Friday, December 31, 2010

Can You See?

No, I wasn’t referring to a human visitor – this one is avian.  Look a little closer… there she is!
Meet one of our occasional winter visitors--a wild Bald Eagle
Meet one of our visitor Bald Eagles.  This one looks to be a female.  I don’t say that because of her coloration.  Many people who aren’t familiar with birds of prey assume that they are like songbirds – males and females are colored differently.  Not so with raptors.  There are very few raptors that have different coloration in males and females (called sexual dimorphism).  Most raptors are colored identically.  The best way to tell the difference is in their size.  In most cases with birds of prey, the males are up to one-third SMALLER than the females.  So, this visitor is probably a female because of her large size.  She is also a juvenile – probably only in her second or third year, because of all the mottling on her feathers.
This eagle's size and white mottling indicate that it is probably a 2 or 3 year-old female
Over the winter months (and sometimes in the summer, too) we often get Bald Eagles that visit our site and hang out in the trees over our enclosures.  These eagles are usually here to try and snag a bit of free food.  Winter months are tough for all animals – food is much harder to find.  The wild eagles see our captive eagles (ones that are here permanently due to injuries) and come down to check them out.  They also sometimes fly into the enclosures to grab a bite of our eagles’ food.  Don’t worry; our eagles aren’t suffering because of the theft.  We feed our birds plenty of food each day. 
Two of our resident Bald Eagles who have become accustomed to visits by their wild cousins
Now this does sometimes cause a little confusion for our visitors – they see an eagle fly out of one of the enclosures and think our birds are escaping.  So, if you are at our site and see a Bald Eagle fly out of an enclosure, just enjoy the view and snap a picture of our wild Bald Eagle visitors!

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Monday, December 27, 2010

Keeping Your Pet Bird Safe

Winter is always one of my favorite times of the year.  The snow, especially, is just so peaceful.  But as a parrot owner I have to remember to winterize so my bird stays healthy and happy during these winter months.

One of the first things we humans notice in the winter is dry skin.  For humans the solution is usually to use lotions.  However you can’t do this to a parrot.

Since most parrots come from tropical forests with high humidity, simply adding a humidifier to the room your parrot is in is a good solution.  It will also help the humans who share his environment.  You do not need it to feel like a rain forest; you just need enough added moisture to help offset the dry heated air. 
The cold outside creates drafts near windows and doors.  Parrots can tolerate sustained temperatures down to about 55°F; however, the drafts which you experience near doors and windows can make your bird sick.  Again—a simple solution--move your bird away from these areas.  If this really is not possible, try putting plastic around the windows.  Most hardware stores sell a window insulating kit that is quite inexpensive and unobtrusive.  I have found this works quite well.  You can also provide a blanket or towel on the side of the cage from which the draft is coming.  This will allow the bird to get away from the draft and will lessen the sudden change in temperature.

Winter power outages are always a big concern.  Be prepared.  Have several days’ worth of water set aside for your bird’s drinking, bathing, and even cleaning needs.  Make sure you have several days’ worth of food available.  Winter storms may mean you can’t get to the store.  Have blankets available to cover the bird’s cage to help keep it warm.  Also have a smaller travel cage or even a crate available to take your bird to some place warm and safe in the event of an extended power outage.  The smaller space is also good when trying to keep the bird warm when you have no heat.  You can cover the crate or even the smaller cage and it will be easier for your bird to maintain its body temperature. 

During power outages and the holidays we find ourselves using candles, air fresheners, incense, Yule logs, etc.  Remember that scents and additives in some of these products are poisonous to birds and can make them very sick or kill them.  To give your home that holiday aroma, try boiling spices and herbs like cloves, mint or cinnamon.  Also remember, smoke is an irritant to birds.  If you must have a fire or use candles keep your bird in another room.

During the Holidays we also have people over.  Remember, not everyone knows what can and cannot be fed to birds.  Keep your bird safe in its cage and away from people.  If this is not possible do what I do and keep the cage in view at all times and have a very strict rule, especially with children, that they are not to give anything to the bird without you present.  I always keep a special bag of air popped popcorn around so the kids feel like the bird is getting a really special treat.

Be safe and enjoy the winter months and the Holidays!

Saturday, December 25, 2010





Thursday, December 23, 2010

What The World Bird Sanctuary Means To Me

Someone once asked me what the World Bird Sanctuary means to me?  Simply put--everything.  It’s hard to put everything into a short blog so I will give just a little bit of explanation.

All I have ever wanted to do since I was a little girl was to be able to work with Bald Eagles.   I used to dream about working with them, especially after the movie Continental Divide came out back in 1981, and then seeing the devastation of the oil spill on the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.  I remember worrying so much about the population of eagles. 
Volunteer Jennifer Jones holding Liberty, the Bald Eagle
WBS made my dream a reality.  I still remember the day that I held Liberty, one of WBS’s education Bald Eagles, for the first time, and holding back my tears of joy until the end of the presentation.  I still tear up to this day.  I have an extreme sense of pride and honor knowing that I am a part of something as important as educating the public, both young and old, about the importance of not only bald eagles, but all birds of prey and the environment.  Every time I do a program with Liberty I am extremely proud and honored to be given the opportunity to be with him and to represent WBS and our Nation’s Symbol.

I can actually say I am at peace when working at WBS.  Certainly, there is a lot of work to be done, but it is good work, and a kind with a sense of accomplishment, like the first time I held Liberty about 7 years ago.  I can truly say this feeling has never changed.  I still get goose bumps when a child comes up and tells me some fact they learned during one of my programs.  Then there is the little girl who tells you she wants to be like you and work with eagles, too, when she grows up.  That little girl almost made me cry.
Jennifer Jones presentiing the Dupont Volunteer Recognition check to Director of Facilities, Roger Holloway (left) and Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann (right) 
WBS is a part of me.  It is not only a sanctuary for birds but it is my sanctuary as well--a sense of peace for me when it seems everything else is crazy.  All I have to do is see Liberty, or another one of my favorite WBS birds—Keeoo the Augur Buzzard--and I am better.  So, when I had the opportunity to be able to possibly win a $1000 donation through DuPont for Volunteer Recognition, I went for it with no hesitation and wrote about the sanctuary and what they do and how I was involved.  The DuPont Volunteer Recognition program recognizes employees who are contributors not only at work but in the community as volunteers.  I am proud to say that on November 9th I found out that I was one of DuPont’s Honorees and won $1000 for the sanctuary's Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital.

It means a lot to be able to give this money to the sanctuary, a place where the staff works so hard and perseveres against all obstacles.  I truly wish for the sanctuary and its wildlife hospital to remain open for future generations.  This donation may be just a drop in a pretty big bucket, but a drop I am very proud of.  The sanctuary has given me so much-- probably more than they know--and now I can give them a little something back for all they have done for me.

Submitted by Jennifer Jones, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Avian Respiratory System

Imagine that you could magically grow bird wings, plus the muscles to power them.  Would you immediately set off for the great blue horizons or perhaps take a migration to Florida for the winter? 

Unfortunately, you would not get very far.  If he or she could grow feathers and wings, even a marathon runner would quickly become too exhausted to flap those wings or even to take off.  Our lungs, and the lungs of most vertebrates, are simply not efficient enough to meet the metabolic requirements of flight.  Birds, however, possess amazing adaptations that make their respiratory systems one of the most powerful in the animal kingdom.  The structure of the avian respiratory system is an essential adaptation that makes flight possible.
 Illustration Credit: John Kimball of Eastern Kentucky University
A respiratory system must exchange the carbon dioxide in the blood stream with oxygen from the atmosphere.  The system accomplishes this through simple gas diffusion and ventilation.  In mammal lungs, gas diffusion and ventilation occur in the same organ.  The fresh, or “good” air flows into the lungs, gas exchange occurs, and then “bad” air flows back out.  As a result of this 2-way flow into and out of the lungs in the same passages, the good air is mixed with the bad air.  So, the oxygen diffuses across the membrane of the lungs at a lower rate. 

However, in bird lungs, the tasks of ventilation and gas exchange take place in two different organs. Their relatively small fixed lungs perform the gas exchange, and nine air sacs throughout their body act as bellows that provide the ventilation.  These air sacs also integrate with bone tissue, helping to lighten the overall body weight.  The air sacs also allow for a nearly constant, one-way airflow and volume in the lungs, which greatly increases efficiency.  Since “fresh” air brings in a higher concentration of oxygen with hardly any mixing of good air and bad air, oxygen is able to diffuse more quickly into the bloodstream.

Recent evidence shows that predatory dinosaurs had similar respiratory systems to modern birds, including fixed lungs and air sacs.  The air sacs may have lightened the dinosaur’s skeleton, allowing it to walk upright.


Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good-by Harry

It is with a great deal of sadness that we must let our readers know that Harry, our sweet little Blue-fronted Amazon Parrot passed away on December 8th.  

Results of a necropsy have confirmed that he had a cancer that had worked it’s way into his crop, and did not manifest symptoms until it was too late for treatment.

Harry came to us in 2006 as an endowed member of our collection from a private party who was no longer able to care for him.  Harry’s age was uncertain.  The person from whom we obtained him had had him for about ten years, and they had received him as a “rehome” from someone else. 

Harry was a very charming and talkative little character.  While on display in our nature center he captured the hearts of trainers, as well as guests, with his entertaining vocabulary and excellent whistling skills.  When he was not appearing in WBS educational bird programs at zoos, he traveled with our Education Staff locally to educate the public about the plight of the world’s parrots due to destruction of the rainforests.

We will sorely miss his cheery “Hello” and “Hi Harry!” when we enter the Nature Center every morning.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The two pigeons pictured are named Pete and Big Red. They hatched in 2004 and were trained that year. They have been exercising, flying and doing special events ever since.

Pete is a Grizzle, which is typified by a bird that is mostly off-white with flecks of green and purple in their feathers. Pete also has pearl colored eyes.

Big Red is a Red Bar, which is a mostly light grey bird with red stripes on his wings and hints of red on his head and neck. Big Red has orange eyes.

These two birds have been hired to fly for countless events, such as weddings like the one at the Missouri Botanical Garden, birthday parties and funerals.

Their most recent flight was for a graveside release at a funeral.  The Funeral was at a Christian Church off of South Lindbergh.  A friend's mother died.  She was in her 90's.  Our friend wanted the Homing Pigeons released in the cemetery near her place of Final Rest.  After the Minister said some prayers and some other nice words, she asked everyone to look over to the side, where our Homing Pigeons were waiting in the release baskets. When the minister signaled for the birds to be released the birds flew out and circled up, up, up, and then away.  Pete and Big Red, along with other birds in our flock, have been flying home for events such as these since 2004.

Pete and Big Red have flown home from weddings in West Alton, Illinois, Hillsboro, Crystal City, St. Charles and Washington Missouri, the Missouri Botanical Garden and other beautiful locations. When flying they average about 45 miles per hour. Pete and Big Red have evaded hawks like the Red-tailed Hawk and the Cooper's Hawk and the Peregrine Falcons since 2004. I'm proud to know these two birds and many other strong flyers like them.

Call us to have Pete and Big Red part of your special event, like the recent 60th Birthday party that they attended, or to lend a whole new special meaning to a Brownie Fly-up ceremony.  Send the birds into the air and watch as they magically fly Home.

Call 636-225-4390 to have these beautiful birds become a part of your special event.

Submitted by Michael Zieloski World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Not Too Late

Only twelve days til Christmas and you're stumped for the perfect gift?

It's not too late to order the perfect gift for that special person.  Give them a WBS inscribed brick.  Even though most people think of these as memorials--they can be so much more!

Our inscribed bricks run the gamut.  Yes, we have the memorials, but we also have bricks commemorating the day someone met his sweetheart, bricks from an aunt or uncle honoring their nieces and nephews, a brick from a Brownie Troop making a statement that they recycle, a brick honoring a grandmother and her new grandson, a brick from parents expressing their love for their girls, etc.  The possibilities are endless!

The best part of giving an inscribed brick is that it will outlast almost any other gift you may come up with. Years from now that grandchild will be able to view the brick honoring him or her and his or her grandmother; members of the Brownie Troop will be able to show their children "their" recycling brick; children will be able to show their children the brick dedicated to them by their parents.  In other words, an inscribed brick can prove to be a family heirloom for those lucky enough to receive them.

Our bricks can be ordered along with an inexpensive Donor Certificate.  The Donor Certificate can be wrapped and given at Christmas.

To learn more--or to order your brick Click Here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Years of Being a Jinx

Over the years I have had the opportunity to see and learn about many birds, but the Gyrfalcon is by far my favorite.

I remember a report I had to write in grade school about my favorite animal.  Most of the class chose animals like bears, tigers, lions, etc.  However, I was different and chose the Gyrfalcon. 

The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon.  They live in Arctic regions in North America, Europe and Asia.  Gyrfalcons have four color phases--white, silver or gray, brown and black.  From the moment I chose the Gyrfalcon for that report I was hooked.  The Gyrfalcon became my favorite because of it’s beautiful markings, along with the sheer power this bird possesses.  The beauty, power and the rarity of the Gyrfalcon back in the middle ages led to it becoming a falconry bird that was only possessed by kings and queens.  Even today in the falconry world it is one of the most prized birds.
Where I grew up in Western New York we would occasionally have the opportunity to see wild Gyrfalcons.  For many years when a Gyrfalcon was reported my family would go looking, and without fail when we showed up we would have just missed the bird.  From other birders we would hear “…Oh, it was just here”, or,”It is always here from blank time to blank.” Then, we would show up at those times and no one would see it.  We would stay for hours and then finally leave without seeing the bird.  Then, the next day we would hear, “Oh, the bird showed up 15 minutes after you left,” or we would stick around, leave for a few minutes to go look at other fields where the bird could possibly be, see nothing, return to the original site and just miss the bird in that time frame.  This went on for years, and many of the local birders would joke that I was the jinx with the Gyrfalcon.

Finally, on 11/24/1995 I saw my first Gray or Silver phase Gyrfalcon in Buffalo, New York, chasing a flock of pigeons.  We had been searching for about 20 to 30 minutes before we saw this flock of pigeons really moving, and then we saw it-- this magnificent large falcon, about the size of the Red-tailed Hawk, chasing the flock of pigeons.  We quickly jumped out of the car and watched the chase for about 20 to 30 minutes before the bird went behind some buildings and it became more difficult to see.  To actually see the power and the beauty in my favorite bird of prey was just amazing, and all of those years of it being a jinx bird were erased.

A few years later I saw a Silver phase Gyrfalcon in Canada while we were watching a Yellow-billed Loon.  Even though the Loon was just as nice and special to see, I found myself watching the Falcon more than the Loon.  The Loon was special, but for someone who has always loved birds of prey the Gyrfalcon was definitely more fun to watch.  This time the Falcon was just sitting in a nearby tree looking out over the River where the group of birders where watching the Loon.  It was just amazing to watch it sit and preen while watching the snow falling around us.
A Gyrfalcon wearing a falconer's hood
In the fall of 1998 I had the opportunity to attend New York State’s Falconry meet and watch people hunt with their birds of prey.  The two birds that excited me the most were watching this guy fly two of his Gyrfalcons.  One was a White phase and the other was a Gray/Silver Phase--both beautiful birds.  To watch these magnificent birds and see how quickly and easily they can fly and maneuver in the air, and to see the power they possessed was just fantastic.  Watching these two birds fly just made me even more impressed with the gyrfalcon and.  I now have more of a love and appreciation for this amazing bird of prey.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, Field Studies Coordinator

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Rookie Files: Pondering Parrots as Presents and Pets

It’s that time of year again!  The time when many of us run out to the stores to buy presents for our loved ones, scouring high and low for that perfect present.  
A Red-lored Amazon Parrot - one of the smaller parrots--possible lifespan 100 years
Sometimes that one of a kind present is an animal, a special pet, and many people get excited over the idea of a talking bird.  After shows or visits to our nature center many people, especially children, start thinking about getting a parrot as a pet. 
  A Red & Green Macaw--one of the larger species of parrots--may outlive you
Before you go rushing off to the pet shop or call a breeder to get that special someone a feathery holiday surprise, we ask that you keep a few things in mind.  Parrots are a lifetime commitment.  Depending on the species, they can range from fifteen to up to a hundred years old.  Many of them outlive their human owners and they have to be provided for in their wills. 
 A Parrot cage of an ample size to house your new pet could prove to be quite pricey 
This also means a lifetime of veterinary charges, food and toys.  They are very intelligent animals, often compared to three year old children.  Many parrot owners describe life with their companions as having a perpetual three-year old.
  Because of their high intelligence Parrots need to be kept busy by providing a variety of toys for them to explore
Due to their intelligence they need many different toys, usually three at a time to help keep them entertained. They love to chew, and much like children, they explore everything with their mouth--or in their case their beak.  That beak is capable of biting down with up to one thousand pounds per square inch of pressure.  This can cause damage to furniture, people and anything else they can get their beaks on. 
  Parrots use their beaks for many of the tasks we do with our fingers.  They may damage our belongings in the process of exploring
Like the three-year olds they are compared to, parrots need a lot of attention.  They are social by nature, often living in large flocks.  Flockmates will talk to, preen and protect one another.  Your parrot may call loudly in the house if it is upset, either to get your attention or to warn you of some perceived danger.  These calls can be very loud; macaws can be heard for three city blocks and all throughout the rainforest.  In close proximity humans need hearing protection from macaw screams!

It may also try to protect you or itself from what it perceives as a threat to its territory; and sometimes those threats can be other pets or even people.  Remember that beak I talked about?  Not only is it useful for chewing and cracking open hard nuts but it makes a great defensive weapon…ouch!  Parrots that don’t get enough attention can become destructive to themselves and their caretakers.
 Beak of a Blue & Gold Macaw.  Their strong beaks can be quite destructive 
We don’t want to turn people off from the idea of parrots because they do make great companions.  There are also many people who are fantastic parrot parents.  Their birds are happy, healthy, and could not ask for a better life.  We just ask that you do the research before you commit to anything because that’s what a parrot is--a lifelong commitment. 
 Cockatiels are very popular because of their small size and easygoing personalities--average lifespan 15 years
Parrot species run the gamut in terms of size and intelligence, so be sure you know which species you will be able to care for the best, given your lifestyle.  If your loved one loves parrots but is not ready to own one, consider sponsoring one of ours.  And if you or a loved one is ready for a parrot then we wish the both of you the best of luck and hope you keep one another company for years to come.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Choosing Conservation Over Coin

Hunting Season--two words that invoke a myriad of emotions among the masses.
Traditional lead ammunition
We have at least three avid hunters on our staff, and the seasons are all the talk.  One topic of discussion that I take a special interest in is ammunition choice.  In this line of work, you can bet that more concern is placed on conservation than coin.  Instead of thinking merely about the cheapest bang for their buck, our staff hunters are thinking about the long-term effects of those choices.  It is a topic that brings much controversy among hunters.  Of course I am talking about lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle.  Now, I am not a hunter thus far, but I do love to fish.
 Lead slug removed from a deer carcass
Working with the staff here and in an environmentally conscious field, I have become much more aware of lead and its effects on wildlife, the environment, humans, and of the alternatives that are out there.  I would like to offer some facts worth considering when deciding on your ammunition of choice.
 Photo of a bird gizzard containing grit and lead shot fragments.  Photo reprinted by permission of the US Geological Survey/Department of the Interior
Lead is extremely toxic.  Millions of birds and other animals die unintentionally and needlessly each year after ingesting lead.  Birds of prey, waterfowl, and game birds are known to ingest lead fragments via many sources: gut piles or carcasses from scavenging; consumption of other birds that have ingested lead, such as mourning doves; plant material; by  mistaking lead for grit; ingestion of lost fishing weights by birds who sift the lake and rivers bottoms in search of crustaceans; or from fish that have ingested lead sinkers or lures.

Yes, lead-free bullets do cost a little more – about 10-20% more for most guns.  As demand for lead-free ammunition alternatives increase, so will production, resulting in a decrease in cost to the consumer.  Steel-shot is a great alternative and, in fact, a must for water fowlers. Solid copper slugs and bullets work well and continue to gain in popularity among deer hunters.   Steel and brass weights are good lead-free alternatives for fishing.  They are less dense, but available in many sizes, and they can add an eye catching flash to a Texas-rigged plastic worm.

One of the newer copper slugs
Some of the lead poisoning in wildlife, and lead exposure in the environment, has come about due to sportsmen – and can be rectified for the most part by sportsmen.  There are several organizations that have been founded and operated by sportsmen that have recognized the need for change.  They have taken it upon themselves to take a leadership role in conservation efforts.  They believe in good stewardship, habitat restoration, preservation and conservation.  To them, I tip my hat.  It is up to us as responsible hunters and anglers, to educate ourselves and others regarding ammunition and tackle choices, to make necessary changes, and to limit the negative impact that occurs on wildlife populations and the environment. 

Ammunition and tackle selection is a matter of personal choice.  While it costs a little more, I choose lead-free alternatives when I buy my fishing tackle.  I would like to ask that you, too, consider conservation over coin.  If we want to preserve the nature that we so enjoy, be it hunting, fishing, bird watching, or hiking, it just makes sense to do what we can to think of the future of our wildlife, our planet, our own backyard, our own dinner table and of the generations to come.

 Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bones For The Birds

It is the holiday time of year--time for family gatherings, decorations, and of course home cooking

The variety of food that graces our human tables is nothing compared to the wide variety of food that gets served to the birds, particularly the vultures.  The vultures get everything and anything we have to offer, like day-old chicks, rabbit, venison, rats, mice, fish, quail and pigeon. 
 You may be familiar with the Turkey Vulture, commonly seen soaring the Missouri skies in the summer searching for carrion
In the wild vultures can handle meat that has been lying around for many days.  In fact they are drawn to the wonderful aromas of a road kill or a predator’s leftovers.  The joys of a vulture also include a strong stomach acid, which can digest a meal no matter what diseases the animal might have died from (we only serve fresh, non-diseased food at WBS, but I’m sure our vultures could still eat rotten meat if it came down to it).
 A black vulture--most likely to be seen in the southern part of Missouri
Enrichment improves and enhances the lives of our vultures and encourages them to explore their surroundings.  Consequently, feeding a wide variety of items, usually with skin, fur and feathers still attached, is great enrichment for our vultures and simulates what they would be feasting on in the wild.  Vultures can be tough to enrich, so we present them with novel objects and smells.  We can alleviate boredom by stimulating their complex feeding behaviors.  As vultures are gregarious, many will gather at a feeding site (including when we feed our turkey vultures).
 Dorothy, an Andean Condor, benefits from being fed a varied diet
If you stop by to visit with our vultures on the display line, you may find them feasting on the bounty of donated game from hunters and road killed deer from MODOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) this holiday season.  If you are lucky, you might observe one or more of these birds partaking of venison fresh off the bone.
 The wild Turkey Vultures on top of the enclosure are hoping to steal a free meal from our resident Turkey Vultures
Hopefully this will keep the birds active and interested in their environment, but also encourage visitors to ask questions to further their interest and learning of this amazing  bird’s unique needs and habits.

Submitted by Christina Lavallee, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Flying Eagle Team Spreads Wings at Soldier's Field

As one might expect, the week of Veteran’s Day is always a very important and busy time for our traveling Bald Eagles.  This year, though, it was a particularly exciting week for Lewis and Clark, our Bald Eagle flight team.
After many programs at schools, ceremonies, and even a St. Louis Blues hockey game, we had one remaining trip to cap off a super-successful week—we were heading to the Windy City, last stop--Soldier’s Field!  As a Chicago native and life-long Bears football fan, this trip filled me with joy, and every moment my feet were touching the grass on that field was a dream come true.  Now I can hear all you Rams fans…Rams vs. Bears…that is an argument for another blog; this one’s about the birds!

In terms of flying an eagle, the term “Windy City” might be the first clue about the challenges involved with this venue.  For those who are not familiar with the particular geography of Soldier’s Field, it sits on a small outcropping of land right on Lake Michigan.  Watching your eagle circle gracefully above the stadium lights, knowing what lies just on the other side of the wall is both exhilarating and a little vomit-inducing for the trainers.

Lewis flew our first foray into Chicago sports in November 2007 at the Bears/Broncos game.  He is a true professional and excellent at what he does, so of course we wanted to make sure this flight was even more spectacular this second time around.  Therefore, we planned and practiced and planned some more, because that’s our job as good trainers…and like 2007, Sunday was the windiest day of our stay.  At this point you feel your plans fly out the window, and it boils down to Lewis being awesome, as always.

Accompanied by a host of military representation, the National Anthem playing, and jets flying over, Lewis circled and circled and circled…and circled, making those swirling currents obvious to all.  You could almost hear the kickers from both teams thinking how crummy kicking field goals was going to be during the game.  Every section in the huge packed stadium got a great look at Lewis as he went by, and the cheers would go up as he passed.  Now as the excitement built in the crowd, the urge to throw up was again increasing for all of us trainers on the field, watching this amazing bird with a combination of pride, faith, adrenaline, and fear of the unpredictability of natural elements.  It is a most intense feeling that I cannot explain any better than that. 

If you haven’t already figured it out, Lewis was in the air a lot longer than any of us trainers anticipated, but after four interminable minutes and a handful of long seconds, Lewis landed successfully, exactly where he was supposed to, and the crowd erupted in cacophonous noise.  I think I was jumping up and down screaming, and I might have almost hugged a random security guard in relief.  It was a wonderful day.  As always, leaving the skyline I called home for so long behind made me sad.  I was so proud of our presentation and happily knew that the pre-game excitement would carry over in helping the Bears kick some Minnesota Viking rear…which they did! (Oh yes, I went there.)

If you haven’t seen our flying eagles strut their stuff, keep your eyes peeled.  They’re enjoying a bit of a vacation after the busy end to their season, but they will be back in gear later this winter as Bald Eagle migration season will be upon us again.  Keep check on the WBS website to find where our busy naturalists and eagles will be doing programs all along the Mississippi River and beyond!  In the meantime, go Bears!! 

Submitted by Dana Lambert, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Laughing Kookaburra

At the World Bird Sanctuary we have one of the four known species of Kookaburra, a Laughing Kookaburra named Chadder. 
Chadder enjoying his summer quarters on the upper trail near the hospital
These birds are very appropriately named since their call sounds similar to hysterical human laughter.  The first time I ever heard the call of a Kookaburra was in Disney’s Jungle Book animated movie.  They never showed what was making the call and I of course was too young to know it was a Kookaburra.  I thought it was some type of monkey call!  I had never heard that call anywhere else and did not know what it truly was until I heard the sanctuary’s Kookaburra for the first time.  I remember a huge grin spreading across my face.  I thought it was just so cool! 

Native to the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia, the Laughing Kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family.  It is a carnivore.  Its beak can reach 4 inches long and is used to catch a variety of prey, such as small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.  Like some of North America’s native owls, i.e. the Great Horned Owl, Kookaburras use a "sit and wait" technique of hunting, inspecting their surroundings from a perch, then swooping down to snatch up prey as it comes along.  Small prey is killed directly by the crushing action of the beak.  Larger prey, including snakes of up to 1 meter in length, may be smacked repeatedly against a branch, or dropped from a considerable height until killed.  Kookaburras have been introduced to Western Australia and New Zealand, where they have angered farmers by preying on their fowl.

Like many birds, Laughing Kookaburras are monogamous.  They nest in tree holes, where females lay one to five eggs.  The chicks are taken care of by a family group made up of parents and elder siblings, just like Harris’ Hawks, which can also be seen on display at the sanctuary.  A family of Kookaburras will often call all at the same time to denote their territory.
Chadder enjoying his indoor heated winter accommodations
Right now Chadder has been moved indoors to our behind the scenes location where he will spend the cold winter months.  When spring arrives, Chadder will be back outside on the display line just past the wildlife hospital.  When passing by, be sure to shout out “hahahaha!” and he may laugh right back at you!  

To see some videos of Foster,  one of our other Kookaburras, click here.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist