Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wildlife Hospital Faces Closure

World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital facing imminent closure.

“Unless the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital generates donations of $40,000 in the next 60 days, we will be forced to close the 35-year old hospital on June 1st,” says a solemn Walter C. Crawford, Jr., Executive Director of World Bird Sanctuary.
An injured Barred Owl receives treatment from Drs. Eric and Stacey Siebel-Spath,who so generously donate their services, while two volunteers look on
The raptor hospital admits and treats approximately 300 sick, injured or orphaned birds of prey per year, and has released more than 4,000 birds back to the wild!  It has achieved this over the last 35 years with no state or federal funding, instead relying entirely on donations from members of the public to keep its doors open. 

Wildlife Hospital financial challenges compounded by Sunday’s windstorm

In addition to the regular financial challenges that the hospital is facing, the windstorm on Sunday 28th March added another cost to the wildlife hospital.  The 130ft long physical therapy and flight cage was extensively damaged by a tree that was blown over by the wind.  Breaking through the top and side of the cage, damage is estimated at around $5,000.  “Fortunately, the Bald Eagle currently housed in the cage was unharmed and did not escape, but we now have no cage big enough for the eagle to exercise its flight muscles and build up strength, threatening its chances of release back into the wild,” explains Crawford. 
A Great Blue Heron being examined to determine the extent of it's injuries
“There are no other facilities in the state that are equipped to deal with the 300 or so birds that we receive every year.  Most of the birds are admitted to the hospital as a result of human encounter – collisions with vehicles, collisions with windows, being attacked by pets, being accidentally shot or trapped, or being maliciously attacked.  As a result, we have a responsibility to do what we can to return them to their natural habitat.  They require special handling, diets and facilities to give them the best chances for return to the wild.  Without our wildlife hospital, I don’t know what will happen to all these sick and injured birds that will need treatment.” 

The World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital needs immediate funding.
“The Wildlife Hospital does not charge for services and earns no income of its own.  With the recent recession our supporters have been as generous as they can be, but the hospital still needs help,” says Crawford.  “We are appealing to our supporters in our community to help us in any way that they can.”

In January 2005 the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital moved from Tyson Research Center (a facility closed to the public) to the current site, which is open to the public daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with no admission fee.  This increased visibility, coupled with current economic conditions that have forced many smaller wildlife rehabilitation centers around the country to close, has contributed to the Wildlife Hospital’s increased caseload.  This in turn has resulted in rising operating costs for the World Bird Sanctuary’s Wildlife Hospital.

“In addition, the economic recession has reduced discretionary income among our support base, and the recent tragedies in Haiti and Chile have forced our supporters to make even more difficult choices regarding which causes they donate to, and how much they can donate to each,” explains Walter, “At World Bird Sanctuary we have already taken steps to reduce unnecessary expenditure, such as:
  • Freezing salaries and new hires for at least one year.
  • The Executive Director has taken a pay reduction.
  • Elimination of travel and related expenses for attendance at conferences and seminars.
  • We are successfully aggressively pursuing in-kind donations of products and services that we would normally pay for.
  • We are reducing utility costs with conservative measures put into effect that will reduce any possible wastes of electricity and water.
  • We have laid off two staff and extended the work week of all current staff.  We have reduced staff housing and vacation benefits.  We cannot lay off any further staff without severely impacting our ability to deliver on-site visitor services, off-site environmental education programs and care of our animals.”

While we receive volunteer veterinary services from three veterinarians, and we have a dedicated volunteer base to help us care for the animals, we still have expenses that need to be covered.  Costs to run the Wildlife Hospital are currently budgeted at $40,000.00 per year.  The highest costs incurred include medication, food, supplements, other medical supplies, veterinary diagnostics and maintaining bird housing, and costs associated with running and maintaining the hospital building.   
Volunteer veterinarian, Stacey Siebel-Spath, examines the x-ray of a newly admitted patient
The World Bird Sanctuary wildlife hospital has never earned any income.  Instead it has been supported by other departments within the organization.  However, with the continuing financial difficulties that we and our donors are facing, we can no longer afford for the Education and Behavioral and Training Departments to subsidize the running costs of the Wildlife Hospital.  Closing the Wildlife Hospital is a difficult and heartbreaking decision to make, but one that may be necessary if we don’t receive funding.

About the World Bird Sanctuary

The World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to preserve the earth’s biological diversity and to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.  The World Bird Sanctuary works to fulfill this mission through education, propagation, field studies and rehabilitation.

The World Bird Sanctuary (501(c) (3) non-profit) was founded in 1977 by Walter C. Crawford, Jr., and is one of North America’s largest facilities for the conservation of birds.

We are essentially looking for a few generous individual donors or a corporate sponsor who would like to sponsor the Wildlife Hospital for one year, with naming rights.  If you or anyone you know can help, please call Catherine at 636-225-4390 ext. 102.

If you would like to make an online donation to our wildlife hospital click here  
If you would like to mail a donation to the wildlife hospital you can send it World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital Appeal, 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park MO 63088

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bald and Beautiful

This blog post is reproduced with kind permission of Carson and Martha Bauer, who brought a Bald Eagle into our wildlife hospital over the winter.  This blog was first published here on 19 March, 2010, just before World Eagle Day.

"Sunday, March 21st was World Eagle Day. This special day really hit home for us this year. On a snowy January day we found a wounded Bald Eagle-one of his talons was deeply severed. Lovingly named “Feathers” by our daughters, he was in great need of medical attention. In St. Louis we are lucky to have the wonderfulWorld Bird Sanctuary, whose mission is to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments. Staffed by 25 professionals and many dedicated volunteers, they took great care of Feathers during his rehabilitation. Everyday we looked forward to the updates of Feathers’ progress and were reassured that he was receiving the best support possible. Unfortunately, gangrene set in and even with all of the top of the line help he received, Feathers wasn’t strong enough for the fight. After five days of hospitalization, we got the dreaded phone call, and then and there our daughters learned a life lesson.
Interestingly, Feathers’ remains were sent to a Native American tribe to use in tribal ceremonies. There are lots of adjectives to describe a bald eagle but none more fitting than majestic. Watch our video of Feathers, and you’ll see for yourself.

"Be sure to visit the World Bird Sanctuary on the third Sunday of March each year and help celebrate eagles from around the world. There will be fun, educational activities for the whole family."

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Water Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink"

This line from The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798, seems somehow strangely prophetic in this day and age, when there are so many concerns about our water systems becoming contaminated.
The eastern coastline of New Zealand's South Island
Water is everywhere, but there is a shortage of fresh water.  Much of our world is covered by water, but most of it is full of salt.  Only about 2.5% of the water on our planet is fresh, and about half of that is in the form of ice.  This only leaves about 1% or so for mankind, animals, fish, plants -- for life forms as we know them.
A Great Blue Heron devouring a catfish caught in the shallow waters of the Audubon Swamp Garden near Charleston, S.C. 
Come join us on May 1, 2010 from 11 am - 2 pm when the World Bird Sanctuary and Missouri American Water kick off Drinking Water Week by releasing our new CD, "All Along the Watershed".
A Snowy Egret hunts along the waters edge in the Audubon Swamp Garden outside Charleston, S.C.
Mark your calendars for this special concert that celebrates water and the creatures that live in it, on it and around it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Casa Gallardo Fundraiser

Our sincere thanks to all of the World Bird Sanctuary supporters who took part in our fundraiser yesterday by dining out at Casa Gallardo.

A special thanks goes out to the Casa Gallardo restaurant chain who so generously made this event possible in support of our Wildlife Hospital.

Haiku - Baby Barn Owl

The third in a series of Haikus by our talented Education Coordinator, Laura MacLeod, celebrating the many amazing attributes of the birds she works with on a daily basis.

Fluffy, curious
Exploring the great big world,
Learning, growing, wild

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Casa Gallardo restaurants in St. Louis have generously agreed to donate 25% of your total food bill to our Wildlife Hospital.  But this fundraising fiesta is for one day only - tomorrow, March 25th, and you need to present the flyer for us to get the donation.

Dine at Casa Gallardo between 11 am and 10 pm tomorrow, March 25th, and they will donate 25% of your total food bill to our Wildlife Hospital.

NOTE:  NO FLYER, NO DONATION - so click here or go to our website homepage to print the flier today!

It couldn't be easier, and will benefit out Wildlife Hospital.

Please feel free to print and copy as many of these flyers as you need to hand out at work and to your families and friends!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Short-eared Owls

A Natural History Lesson on Short-eared Owls

We have two short-eared owls at the World Bird Sanctuary.  You can see them on the display line past the rehabilitation hospital.  Short-eared owls are small birds of prey having a body length of 13 - 17 inches, weighing between 10 and 18 ounces and having a 3 - 3½ foot wingspan.  They prefer open grasslands and agricultural areas and can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

These birds hunt during the day, at night, at dusk and dawn. In some areas, they may compete with barn owls which also hunt at dusk or dawn.  Short-eared owls fly low over the ground, locate prey (small mammals such as moles, shrews, voles, rabbits, and occasionally birds) by sound, and then quickly descend on it. Sometimes these birds hunt from low perches, like fence posts or shrubs, and watch open areas for prey.  When prey is spotted, they will fly out quickly and pounce on it.  They are known to kill their prey with a bite to the back of the skull.

Courtship displays can often be seen during the day and involve the male flying up very high, diving down and then swooping upward again.  When the owl begins his dive, he brings his wings together to make a clapping noise.  Four to seven creamy white eggs are laid in a nest on the ground consisting of a bowl-like depression lined with grasses.  The eggs typically hatch after 24-27 days of incubation.  Both parents incubate and care for their young.

Chicks will begin wandering around the nest when 14-18 days old and adults will violently defend them when threatened.  Also when a predator nears a nest, one of the parents may flush out and feign, or pretend to be injured, in order to distract the threat from finding the chicks.  Meanwhile the chicks will “play opossum” and remain completely motionless.

Short-eared owls have been seen by some researchers attacking large birds. One researcher reports seeing a short-eared owl soaring in circles above a flying great blue heron and diving down and striking at it repeatedly on its back.  Another was seen swooping down at black ducks in a pond.  Surprisingly these owls weren’t defending any chicks.  Perhaps they were just being mischievous.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, March 22, 2010


Casa Gallardo Mexican Restaurants in St. Louis are generously hosting a fundraiser for World Bird Sanctuary's Wildlife Hospital on Thursday, March 25th.

When you present a copy of the fundraiser flyer to your server at any Casa Gallardo restaurant in St. Louis between 11 am and 10 pm on Thursday, March 25th, they will donate 25% of your total food bill to the WBS Wildlife Hospital.

So, mark your calendars for lunch and dinner on March 25th - then encourage your family, friends and colleagues to print off this flyer and eat at Casa Gallardo on Thursday, March 25th!

It couldn't be easier, and will benefit our wildlife hospital.  World Bird Sanctuary receives no local, state or federal funding.  Our hospital relies entirely on donations from members of the public.  All donations received from this fundraiser will go directly towards helping us pay for medical supplies and food for the birds in our hospital.

 NOTE:  NO FLYER, NO DONATION - so click here or go to our website homepage to print the flier today!

Please feel free to print and copy as many of these flyers as you need to hand out at work and to your families and friends!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Haiku – Barn Owl

Bright eyes, round face, wings
Silent flying, hunting mice
Predator, Barn Owl

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Friday, March 19, 2010

World Eagle Day

Clark, one of our magnificent flying eagles during a training flight earlier this year
Come join us for this fun and exciting event.  There will be eagles from around the world, a chainsaw carver, special activities and games for the youngsters, educational and entertaining programs, pigeon races, and more.
A Bateleur Eagle--one of the many eagles from around the world who will be on display
Come meet the Bald Eagles that fly at the Cardinal baseball games, and get a close-up view of their amazing flight!
Clark practices his landing skills
For a nominal fee have your photo taken posing with a Bald Eagle.
One of our guests gets an eagle eye view of Patriot during her photo op session
Step #2 in our Buy a Brick Campaign is completed--just in time for viewing at World Eagle Day on Sunday, March 21st!  For those generous donors who have purchased a brick--this is a perfect opportunity to come find your brick, and enjoy the other exciting activities on this special day.
Come find your brick during the festivities
Mark your calendars for Sunday, March 21.
Time 10 am to 4 pm

Admission is free!

For the safety of our birds and guests, no pets please.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Here's your opportunity to be part of a unique event -- a RETURN TO THE WILD!

Case #030110, a Red Shouldered Hawk, was admitted to the World Bird Sanctuary hospital on March 2, 2010.

He was found in Wildwood, struggling on the side of the road.  It is believed he was a victim of a collision with a car.  After a thorough examination, it was determined there were no broken bones.  He is currently being treated to reduce swelling and inflammation and appears to be doing quite well.

Barring any unexpected complications, he should be ready for release soon. 

YOU could become part of this happy story by becoming a RETURN TO THE WILD sponsor for this lucky bird.  A RETURN TO THE WILD sponsorship entitles the sponsor to become the one who actually releases the bird back into the wild in an appropriate location.  For more details Click Here.

Questions about Return To The Wild?  Call or email

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Solar Energy

2010 a Good Year for Solar Installations

The turn of the decade marks a new chapter for the solar energy industry in Missouri.  Proposition C, a Renewable Energy Standard, passed by statewide ballot initiative with 66% of the vote in November 2008.  Prop C includes a new solar rebate program which took effect on January 1.  The combination of this new rebate, the current 30% federal tax credit, and the all-time low price of solar panels has cut the cost of a solar installation in half since 2007.  With the improved economic benefits, many Missourians are choosing to install solar panels on their homes or businesses.

Henry Rentz installs solar panels on a home outside St. Louis, Missouri.  

Prop C includes a solar rebate program to be offered to customers of all Missouri's investor-owned utilities including Kansas City Power and Light (KCPL), AmerenUE, and Empire Electric.

The use of solar power is growing rapidly across the country, and Missouri has a strong solar resource to utilize.  Wildwood resident Bernadette Hurst has already installed solar on her home just outside of St. Louis.  "I installed a solar PV system in 2008 and have cut my electric bills in half.  It's exciting that I'm less reliant on coal because of the renewable sources powering my home.  And, I'm less impacted by the utility's rapidly increasing electric rates," says Hurst.

States like California lead the country with over 50,000 homes powered by solar electricity.  In Missouri, only a few hundred homes and businesses have solar electric systems installed.  Installations resulting from the Prop C rebate program will create more green jobs at a time when Missouri needs them most.

"We've been enjoying a successful solar business for several years, but are excited for the increase in sales the Prop C rebate program will bring.  Missourians understand the incredible benefits of solar power, and will take advantage of the drop in prices," says Henry Rentz a Missouri solar installer and president of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association

The Missouri solar industry has grown slowly in the past due to a lack of state policy to fuel the transition to clean sources of power.  About 85% of Missouri's energy comes from coal compared to a national average of 50%.  A heavy reliance on cheap coal has its drawbacks.  All of the coal burned in Missouri power plants is imported from out of state and burning coal emits carbon and heavy toxins, causing climate change and impacting public health.

Renew Missouri, a project of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, has worked since 2007 to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in Missouri.  It has also helped unify solar installers through involvement with MOSEIA.  Details on upcoming NABCEP-approved solar training courses can be found at

Erin Noble from Renew MO has given WBS permission to reproduce an email about solar energy in Missouri.  Clean Energy Works for Missouri is a non-partisan, non-profit collaborative of Sierra Club, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and Missouri Votes Conservation working to keep you informed about Clean Energy in Missouri.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Commonly Asked Question

I am often asked, “Why do you like birds so much?”  For me, this is not such a simple question to answer. 
 First pair of binoculars - age 2.  It's never too early!
Many of my colleagues started learning about birds in college, through professors or through an interesting internship.  However, for me, this love of birds began at a very early age.  I grew up in the Rochester, NY area in a family of birdwatchers.  Before I was a year old I saw my first barn owl in the wild.  At a very young age I could identify most of the common backyard birds.

While growing up, I always seemed to find a way to make my school projects bird related.  For example, my science fair project in the second grade was about feathers and how they work, and my sixth grade conservation project was all about bird banding, just to name a few.
 Holding first Saw-whet Owl waiting for it to release age 10 or 11

Rochester is a great spring migration area for birds.  I was always going on bird walks with my family.  While on these trips I found myself attracted to birds of prey.  I can remember spending large amounts of time at the hawk watch platform, and banding raptors at the raptor blinds.  I was so into raptors, that on many occasions I remember my parents dropping me off in the middle of the woods at the raptor blinds, with the bird bander, for hours on end.  Many of you right now are probably cringing at the thought of a young girl being dropped off in the woods alone with older people.  But, you have to remember, times were different and every one of these banders knew my family.  To me this was the greatest experience ever, and I loved the time I spent banding.  I was so into it that many of the banders would let me band all of the Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks we trapped.  To this day I can still remember the first Red-tailed Hawk I banded and then released.  It was a nice looking juvenile that scratched me on release--the first of many raptor scars.  As a child, experiencing eagles, hawks, falcons and owls in the hand was just so special that it left a lasting impression.

The interesting thing that stuck in my mind when I was young was that many of the banders tried to encourage me to find a career outside of ornithology. I looked at other careers and majors.  In college I majored in Environmental Studies looking for a job as a naturalist or in the zoo field,  However, through my college internships I went right back to birds.
 Birding from the deck of a cruise ship off the coast of Costa Rica 2009
So getting back to the original question of why do I enjoy birds so much?  I guess the short answer would be I’ve had a life long love of birds and raptors, that led me to working with birds.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Manning A Bird

Manning A Bird

When you attend a World Bird Sanctuary Program, you may have noticed how well all the birds sit on the trainer’s glove.  They seem unfazed by the small children who run up to them and by the adults who crowd around for pictures.  How do birds become such great “Education Ambassadors?”
Skinner, one of our older, more experienced birds, entertaining a school group of about 200 children
Most birds WBS utilizes for education are hatched and raised here, and this is a big advantage for getting them ready for life as ambassadors for us.  Almost all birds do not hatch naturally well-mannered on the glove. In fact, some of the World Bird Sanctuary birds were hatched in the wild and cannot be released again due to injury.  It takes more patience with wild birds, and they learn to interact with humans through a training process called “manning.”

When a wild bird first arrives at WBS, they don’t know how to interact with humans at all.  In fact, they see humans as something that can cause them harm.  In the training process called manning, a wild bird learns how to stand on the trainer’s glove and how to react to the common situations they might encounter while at WBS or at a program.  First, the bird receives their equipment: anklets, jesses, swivel, and leash.  The anklets and jesses are just light strips of soft leather that go loosely around the bird’s ankles.  The swivel allows the leash to attach to the jesses, and keeps the jesses and leash from becoming tangled.  The leash keeps the bird safe from accidental release.
 Our new young Turkey Vulture, Kinsey, sporting his new equipment and learning to stand on the glove           
A large portion of the manning process involves sitting with the bird on the glove for a long time.  Even before the bird is placed on the glove, the bird becomes accustomed to having a trainer close to it through positive reinforcement.  As the trainer works his/her way closer and closer to the bird, the bird is rewarded with food.  Through this technique the bird learns that the trainer is safe, and the bird  becomes comfortable around him/her. 

Next, the bird slowly learns that the trainer’s glove is a steady, safe, comfortable perch, and because of the positive reinforcement work done beforehand, the bird learns that the human under the glove will not hurt them.  When the bird finally becomes comfortable standing on the glove, the trainer can try slowly walking around. This helps the trainer learn how to keep the bird perfectly balanced on the glove, which helps in the manning process, and introduces the bird to the things they might see in their everyday lives at WBS or at a program. 
One of our veteran performers being walked up and down stairs and through the crowd--possible only because he has learned to trust his handlers.
As you can see, the manning process requires patience, time, positive reinforcement and good handling techniques. As a result, we are rewarded with a calm bird ready for a life as an education ambassador.

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalists

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Rookie Files: Mia

How to teach an old dog (or owl as the case may be) new tricks.

Thus far the birds that I’ve talked about were completely new to shows this summer.  Some of our rookies, however, were previously in shows but it had been a while since they performed.  One bird however has done shows for most of her life, but last summer was only her second year doing a completely new behavior.

Mia is a sixteen year old spectacled owl.  This species is found in the rainforests of Central and South America.  They are easily recognized by their dark head with white markings around their eyes.  These markings strongly resemble a pair of glasses or spectacles, giving the owls their name.  Juveniles are not so easily recognized since they have the exact opposite coloration of the adults. They are white bodied with a dark facial mask.  In fact, they look so different from the adults that when scientists first saw them they thought that they were looking at two completely different species of owls.  It actually takes anywhere from one to five years for the juveniles to molt into their adult plumage, rather than one year as in other owl species. 

Spectacled owls also differ from most owls in their call.  Rather than the customary hooting we associate with owls, spectacled owls are nicknamed the knocking owl because their primary vocalization sounds like someone knocking on a pane of glass.  This can be a little disconcerting when you are alone in the building and your spectacled owl begins calling unexpectedly.  Spectacled owls will eat crabs (their favorite tasty treat), rodents, and occasionally birds.  There is even one recorded case of a spectacled owl catching and eating an adult three toed sloth!

Mia never snuck off to eat the zoo’s sloth, but she did love to fly for rat meat.  After spending most of her life and show career as a walk on bird (aka sitting on the glove and looking pretty) Mia free flew for the first time in the summer of 2008.  It was a very simple pattern, only one or two hops.  Last summer we were a little more ambitious.  Mia hopped from the trainer’s glove to a flat top perch.  From here she made her entrance onto the stage usually prefaced by an excited “wooo!”.  First she flew to a stump where she was rewarded with a piece of rat meat, and then she hopped to a second stump.  From there she flew back to the first stump before revving up her rocket boosters (figuratively) and flying offstage(literally)to a stool where she was picked up and escorted back to her perch.

 Mia did an excellent job last summer, although she had a few issues on windy days.  Sometimes she would be blown unexpectedly by a strong wind gust and end up on an unintended perch(or fence), but she usually recovered quickly.  She even reprised her role as a walk on bird on the occasions that she took a very long, wet bath right before a show.  Oddly enough she was still a fan favorite, even when she looked like a drowned rat.

In the off-season Mia spends her time in her specially constructed indoor flight cage, since she can’t handle Missouri’s cold winter climate.  Most of the day is spent sitting and preening, with the occasional bath thrown in every now and then.  In March she makes a special guest appearance at the International Owl Festival in Minnesota and then relaxes till the summer.  This summer we are hopeful that Mia will be able to fly a more complicated pattern and end on a trainer’s glove rather than a stool.  Who says you can’t teach an old owl new tricks?  Well no one, and maybe Mia and her flying prowess are the reason.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, March 5, 2010

Haiku – Peregrine Falcon

One of our talented staff members, Laura MacLeod, has written a number of Haikus honoring the fascinating creatures with which she works every day.  These short haikus sum up the characteristics of these amazing creatures in a nutshell.  We will be publishing them from time to time and hope you enjoy them.
Millenium, our beautiful Peregrine Falcon, appearing at a Renaissance Festival
Peregrine Falcon
Swift and sleek hunter
Powerful, airborne fighter
Jet speed, raptor queen

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Coming Soon!!

Believe it or not, Spring is almost here!  What event hails Spring at the World Bird Sanctuary?


So mark your calendars now for March 21 to come see us on World Eagle Day.  There will be eagles from around the world on display.  You can have your photo taken with a live bald eagle for a minimal fee.  Be prepared to make a day of it while you view our many exhibits and take part in a number of activities geared to young and old alike.  Watch a chainsaw carving demonstration!

Never seen an eagle in flight before?  This is your chance!  You will have the opportunity to see an eagle in flight closer than you had ever imagined!

Our upper triangle is now more handicapped accessible than ever thanks to a contribution from one of our generous supporters.  If you are a troop leader or scout master searching for a fun and educational field trip for your group, this is your chance.  Did I mention that admission is free?  

Mark your calendars - Sunday, March 21, 10 am to 4 pm

For the safety of our guests and our birds, no pets please.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lead Poisoning

X-ray of a bald eagle showing the distribution of lead possible when a bird is shot 
I love to watch nature shows on TV, especially when they feature birds of prey.  A few weeks ago I saw a wonderful program about Bald Eagles.  I watched intently and played what I call “sponge-brain”, soaking up all of the facts that I could.  I laughed when they showed footage of eagles “skating” along the ice floats.  I have seen eagles on ice numerous times, but still haven’t seen any “skating” for myself.  I keep trying to catch them in the act, though.  Even more memorable than that to me was the footage of something so very tragic that it brought me to tears.  It was of a Bald Eagle that had ingested lead shot from a carcass, and was suffering an agonizing death as it lay helpless in the snow.  Human efforts to save it came too late, but the video will hopefully have the same impact on others as it did for me.  I cannot get the images out of my head, which is what inspired me to write on this topic.  Lead poisoning can be treatable, if caught early enough.  Sadly, and more times than not, once a bird shows signs of the illness and is sick enough to be caught up, it is too late.
 Red Tailed Hawk x-ray.  If another raptor were to devour this carcass, how much lead would it ingest? 
Many well-meaning hunters, and some who are just plain careless, will leave the carcass or gut piles of large game, game birds, small mammals and even fish, and allow “nature to take its course”, as well as spent shot.  Well, that can be okay, unless you are hunting with lead ammunition or using lead weights for fishing.  Lead fragments from a lead rifle bullet can scatter into hundreds of pieces and remain intact in the tissues.  Fragments can be found several inches from the entry wound.  These can be ingested by avian predators and scavengers, such as Bald and Golden Eagles, California condors and red-tailed hawks, leading to their demise.  This is also a problem affecting wild turkey, mourning doves, ring-necked pheasants and northern bobwhite quail.  These birds feed on seeds and sometimes consume spent shot from the ground, as they mistake the shot for small stones used as grit.  In turn, these smaller birds that fall ill from the lead become primary targets for larger birds of prey.  It is an ugly cycle.

Waterfowl, such as Canadian geese, Trumpeter swans and pelicans are far from immune to this issue, as they can consume lead shotgun pellets or lead fishing gear that has settled to the bottom of lakes.  They also consume grit to aid in grinding food, and if there are lead remnants in the mix, there is a good chance that it will be ingested.  Again, this can not only affect the waterfowl themselves, but the bird of prey or other predator that targets the easiest of prey.  Lead shot was banned in 1991 for waterfowl hunting to protect birds of prey, but the problem of lead poisoning still persists.
A pelican who had swallowed hooks and lead weights while feeding 
Another topic close to my heart, which I have written about before, is fishing.  My prior writings dealt with the fact that every time I go fishing, I pick up gear that anglers have left behind, such as lures, line, hooks, etc., that can be a danger to wildlife.  We have had patients at our Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital such as Bald Eagles and pelicans that have become entangled in trot lines and sustained permanent injuries.

My focus here is still lead.  Are you still fishing with lead fishing sinkers or lead jig heads?  Every time your line breaks or a fish runs off with your lure, (I know that never happens to any of us!), you are adding to the risk factor of a water bird or fish ingesting it.  Birds can and will ingest hooks and other tackle as well.  And the circle starts over again. 

Many states are beginning to ban the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle, particularly in National Wildlife Refuges.  The Missouri Department of Conservation banned lead shot in 2007 in certain conservation areas.  The good news is that there are alternatives!  Lead-free bullets, such as copper, (The Barnes X-Bullet), are readily available.  Yes, they cost a little more, but I should hope that the individuals that choose nature as their playground would see that taking responsibility for the environment is definitely a worthy cause.  Sinkers and jigs made from non-poisonous materials like tin or copper are available as well.  Check your tackle boxes.  I am willing to bet that you have several lead sinkers and jigs in there.  If you have any lead tackle, please discard of it properly, such as taking it to your local household hazardous waste collection site. 

There will always be hunters and fishermen (and women!), and that’s fine by me.  I will never give up fishing!  But the difference that I want to try and make is to have more educated hunters and fisherman that will be aware of the dangers of the effects of lead and lead poisoning to our wildlife, and to our environment--what we are desperately trying to save.  I hope that folks will take this to heart, remember this article the next time you gear up, and share this information with the next generation of hunters and anglers.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator