildlife in this vast state.

For a photographer this trip is mind boggling!  Scenery to the left (port)!  Scenery to the right (starboard)!  Why did we even bother to get a stateroom?  Most of our time was spent on deck for fear that we might miss something!

Entering Glacier Bay brought passengers racing to the top deck to view the entrance to this magnificent spectacle.

We soon encountered bits and pieces of ice that had broken off from the glacier (bergy bits).  It was just amazing to be standing on the upper deck of the ship and hear a huge "crack", and then another and another and suddenly see part of the glacier break away and slide into the sea (calving).

And then, of course, there's the startling blue color of the ice!  I had always thought the "blue ice" photos I'd seen in magazines were color enhanced.  It turns out the ice really is that blue!

With all that ice it seemed truly strange to find patches of greenery and fireweed growing right next to the ice fields!  The fireweed on this trip was in full bloom and growing everywhere.  If you love to photograph plants and flowers--or even if you just like to enjoy them without the camera--this is a trip you shouldn't miss.  But that's the subject for another post.

The World Bird Sanctuary doesn't currently have another trip planned--yet.  But we'll let you know when one comes up.  It's a trip you shouldn't miss.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Great Field Trip for Scouts

As we get closer to the holidays we want to remind all scout leaders of a great opportunity for their troops.

Our Christmas Is For The Birds program is not only a great Christmas Program for all youngsters, but for Scout troops it provides the opportunity to satisfy some of the requirements for badges.  For instance, for Brownie troops there is the opportunity to meet some of the requirements for the Animals Try It.

In addition to the World Bird Sanctuary program, there is also the opportunity to explore the rest of our grounds in a quest to satisfy badge requirements.  Also, we are right next door to Lone Elk Park, which also presents the opportunity to fill requirements for many badges.

Christmas Is For The Birds takes place on Saturday, December 5th.  Children will have cookies and milk while waiting to have their photograph taken with our Turn of the Century garbed Santa.  Santa will be holding our Eurasian Eagle Owl, Xena--a member of the largest owl species in the world!  Where else can the youngsters have such a unique Santa photo taken?  After having their photo taken youngsters will walk down to our Nature Center to enjoy such activities as story telling, a sing-along and making a Christmas craft to take home.

RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED!  Sign up now to take advantage of the early sign-up discount!

Date:  Saturday, December 5
Time:  9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price:  Early sign-up (before 11/27) - $20.00
           Late sign-up (after 11/27)  - $25.00
           Additional fee for Photo CD - $5.00
           Additional photo of same child or additional family or group photo:  $5.00

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday Crew

In an organization like the World Bird Sanctuary there are many unsung heroes--those people who will do whatever is necessary without expecting recognition or praise.

One group of such heroes is our Tuesday Crew.  As the name implies, they show up every Tuesday, rain or shine, to tackle the myriad construction and maintenance tasks that need doing.  Our list is always long.

These men come in many different ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  Most of them have some construction background--some of them don't.  What they all have in common is the willingness to do whatever is needed to maintain a main facility and other buildings that sprawl out over several hundred acres.

The other day I caught up with them when they were trying to work out the logistics of building the most efficient shelving system for our new walk-in freezer.

The next day's project might find them building a wall or hanging a door.

Another day might find them installing a ceiling fan in our offices, or repairing one of our rehabilitation flight cages.  Whatever we need done, they always seem to find a way to get the job done, no matter how impossible the request may seem.

The thing that impresses me the most about these gentlemen is their camaraderie and sense of humor.  They always seem to be having a good time no matter what they're doing.

The World Bird Sanctuary is always in need of people with carpentry, electrical, plumbing, HVAC or mechanical know-how.  If you fit this profile and would be interested in volunteering your services Click Here for a volunteer form, or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0 and ask for Teri, or email her at

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hey, look it’s a rat…

No, that’s not a rat. ....O.K., then it’s a hamster…  No, he’s not a hamster either.  This is Gargamel and he’s a Short Tailed Opossum!   

Short Tailed Opossums, or House Opossums, are very cute South American marsupials with prehensile tails.  They are omnivorous, which means they eat a variety of foods.  Short Tailed Opossums are mainly found in Brazil and the adjoining countries of Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile.  

