Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meet Jack!

Out of over 60 names submitted, our Education Department staff unanimously decided on “Jack” as the new name for our Harris Hawk.
Our new Harris' Hawk, Jack, sporting his juvenile plumage
Submitted via our blog by ‘Anonymous’ Jack was suggested as a name because Harris Hawks love to prey on jack rabbits!

We would like to thank ‘Anonymous’ for this submission.  Unfortunately, we are unable to send Jack’s Adopt-a-Bird packet to the person who named him as we have no personal information.  However, if you named Jack, please send an email to, and we will get the information off to you!

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this endeavor to name our new Harris Hawk.  Keep an eye out for him at education programs, where he has started his career as an animal ambassador for World Bird Sanctuary.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sandhill Crane Migration

It was a dreary, rainy morning when we left for Nebraska on Sunday, March 28.  

Director of Education Teri Schroer, intern Tim Kuys and myself, along with five birds of prey, were headed for the Earth Wellness Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, to present seven shows (five on Monday and two on Tuesday) to a bit more than 1,500 fourth grade children.  But once we hit Nebraska, the clouds cleared and it became a beautiful warm sunny day that lasted the whole time we were there.

 Sandhill Cranes in Flight
On Monday the presentations went very well and as soon as we finished, we bolted out the door, got the birds fed up and settled in, and drove to the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center in Grand Island in hopes of seeing the Sandhill Cranes.

About 500,000 migrating Lesser Sandhill Cranes stop to refuel and rest on Nebraska’s Platte River valley from late February to mid-April.  They are arriving from their wintering habitat in Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico and they each stay for about a month and feed on the waste grain in crop fields during the day.  The shallow channels of the river provide safe sleeping sites – if any predator approaches, the birds will hear the water movement.  Once they gain nearly ten percent of their body weight, the cranes continue migrating to their vast breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.  Sandhill Cranes mate for life, usually laying two eggs a year.  During their time in Nebraska, cranes can be seen dancing around each other or courting.

Lesser Sandhill Cranes are 3 to 4 feet tall, weigh 8 to 12 pounds, have a wingspan of 6 feet, an average lifespan of 25 years and can fly at speeds of up to 38 miles per hour.  During their migration they can travel between 170 and 450 miles per day.

We were able to see thousands and thousands of these cranes just by driving along the country roads in the river valley.  We witnessed thousands of them foraging for grains, insects and small rodents in the crop fields, and we saw thousands of them flying in the sky right above us!  Their distinctive call can be heard up to a mile away.

We were all thrilled that we had this opportunity to witness one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet!

If you would like to see a Sandhill Crane up close you may visit one at the World Bird Sanctuary, where he is on display every day.  He was injured in the wild and would not be able to survive if released, so he will reside with us for the rest of his days.

 Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ian Wright, the Lower Site Volunteer

This is a blog to commemorate the fact that one of WBS’s best volunteers, Ian Wright, has reached a major milestone in his career: he has just turned sixteen and can handle the raptors!
Ian Wright holding Willard, the Red-Tailed Hawk
I believe that the World Bird Sanctuary has the best volunteers on the planet.  If someone wants to challenge me about this, I only have to point to Ian as an example. Ian Wright, who attends Parkway West High School and likes science, has a deep fascination with birds.  In order to observe them more closely, Ian has spent at least one day a week volunteering at the Education Training Center, also known as the “ETC” or “lower site” for the past three years.
Ian was thirteen years old when his parents began driving him to the Sanctuary every Sunday morning.  While most other teenagers slept or immersed themselves in the eleventh hour of some video game, Ian was literally getting his hands dirty on pretty much every imaginable aspect of animal care.  As Ian says, “If you have a weak stomach, this job may not be the best choice.”  Ian’s back and stomach indeed proved strong, but for three long years, Ian could not actually handle any of the raptors. Bird Sanctuary rules require that everyone who handles birds be at least sixteen years old.

On Easter Sunday this year, Ian finally became old enough to handle raptors.  Ian’s cheerful personality and good humor has given me the momentum I need to finish Sunday, which happens to be the last day of my workweek, off strong.  So, I really looked forward to helping him learn to handle the raptors.

We started off with Timber, the Eastern Screech Owl.  Like the other birds, Timber recognized Ian and was not alarmed by him.  But, he did not expect to see Ian with the glove, so Timber’s eyes widened and he, “got tall” when he noticed the glove.  But Ian’s calm, gentle manner soon put Timber at ease and the owl stepped right up to Ian’s hand.

I felt so thrilled to finally see Ian holding a bird.  Ian seems to show a natural ability with the birds and his handling skills have developed quickly.  Ian now handles several of the birds that live at the lower site.

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

Friday, May 21, 2010


Have you ever read fairy tales to your children about a knight in shining armor rescuing a fair maiden?  How about the tale of Cinderella or Snow White?
Staff member Laura MacLeod holding one of our star performers
Bring them out to the Wentzville, Missouri, Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire this weekend, or for any one of the next three consecutive weekends, to see the real thing.  (The last day is June 6.)
Staff member Dana Lambert, volunteers Jennifer Jones & John Kinsey with our performing birds of prey
See a jousting demonstration, real court jesters, Lords and Ladies, and hundreds of other characters right out of the middle ages.  Our staff members will be the characters with the falcons and other birds of prey on their arm.

For more details Click Here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kate's Screech Owl Release

“Happy early 9th birthday, Kate!” were the words she heard that sunny Thursday afternoon when third grader Kate Conroy ran up the sidewalk at the neighborhood bird sanctuary in Webster Groves.

Her parents brought her there to meet me for a raptor bird release. The little red screech owl, who had suffered left eye damage (and eventual blindness in that eye) was finally well enough to go back to the “wild”, or at least as close as it gets in Webster Groves.

He was found on the side of the road in Gasconade County by a conservation agent (possible collision with an automobile). He spent a couple of weeks in treatment, then had a trial outside in a flight cage, but did not fly very well, probably due to some unresolved swelling. More medication and time was necessary. About four weeks after his admission, he was taking to the air beautifully in the outdoor cage!  My supervisor, Joe Hoffman, then gave permission to release him to a suitable place. Though he had vision in just the right eye, it would be adequate for his needs – flying, hunting and other owl activities. Since I knew Kate was an animal enthusiast, and she was about to turn a year older (on May 5th), I rang her mom, Peggy, who seemed even more excited than her daughter.

When we met after dinner (preferred time of day to release this little nocturnal hunter), her father Tony, with camera in hand, shot the whole story for us. Never once did Kate appear anxious to handle this normally aggressive creature. In fact, I believe her calm voice and manner convinced “Bob” (of course she named him!) that Kate was there to help.

After all questions were answered and instructions given, Kate gently took the owl from me for just a few precious seconds. Then, off he went, smoothly landing in the finest tree in the sanctuary!  Kate watched him for a time, somehow connecting him to her heart from below on the ground.

 Though he was soon busy preening to prepare for the evening, he looked down at Kate a couple of times, as if to say “Thank you, for sending me back. Maybe you will see me again sometime.”

You, too, could be the proud sponsor of a "Back to the Wild" bird release.  For more information call 636-225-4390, Ext. 102

Submitted by Donna McCall, World Bird Sanctuary hospital volunteer

Monday, May 17, 2010


One of the most unique birds at the World Bird Sanctuary is Niles, the Southern Ground Hornbill.  

A social, often enthusiastic, and playful bird, Niles hammers his way into the hearts of all the staff and volunteers who work with him.
Niles showing off his beautiful plumage and markings
Niles is a large bird with beautiful black feathers, white primary wing feathers, large feet with grey scales, long eyelashes and vivid red patches of skin on his head and throat.  His most distinguishing characteristic is his long black beak.

Niles was hatched on May 5th, 1998, at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, and hand raised.  After joining the World Bird Sanctuary, he participated in his first zoo show one year later at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  He continued to perform at zoo shows and World Bird Sanctuary events through 2008.  Niles currently lives at the World Bird Sanctuary’s Lower Site.  During the cold winter months he lives inside the Education Training center.  When the weather becomes warmer in the spring, summer, and early fall, Niles lives outside in one of the large mews made with telephone poles.

Fossils found in Morocco indicate that the species Bucorvus leadbeateri, the Southern Ground Hornbill, is at least 15 million years old.  Southern Ground Hornbills are native to the savannas of Africa south of the equator.  They can fly, but usually choose to spend most of their time on the ground, where they can forage for reptiles, insects and small mammals among the short grass.  Gouthern Ground Hornbills live in family groups of 5-10 individuals.  Only one pair from each social group produces offspring.  The other members of the group help the alpha couple raise their young.
Niles enjoying his favorite pastime of rooting in his Aspen shavings
Niles likes to demonstrate his skill in providing food for his social group by offering food in the tip of his beak to anyone who passes by.  Who could resist a beak full of mice rolled in Aspen shavings?  If you walk by Niles’s mew you might find him eagerly engaged in a number of activities.  He likes to rearrange his wood chips, place various objects into his water bowl, hammer on every available solid object with his beak, and destroy cardboard boxes and pumpkins.

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Surplus Materials Auction

Come join us today for our surplus materials auction.

Outdoor Auction
Saturday, May 15, 2010

10:00 AM 

All proceeds benefit the
World Bird Sanctuary, Valley Park, MO.
Animal/pet Handling: Nineteen (19) stacked, stainless steel cages, Seven (7) individual stainless steel cages, Two (2) Pet-Co 2-tiered cages, Three (3) 6' x 10' x 20' dog kennels, Lot pet carriers, large parrot cages, Anesthesia machine.
Office: Ten (10) non-locking file cabinets, Office furniture.
Building Material: Ivory-colored siding, Black drain pipe, Twenty (20) new windows, kitchen cabinets.
Appliances: Commercial cooler, Ice coolers.
Automobiles: White camper shell for Chevrolet S-10 pickup.
Collectibles: Lot Franklin Mint wildlife plates, Gift shop items.

Miscellaneous:  Upholstered wingback chair, Roto-tiller, pine cannonball bed headboard.

Many more items too numerous to list.
Visa and MasterCard will be accepted at this sale.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thinking in Haiku

Sometimes inspiration hits and you go with it. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking in haiku. A haiku is a poem with a pattern of five syllables in the 1st and 3rd lines, and seven syllables in the middle line. Here is an example  based on the birds. Enjoy!

Raptor; Bird of Prey
What makes you so? A hooked beak,
Sharp talons, strong feet

Eyes are important
We spot food from miles away
They help us see prey.

What do you eat? Meat!
Wait…. Then catch it with my feet.
Mammals, birds, reptiles

Submitted by Christina Lavallee, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Love

So, yes, it’s all true!  I have a new bird in my life, and he’s pretty adorable, if I do say so myself.

 I’d love to introduce him to everyone.  His name is Flip and he’s a juvenile Red-shouldered hawk.  Red-shouldered hawks are a common species in the area, often found hunting around water.  They love tasty rodents, but also eat lizards, snakes, and frogs. 

As adults, these birds have a black and white striped tail, rust and cream chests, and rust shoulder patches, as their name implies.  Flip looks a little different right now.  He is full size, but still has his tan-spotted juvenile plumage on his breast. 

He came to our Wildlife Hospital in May of 2009 with a broken wing.  The break was stabilized, and healed over time; however, it became clear pretty quickly that this break had done damage to some of the follicles from which his primary flight feathers grow.  The primaries are the outermost wing feathers. This damage caused these feathers to be…well… flipped, and grow in upside down.  This situation has made Flip unable to fly and therefore unreleasable.  He is, otherwise, a healthy young bird with a healthy dose of attitude. 

This is the point at which I met him.  Red-shouldered Hawks are a species that our Education department is allowed to have, through our federal and state permits, to use in our programs if they are non-releasable.  We have not had a Red-shouldered Hawk since our beloved Meramec passed away from old age.  Meramec was an awesome bird, who could frequently be heard calling from his perch at the Visitor’s Information Center weathering area.  While he was loved by many, Meramec was very special to me because he was the first bird I ever handled on the glove when I began as an intern at the Sanctuary.  When it was suggested that we could train this young unreleasable bird, soon to be known as Flip, to be part of our Education team, I jumped at the chance to do so.  That was February. 

Since then, Flip and I have been spending lots of time together each day working on his training.  Flip’s first interactions with people were pretty negative since he had to be medicated and examined during his stay in the hospital.  These are the times you most wish you could somehow tell these sick and injured birds that you’re only trying to help them.  That communication not being possible, though, Flip wasn’t super-excited about the prospect of hanging out with me in the beginning.  Many days were spent getting him to be comfortable eating with me in view.  Soon we worked up to him taking food from my glove, and eventually to him stepping up on the glove to eat.  I can’t tell you the joy that comes from that first day where you start to see some tentative trust from the bird.

Flip has made progress in leaps and bounds towards being comfortable in the presence of people other than me.  He gets to go outside with the other birds each day where he can see lots of visitors, cameras, strollers and all kinds of new things that can be a little scary at first.  We’re currently working on walking around the site while he’s eating off the glove so he can see new areas of the Sanctuary.

In the near future, Flip will learn how to travel in the carriers we use to transport our birds on our nationwide travels.  The pinnacle moment will be taking him to his first education program.  When this happens, I know I will be ridiculously excited and proud, and a little nervous, like a new parent sending a child off to the first day of school.  It sounds a little dorky, I know, but good training requires a lot of time, careful observation, and an understanding of your bird’s personality.  I’m afraid this professional closeness also breeds some emotional dorkiness.  It’s a job hazard, what can I say? 

None of this would have been possible without the intervention of our hospital personnel and the excellent care he received there upon first arrival, and during his long recuperation.

So, on your next visit to the Sanctuary, be sure to check out the row of perches just past the Wildlife Hospital and say hello to Flip.  He’ll be the chatty one on the first perch.  I know you’ll all find him as adorable as I do!

Submitted by Dana Lambert, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Going! Going! Gone!

On Saturday, May 15, the World Bird Sanctuary will hold an auction of surplus materials which have accumulated over the years.  This is an outdoor auction to be held at our storage facility on the Tyson Research Center property.

Items range from upholstered armchairs to large animal cages.  No telling what you might find here.  Our surplus may be your treasure!

For photos and a listing of some of the items to be auctioned Click Here.

Join us on Saturday, May 15 for this unique treasure hunt!  Auction begins at 10 am.  For directions and more information click here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Today, it is with a sad heart that we say good-bye to our sweet little Romeo.  

Romeo was twenty-three years old - a very advanced age for a cockatiel.  Early in the morning when a staff member was preparing to leave for an early program he appeared to be acting normally.  However, a short time later when another staff member opened the Nature Center for the day he was found to have expired.  We can only surmise that old age finally caught up with him.

Volunteers, staff members and guests will miss his usual cheery greeting of "Hi, Romeo", "Pretty Romeo", "Pretty Bird Romeo", said in his chirpy little voice.  He was a favorite of the children, who related to his small size, and loved to watch him as he sat under his bell.  

Friday, May 7, 2010



As we come to the conclusion of National Drinking Water week it’s time to reflect on how we use this precious commodity.  Science tells us that we can go a week without food, but only three days without water.
Don's Bayou, Ft. Walton Beach, Florida
Since only about 1% of the earth’s fresh water is usable by humans, animals and plants, it’s time to ask ourselves what we are doing with this life sustaining resource. 
Brown Pelican, Jacksonville, Florida
The water we get from our faucets can be drawn from groundwater, surface water from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, or desalinated seawater.  It’s time to ask ourselves what contaminants we are adding to our water table in the form of motor oil, old prescriptions, cleaning solutions, etc.  Even when these are dumped on the ground, they end up in our water sources because of runoff and absorption into the ground. 
Dorothy Falls, New Zealand's South Island
The next time you need to dispose of any of these contaminants, stop a moment and think before you dump.  Most municipalities now have recycling programs for these types of items.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be drinking someone’s old motor oil, prescriptions or insecticides. 

Americans use around 100 gallons of fresh water per day.  Most of us take our clean water for granted, even abusing the privilege, believing it is a right which has no consequences.  We need to ask ourselves now--sooner rather than later--what we are doing to conserve our most precious commodity. 

A wise little cartoon character--a possum named Pogo. who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp--summed it all up when he said in a 1971 cartoon strip, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Audubon Swamp backwater in the Francis Biedler Forest
Now is the time to start training our generation and the next to practice water conservation.  Children are never too young to learn good conservation practices.  Even a 3-year old can learn the lesson of conservation if it is presented in the right context.  The Raptor Project’s CD, “All Along The Watershed” is a perfect vehicle to teach this important lesson to the youngsters.

Clean water.  We can’t live without it and neither can our wildlife.
A Yellow Crowned Night Heron stalking crayfish 
Let’s not stop thinking about this problem at the end of “Drinking Water Week”.  Let’s make Drinking Water Week a lifetime practice.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Pelicans are very cool birds.  They are big, obvious, ungainly, and they’ve got those enormous beaks!! 
Scoop showing off his "Models of the Runway" walk
But what do you really know about pelicans?  Well, how about the fact that there are only 8 different species of pelicans in the world?  Scientists have broken them up into two different groups.  Four of them (Brown, Pink-backed, Spot-billed and Peruvian) are mostly brown birds and they nest in the trees. 
Brown Pelicans sunning themselves on an Appalachicola dock
The other four (American White, Great White, Australian and Dalmatian) are mostly white birds and they nest on the ground.  Also, the Australian Pelican has the largest bill of any bird!

But what about the guys around here, in the St. Louis area?  Yes!  We do have pelicans in St. Louis - they are not just coastal seabirds.  St. Louis is the northern tip of the American White Pelican (aka Rough-billed Pelican) winter range.  This species spends its summers paddling around on inland lakes in north central US and Canada.  They do not dive for fish like the Brown Pelican.  Instead, they swim on the surface of the lake and dip their large bills into the water, scooping up fish.  Their bills can hold an impressive 3 gallons of water!  When fall arrives, the American White Pelicans migrate south.  Many of them head to the Gulf of Mexico to spend their winters like so many humans do - basking in the mild winters of the south.  But some of the pelicans winter on the Mississippi River, as well.  In the St. Louis area, the many locks and dams on the river keep the water open.  This allows the pelicans to have easy access to fish all winter long.

American White Pelicans are impressive birds to see up close.  They weigh 11-20 pounds (the female is smaller than the male) and their wingspan is 8-10 feet.  In the wild, they live an average of 16 years, but in the care of humans they can live much longer - the record is 34 years!
 Scoop entertaining the crowds at Birds In Concert
If you would like to see an American White Pelican up close and personal, come out to the Great Rivers Museum in Alton, IL on Sat. May 8th.  Our pelican, Scoop, will be visiting the museum and will be the star of the “Get the Scoop” pelican programs that are being presented at 11:00, 12:00 and 2:00.  Hope to see you there!

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary, Education Coordinator

Monday, May 3, 2010

International Migratory Bird Day

Join WBS for our 1st Celebration of International Migratory Bird Day

Please, join us May 8 as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day from 7:30 am to 12:00 pm.
A Nuthatch that has just been banded being measured, weighed,  and checked for parasites before being released
You may be asking yourself what is International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)?  IMBD celebrates and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas-bird migration.  Each year migratory bird day celebrates birds and people.  In 2010, International Migratory Bird day celebrates both birds and the people who have preserved bird species.  We are celebrating the power of partnerships and what they do to help birds.
Our beautiful young Peregrine Falcon, Millenium, showing off her juvenile plumage
World Bird Sanctuary will celebrate bird migration, and our part in helping to bring endangered species like the once endangered peregrine falcon and bald eagle back, and our partners along the way.  Did you know that through the efforts of WBS and local businesses, including Southwestern Bell, Ameren UE, Anheuser Busch, to name just a few, we helped to bring the peregrine falcon back to Missouri?  In the early 1990’s our efforts resulted in the first nesting Peregrine Falcon hatched in the wild in over 100 years.  Today, we still monitor nests located on properties owned by AT&T, Barnes Jewish Hospital, Washington University, and Ameren, along with 3 other sites. 
Our veteran Peregrine Falcon, Edgar, sporting the plumage of a mature bird
This project has been possible with the help of employees at these locations who watch the nests each year.  They let us know how many eggs they have and when the eggs hatch.  Because of their involvement we are able to monitor the status of these nesting pairs. WBS staff then go out to those locations every year and band the young so that if they are ever found or trapped they can be tracked back to St. Louis, and we will know what year they were hatched and from which location they originated.  In this way we  may be able to discover more about the birds’ migration route.  

This is just one of our partnership projects.  Join us May 8 and learn about some of our other projects, including work at the Air Force Bases, Nestbox Studies, and the Woodpecker project.

Have you ever wanted to try bird watching?  Join, a member of our field studies team on a 30-minute walk around the site to see a few migrants.  Walks will be at 8, 9, 10, and 11.  Learn some of the basics of bird watching and discover just how easy it is to participate in the fastest growing hobby in the United States.
A black capped chickadee being removed from a mist net prior to banding
Activities for this fun event celebrating bird migration will include birdbanding demonstrations and band a kid.  Kids of all ages can be banded. They will learn about the process of bird banding and then see actual live birds being banded.

Mark your calendars for this exciting free event!
Date:  Saturday, May 8
Time:  7:30 am to 12:00 pm
For directions click here.

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

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, Field Studies Coordinator

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Give Mom a Brick

Mother’s Day is just around the corner!
Would you like to give mom a really meaningful gift this year—one that will last long beyond the usual flowers and candy?

Give mom a brick this year.  Your expression of love and appreciation for the first woman in your life will endure far beyond the usual gifts.  The World Bird Sanctuary’s inscribed bricks will be installed on the steps and landings of our amphitheater as a reminder to your mother of how much you appreciate all the little things she has done for you over the years.

To order a brick for mom click here to go to the order form on our secure website, or call 636-225-4390, Xt. 0.