As you can see from his picture, the fur is a thick velvety gray-brown on top with a lighter tone underneath.  They are nocturnal marsupials so they are more active at night.  However, unlike most marsupials, the female does not have a pouch.  They are quiet, active, and inquisitive creatures.  An adult Short Tailed Opossum is  about 4" - 6" (10 - 15 cm) in body length with a tail that is about 1 1/2" - 3" (4 - 7.5 cm) and will weigh between 2 - 5 ozs (60 - 150 g). The males are approximately 25% larger than the females.  

The Short Tailed Opossum’s muzzle is quite like a rat with very sharp teeth. The ears are large, very thin-skinned, and sensitive to sound.  Because their eyes bulge out, Short Tailed Opossums have excellent night vision. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs and they can hold things with their front feet.  They have a lifespan of about 4 to 8 years.

My favorite feature of the Short Tailed Opossum is its hairless prehensile tail, which it uses to grasp and balance while climbing.  Th tail is also great for carrying nesting materials and other things.  However, it is not weight bearing, so they can’t actually hang upside down by their tails.  It is so fascinating to watch Gargamel move things around with his tail, especially when he is gathering and moving strips of paper towel around to make a nest.  He will grab the material with his front feet, move it under him to his back feet, and then kick it back to his tail. 

Gargamel enjoying his favorite snace - a nice juicy mealworm

Once they do make a nest and mate, their babies are born prematurely, pink, and hairless. They are helpless, latching on to a nipple on their mother’s stomach where they will stay until they are further developed.  The gestation period is about two weeks and the female will have a litter of up to 13 babies.  Wow! That’s a lot of babies all at once, especially for such a small animal.

In the wild, they eat insects, fruits, and vegetable matter. We provide Gargamel, as well as our female Azriel, a similar diet by offering mealworms, crickets, roaches, fruits, vegetables, and omnivore pellets.  In South American countries, they are nicknamed “House Opossums” and it’s considered lucky if you have one living in your house.  After all, they eat those pesky insects and keep your house free of them.

Opossums are NOT the same thing as possums. Most people don’t even know there is a difference.  "Opossums" range from North America to southern Argentina and contain 15 genera with over 60 species. "Possums" are found in Australia with over 20 species. They are both marsupials, but are actually only distantly related.

Gargamel currently lives off display in our Nature Center, but he is used in many programs and is also one of our Adoptable animals.  If you are interested in adopting him or one of our other animals, simply click on the Donate button on the right-hand side of the screen, make a donation, and in the comments box type in Adopt A Mammal - Gargamel.  His Adoption fee is $50.

Submitted by Liz Schuff, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Old Birds

In recent years the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital has received numerous hawks, owls and eagles from the wild that appear to be very old. 

It is next to impossible to tell the true age of these wild birds.  However, with our many years of experience, we think we know what to look for to approximate the age of the bird.  Older birds have feathers which have a dusty, grey sheen to them.  The scales on their legs and feet appear worn and not as smooth as a young bird, and the beak and face show signs of age and wear.  In some cases the bird may have advanced arthritis in its toes and legs.

I guess this is a sign of success.  If more birds are living longer lives, then our environmental education programs and habitat restoration efforts have started to work.  Drastic weather changes, such as we’ve had recently (rapid changes from warm to cold, extreme cold, or extreme heat) have an adverse effect on the elderly – just as with human beings.  We do our best to care for them and get them through their exhaustion by fattening them up, and care for them as best we can.  Some of them don’t make it, but for those that do, we release them in a place where we feel they will have access to bountiful food sources and water, so that they can live out the rest of their long lives in the wild.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager, World Bird Sanctuary

Saturday, November 7, 2009


It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that Chester, the Harris' Hawk, has passed away.  He was 27 years old--double the normal lifespan for his species.

Chester originally came to us from a falconer who could not keep him.  He quickly became a favorite of all those who worked with him.  In his long career he has appeared at Busch Gardens Tampa, Louisville Zoo,  Denver Zoo, North Carolina Zoo, and Cleveland MetroParks Zoo, as well as performing at hundreds of other events throughout the country with our Office of Wildlife Learning staff.

For the last several years he has been greeting visitors to our facility from his perch on the upper nature trail.  He will be missed by staff, volunteers and visitors alike.

Friday, November 6, 2009

News from the Field

What does a Field Studies Team do?

2009 has been a very busy year for World Bird Sanctuary’s field studies team.  Our longest running field studies project with Ameren UE is our nestbox study.  The nestbox study looks at power line cuts and the methods of control used on the vegetation.  We then compare the methods of control with nestboxes that are placed on these lines and at how successful the nestboxes are for cavity nesting species, such as Eastern Bluebirds, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, House Wren, Carolina Wren, and a specialty Great-crested Flycatcher.

On each stanchion that we check we have two Peterson nestboxes and two standard nestboxes.  The different nestboxes are preferred by different species, these boxes are built by eagle scouts as part of their eagle scout projects.  Our field studies staff, including Trina Whitner, Matt Sheele, and myself check the three lines.   Each time we check the boxes we record in which box we find eggs, babies, babies banded, and then number that fledge.  This data helps us to determine just how successful the control methods are.

 In addition to checking the nestboxes we also perform point counts at select locations on each line.  Two trained naturalists count all of the birds they see and/or hear in the area for ten minutes.  This additional data helps us to determine how the control methods affect other nesting birds in the area.

This season was the fifth year in a five-year study with Ameren looking at the treatment methods used on power cuts to determine which of their control methods is the best for nesting bird species in the region.  This year we found that the number of boxes used was way down. Out of the 309 boxes installed over three lines only 64 were used.  Even the number of young that fledged was down.  We feel that this was due to the fact that over the last few years we have had unusually high rainfall that increased the amount the vegetation grew between the treatments. Vegetation in many cases was above 5 feet.  Bluebirds and other cavity nesting species do not like vegetation this high, especially around the nest boxes. 

At this point in the study it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions.  There are few consistencies in the data from 2005 to 2009, and it will take several more years to see the development of any real pattern.   For this reason we need to continue this project to determine whether the height of vegetation is a major factor, or if  there are other environmental factors that led to the decline in birds this year.

If your company or organization is in need of an experienced organization to do field studies Click Here for more information.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, Field Studies Coordinator

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Christmas is Coming!

Fall is in the air, the goblins have made their pilgrimages through the neighborhoods, and Thanksgiving is almost upon us.  That means Christmas is not far behind!

At the World Bird Sanctuary, that means that our annual event for the little tykes will be here soon – Saturday, December 5, 2009, 9 am to 3 pm

Christmas Is For the Birds is the annual event that heralds the beginning of the Christmas season for youngsters and their parents.  Our program features a real live “Turn of the Century”  wilderness Santa who holds a majestic Eurasian Eagle Owl for your child’s photo op.  This will be the most unique Santa photo your child will ever have! 

For a small additional fee parents are invited to “sit in” on the photo and purchase a CD for their use in having a family Christmas card made. 

In addition to the photo with Santa your child will receive cookies and milk while waiting to whisper their Christmas wishlist to Santa.  After having their photo taken they will walk down to our Nature Center to experience the rest of this unique Christmas program, which will include making a Christmas craft, Christmas caroling with our talented staff, and enjoying a Christmas story as told by one of our master storytellers.

Make your reservations early for this one-of-a-kind experience.  Call 636-225-4390, ext. 0

ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED.  Fee includes all activities described above

Price per child:              Early registration - $20/child
                                    Late registration (After 11/27) - $25/child
                                    Extra charge for photo CD - $5.00

For more information or for directions go to our website Click Here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Owl Prowls Are Back!

It's that time of year again when a young owl's thoughts turn to matters of love!

If you haven't already heard them, step outside after dark and listen--really listen!  You may be rewarded by the sound of an owl hooting to establish territory.  Now if you live in the city, this may not be as easy as it sounds.  Although, if you live where there are big old trees there may be more owls nearby than you would ever imagine.

The World Bird Sanctuary's Owl Prowls are a great way to learn about these creatures of the night.  The first part of the program takes place inside, where you will meet the owls that inhabit Missouri's woods, and  learn about what makes their preferred habitat, and how to identify their calls.  Then you will learn how to "hoot".

Once you've learned the proper "hooting" techniques, we'll venture out onto our trails, where we'll get a chance to practice our "hooting" skills and listen for a response from the owls that call these woods home.

Owl Prowl dates are:
Nov. 7, 13, 20, 21, & 28
Dec. 11, 12, 18 & 19
Jan. 2, 8, 9, 22, 29, & 30
Feb. 5, 12, 20, 26, & 27

Location:  World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center (for directions click HERE)
Time:  7 pm (prowls last 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.)
Cost:  $9/adult, $7/child under 12

Call for reservations:  636-225-4390, Ext. 0  (Owl Prowls fill quickly -- call today!)

Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather.