Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet the Vultures

In the United States, turkey vultures are often seen along the side of the road eating roadkill or soaring high in the sky looking for carrion.  The only other vulture you may see in the U.S. is the black vulture.  These are two of the seven species of New World vultures (family Cathartidae) that inhabit North and South America.  California Condors and Andean Condors are also of the seven in this grouping.  At the World Bird Sanctuary, turkey vultures can be seen on our display line and you may also see our newest education turkey vulture, Kinsey, at our Nature Center.
Me (Sara Oliver) with our young Turkey Vulture, Kinsey
Dorothy our Andean Condor will make her debut appearance on International Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday September 4th at the sanctuary!
Dorothy, our young Andean Condor
There are sixteen species of Old World vultures (family Accipitridae) that inhabit Africa, Europe, and Asia.  This family also includes eagles, kites, and hawks.  Old World vultures find carrion exclusively by sight, whereas several species of New World vultures, especially turkey vultures, are able to find the dead with a sense of smell, which is unusual for birds of prey. 

Vultures are scavengers.  They are Mother Nature’s garbage crew.  They consume dead, rotting animals which are often infected with bacteria that could kill most other animals.   Thus, vultures prevent disease from spreading to other animals.  They do not become sick from the carrion they consume because vultures have a very acidic stomach, with a pH of around 1.  (On the pH scale 7 is considered neutral – 0 to 1 is the range for battery acid).  This allows them to safely digest putrid meat infected with botulism, hog cholera, and anthrax bacteria.  Vultures keep our forests, grass plains, and savannas healthy.  Without them we could be deep in an accumulation of rancid carcasses.
Fred, our Hooded Vulture
Unfortunately, vulture populations have been dwindling, to the extent that some are termed nearly extinct, endangered or vulnerable.  For example, the Cape Griffon Vulture is listed as a species vulnerable to extinction.  Native to a small range in south and southwest Africa, these vultures face dangers such as electrocution on power lines.  Of more concern, mass amounts of vultures are killed at one time through accidental poisonings.  It is common for farmers and ranchers in parts of Africa to poison the bodies of dead livestock in order to kill predators like leopards and jackals which also prey on their live animals.  The vultures gather in large groups to feast on this free banquet.  One carcass can attract 50 to 500 birds leading to high death toll all at once.  Researchers have begun applying satellite telemetry collars to these birds to track their movements and give information on the sources of contaminants in their range.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, vultures are dying when they consume dead livestock that had been treated with a pain relieving drug called diclofenac.  The drug is harmless to humans, but it causes kidney failure in vultures.  They are in steep decline in south Asia, and as a result more carcasses are piling up and feral dogs and rats are increasing in numbers, feeding on the waste the vultures would have eaten.  As the number of feral dogs increase, so do rabies and the number of people bitten by a rabid dog.  The only thing that can stop this slippery slope is the ban of diclofenac.

The California condor is labeled as critically endangered.  The threats they face include lead poisoning from eating animals containing lead bullets, collisions with electric power lines, habitat destruction, and poaching.  In some parts of the western United States, this species was driven to the brink of extinction by cattle ranchers who observed condors feeding on dead calves and assumed the birds had killed them.  Conservation efforts for this species include a captive breeding program and release of captive-reared adolescents.

Another conservation effort being done to help these birds is “vulture restaurants” where fresh and poison-free carcasses of livestock or wild mammals are put out for vultures to enjoy. 

Efforts to protect vultures require cooperation and support at international, national, regional and individual levels.  You can help in this cause.  Support conservation organizations and breeding programs for endangered vulture species.  Do not use poison to kill wildlife.  Eliminate pesticide use.  Do not use lead bullets when hunting.  Recycle forest products to decrease the need to cut down trees in which vultures roost.  And, lastly, report roadkill so it can be removed to protect vultures from being hit by cars. 

Join us for International Vulture Awareness Day at the World Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, September 4th from 10 am to 3 pm!  As always, admission and parking are free.  International Vulture Awareness Day is sponsored by AmerenUE.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Animal Noises

We pulled the pin on a Barred Owl recently – the one that was hit by the Wentzville Fire Truck .  The pin held the bones of its broken wing together while it healed.  The time had come for the pin to be removed.  The owl (named “Maltese”) whined a little as the pin was unscrewed out of the bone.

We hear the sick, wild birds vocalize in rehab every day – experience has taught us that each of these noises has different meanings.  Sometimes it is a quiet whimper as the bird weakly resists being handled or medicated when it first comes into the hospital.   Sometimes it is an aggressive, ear-piercing yell – like the sound of an eagle that does not want to be restrained for its daily medication for the eighth day in a row!
Many birds are so weak when first admitted they cannot even hold themselves up, let alone make any sounds
We also hear the sounds of success.  When a young or injured bird’s whimper changes over time as it gets stronger, and it finds its voice to hiss and squawk – almost as if to say, “Leave me alone, I’m better now!”  At least that’s what I think they are saying to me.
“Maltese” in the physical therapy flight cage, displaying a defensive posture and hissing – a positive sign of recovery.
Please be the voice of those who are seldom heard – tell your friends, family and politicians that you care about wildlife and the environment.  When we all become the voice of those who cannot speak we can make a difference – we can’t help but be heard!

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager, World Bird Sanctuary.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Birds In Concert Closes With a Bang!

Our last Birds in Concert performance closed with a bang on Thursday night with the rock and roll rhythms of The Rebounds.

Our sincere thanks to all those faithful fans who showed up to support WBS, and our Raptor Project and guest performers, despite hundred degree temperatures and threatening weather.  Also, a huge, heartfelt "Thank You" to Javier Mendoza, A Little Rhythm, and The Rebounds--the generous entertainers who have donated their time and talents to make this event a success.  All proceeds from the Birds in Concert series support our Wildlife Hospital and help to treat the more than 350 patients admitted every year.

We couldn't do what we do without you, our loyal supporters, and we hope our concert series has made this a memorable summer for you and your family members.   Hopefully, in the years to come, when your children and grandchildren are gathered  at a family event their reminiscences will begin...."Do you remember when we were little, and mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) took us to those WBS concerts where they flew the birds?  I think that's where I first learned to appreciate wildlife...."

If you hear a comment like that, then we will have done our jobs--environmental education.  And, you will have done your jobs--making family memories.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birds In Concert - The Rebounds

Our fourth and final Birds in Concert for this year features a group new to our stage – The Rebounds.

The Rebounds are a mesh of four musicians who bring their own personality to the stage. Each band member's personality is forged by experience, technique, and a passion for making good music. Their individual qualities bring a fresh spice to the music. When you blend jazz, classical, punk, and reggae, the result is a balanced flavor of rock-n-roll that appeals and pleases. Listeners can expect a superb craft and solid beat from the decades of experience each musician possesses.

We expect this new group to have the audience rocking and rolling in their seats!
 A Barn Owl swooping overhead as the band plays on
Of course, we will also have performances by our ever popular in-house band, The Raptor Project, whose performance may be accompanied by flying birds, snake parades, a dancing DoDo, kids from the audience, performing Pelicans, and possibly our latest addition—Rustle the Armadillo.  You never  know what to expect at a Raptor Project performance!
 Meet our dancing DoDo
So, bring your chairs, blankets, coolers and picnic baskets—or just bring yourselves, sit in our bleacher style seating, and enjoy hot dogs and snacks purchased from our snack stand. 

Plan on fun, family entertainment served up World Bird Sanctuary style!

Admission and parking are free!

Mark your calendars!
When?  Thursday, August  26
What Time?  7:00 p.m.
Where?  The World Bird Sanctuary Amphitheater

For directions to our site Click Here.

For the safety of our other guests and our performing animals--please no pets.

Birds In Concert is sponsored by Ameren UE

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interesting Pigeon History

I’d be willing to guess that very few people have ever heard of “Project Pigeon”.  I sure hadn’t, but I discovered it when I was at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. recently.  It’s really quite interesting!

In 1939, a behavioral psychologist named Burrhus Frederic Skinner wondered if birds could be used as kamikaze pilots for bombs.  This thought occurred during the beginnings of WWII, when the Germans had bombed Warsaw.  Skinner decided to work with pigeons because they have better vision than humans, are faster in movements, can distinguish colors, don’t get airsick and are easily handled.

He first trained them to peck at a specific picture/target by rewarding them with food when they hit the target with their beak.  He also trained them to be comfortable in a harness while they pecked at the target and ate their rewards.  When they had learned this, he progressed to training the pigeons to ‘steer’ their bomb.  Skinner designed a system that had moving pairs of lightweight rods around the pigeon’s neck.  When the bird lifted or lowered its head, it closed electrical contacts to operate a hoist.  When it moved its head from side to side, the hoist moved back and forth.  Skinner would push the whole thing across the room and the birds learned to guide it straight towards the target, finally receiving its reward at the end.  The pecking itself was transmitted as electrical signals to a control center.  When the image of the target started to move off center, the pigeons would peck frantically to bring the device back on track (and to get their reward!)

In June of 1941, Skinner brought his idea and research to the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), but was told ‘no’.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Skinner filmed his pigeons in action and went back to the NDRC.  This time they showed a little interest, but still thought it was a long shot.  Another gentleman, A.D. Hyde, the head of the mechanical division in General Mills Inc., thought the idea was sound and decided to help Skinner.  Hyde convinced his company to back the project.

In June of 1943, after refining the system and updating the apparatus, Skinner won a contract with the government for “Project Pigeon”.  He worked with 64 pigeons, training them extensively to guide their bomb, even with wartime distractions such as gunfire or other loud noises nearby, high altitude (10,000 ft), bright flashes, simulated shell bursts, massive G forces and, the worst potential distraction of all, pigeons of the opposite sex.  Nothing deterred those military pigeons from their duty!

Unfortunately for Skinner, and perhaps fortunately for his pigeons, in September of 1943 the German government used missiles controlled by radio to wreak havoc on the American fleet landing soldiers in Salerno.  By October of 1944, the American government decided that their funding should go towards figuring out how to copy the German ingenuity and not towards the pigeons.  Skinner was out.  And so were the pigeons.  But it is a fascinating bit of history that I know I never learned in school.  If you want to learn more, there is a great article at

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Friday, August 20, 2010

Yoga At World Bird Sanctuary

Yoga comes to World Bird Sanctuary on Sunday, September 12th, 2010!

Linda Jones, Instructor/Owner of Yoga to Go Studio, is volunteering her time to lead a yoga class at World Bird Sanctuary.

If you'd like to join us for Yoga with the birds, click here to find out more!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Little Rhythm

Third “Birds In Concert” scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, August 12.
Our own in-house band, The Raptor Project 
Despite the blistering temperatures and an early evening thunderstorm that blew through the St. Louis area last Thursday, our second “Birds In Concert” was a huge success!

Last week’s featured performer, Javier Mendoza, never fails to draw a crowd, and a great time was had by all.  To find out where you can see and hear more of this great performer Click Here.
The fabulous Javier Mendoza
This week’s featured artist is A Little Rhythm, and is completely new to our stage.  According to the weather service, temperatures will range in the mid-eighties for our next performance, and skies will be clear.
Rifle, the Harris' Hawk, swooping over the audience
So plan to join us this Thursday, August 19, for our third Birds in Concert performance and help us welcome A Little Rhythm to our stage.
Children in the audience help to tell the story of the DoDo
Of course, as our veteran spectators will tell you, you can expect the unexpected from our own in-house band’s Raptor Project performance. The Raptor Project performances may be accompanied by anything from our talented birds swooping low overhead, to a snake parade, to a dancing DoDo, or a performing Pelican.  Children are often invited to become part of the act as our dancing DoDo and the Raptor Project's "Don't Be A DoDo" tell the story of what happened to the DoDo bird.
All ages enjoy our concerts
Mark your calendars for a rocking good time:

Thursday, August 19
7:00 p.m.

Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets to spread on the lawn seating area if they like.  Seating is bleacher style.  For directions to our site Click Here.

Food and beverages such as hot dogs, nachos, snacks and soda will be available for purchase.


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

Birds In Concert is sponsored by Ameren UE

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How do you celebrate someone's Life?

How do you celebrate someone's Life?

Certainly there are many ways, but I will mention one. Recently, early July 2010, a friend who is a sponsor of World bird Sanctuary had his 90 plus year old Mother die. He wanted to do something special in remembrance of his Mom and to commemorate her passing.

He chose to have WBS release Homing Pigeons near his Mom's graveside during or just after the funeral prayers. Perhaps the birds lifting up into the sky could help signify the passing of her spirit. Many Christians believe that when the earthly body ceases to function that the spirit lives on. Maybe I'm one of those people.

The above photo shows the release baskets full of birds. The birds are trained and exercised every day, and will return home to the World Bird Sanctuary after release.

After the Minister gave a lovely tribute to my friend’s mother it was time for the bird release. The birds burst forth from the baskets and rose quickly into the sky. They circled the cemetery three times and then took off for home. The birds looked just beautiful!  It seemed a fitting tribute to a long full life.

Later, after saying goodbye to my friend and his family, I drove back to the World Bird Sanctuary.  My goal was to put the release baskets back into the loft.  Upon my arrival most of the birds had already beaten me back to their loft.  I was able to jump out of the car and snap a picture of one of the later birds coming in for a landing.  If you’ll look on the right side of the picture you will see a bird with its wings raised as it drops in for a landing. The bird made it home. I like to believe this return home is a symbol of my friend’s mother’s safe journey into the afterlife.

If you are interested in commemorating a special person or event, and live within 35 miles of St. Louis Missouri, our birds would like to help in your celebration of life.

Call 636-225-4390 extension 0 to schedule a bird release for your special person.

I felt privileged to help my friend celebrate his Mom's Life.

Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, August 15, 2010


What are these two Cooper's Hawks doing reclining on a local suburban patio bench?  Read on for the amazing story.
 I took the call late Friday morning, 4 June.  

A woman on the other end said, “A hawk nest has blown out of a tree in my back yard.  Two of the babies died when they hit the ground, and one has survived.  What should I do?”

 Admittedly, I was skeptical of whether or not the birds were hawks.  WBS has permits to rehabilitate only birds of prey.  After asking all the questions to narrow down what the woman had, I concluded the youngsters were in fact hawks, and probably Cooper’s Hawks (one of my favorite birds of prey in the world).  

Because our rehabilitation department continues to operate on a shoestring budget, we do not have the ways or means to drive and pick up downed raptors.  I asked the woman if she could bring the hawk to us, stating I would coach her on how to safely acquire the hawk.  “I’ve just had surgery on my hand, my husband’s at work, I have no neighbors to help me, and I don’t want my son or daughter to handle the bird.  Please, you must help me.”

 As cruel as it might sound, in most instances we must say, “I’m very sorry, but we cannot do anything.”  Back when we used to do pick-ups, there were so many instances where, a) we got bad directions and never even got to the place the bird was down; b) the bird was a sparrow and not a hawk; or c) we got to the destination and the person who called us would say, “The bird was just right here a minute ago.”  Too much time and money was wasted attempting to do pick-ups that proved to be futile.  Still, something about this plea stuck in my mind, and the fact the baby was probably a Cooper’s Hawk is probably what pushed me over the edge.  I said, “I have to be away from headquarters later on today.  I’ll call you when I’m out and you can tell me if the bird is still in your back yard.  If it is, I’ll come out.”  After many sincere thank you’s, Amy (I finally did get her name) hung up.

 Later on that afternoon I drove up the driveway of a pretty home in a nice neighborhood.  When I rang the doorbell a young man and 2 bouncing dogs answered the door (I’m a dog man, so score 2 more for these concerned people).  Amy was close behind.  When I tried to shake Amy’s hand she could only extend her left hand because 2 fingers on her right hand were in thick bandages.  I was becoming very glad I did this pick-up.  Again, many sincere “thank you’s” were extended for me driving out.

 Amy, her son, daughter, and dogs showed me through the house and out the back door.  There, laying on a big rock by their pool was a baby, female Cooper’s Hawk.  By my best estimate she was about 15 days old.  Amy showed me the sticks from the downed nest and pointed out 2 other baby hawks, about 30 feet up in a Pin Oak.  Luckily they were just strong enough to hold onto branches as the nest came down (I thought to myself that if the wind blows too hard, those little guys are coming down, too).  They were probably the oldest of the 5, and probably the youngest 2 of the clutch were the ones that died when they fell. 
The little female Cooper's Hawk, WBS Assistant Director Jeff Meshach, and Nicholas Sprung
This young female I now had in my hands flew just well enough during the unfortunate event to flutter, but not crash to the ground.  I was glad to see she had no injury, but I quickly concluded she would not be strong enough to be placed on a branch 10 to 12 feet off the ground.  If baby hawks are old enough and strong enough to perch well, we instruct the people calling to get the bird more than 8 feet off the ground so raccoons and other ground predators cannot find them, and mom and dad hawks will still care for the youngsters.  Of course, it’s way better to let the parents continue to care for their kids than bringing the babies into captivity, especially if there’s no injury. 

For better or worse, this feisty female would have to come with me, but I promised Amy I would be back in about 5 days, when she could fly and perch better, to release her.  Not only did Amy thank me for coming out, she donated money to help us help the baby.  It’s important to note that our rehabilitation department works almost solely on donations, so when any bird is brought in a donation of at least $25 goes a long way toward its care and medical expenses.

On Saturday, 5 June, I got a call from Mike Sprung, husband of Amy.  Just as I had suspected, the other 2 hawks that were still in the tree the day before had fluttered to the ground.  Before I could say, “I’ll be right out,” Mike asked if there was anything he could do to care for the hawks.  In most cases we say no, but I did have an idea.  I asked Mike if he had a basket he could tie a rope to, throw the rope over a branch, place the babies in the basket and haul the contraption off the ground; viola, an instant, makeshift nest.  
The other two baby Cooper's Hawks in their makeshift nest
Mike had an even better idea.  He took a portable basketball hoop/backboard, tied the bottom of the net so nothing could fall through, placed a blanket at the bottom of the net and stuck some sticks from the downed nest through the nylon net to make an even more stable nest than my idea.  Mike pulled the portable “Cooper’s Hawk Nest” into his back yard, placed the 2 babies in it and within a few minutes mommy Cooper’s Hawk came in and fed her kids.
 WBS Assistant Director Jeff Meshach places the little female in the makeshift nest with her two siblings
I arrived back at the Sprung’s at 10:30, Monday morning, 7 June with the young female I had to take away.  I tried shaking Amy’s hand (habit).  After posing for some pictures and marveling at Mike Sprung’s artificial nest building ingenuity, I lowered the “nest”, placed the female in it and pushed it back to its highest setting.  I wish all birds we have to take into our rehabilitation department could be saved as easily as this one.
 WBS Assistant Director Jeff Meshach watches on as the three Cooper's Hawks settle into their unorthodox "nest"
Our sincere thanks goes out to Mike, Amy, Nicholas and Natalie Sprung for helping to save the lives of three Cooper’s Hawk kids.
So now you know "the rest of the story".  Even though these three suburban birds (the third one took off just before this photo was snapped) are every bit "wild" birds, they clearly view patio furniture as just another part of their environment.

Submitted by Jeff Meshach, World Bird Sanctuary Assistant Director

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Javier Is Here!

Tomorrow night's Birds in Concert, Thursday, 8/12, will feature the hugely popular Javier Mendoza!

Don't miss this opportunity to see and hear one of the area's most popular artists.  Come join us for an evening of Javier's pop stylings with a Latin flavor.

Of course there will also be performances by our own Raptor Project who will regale us with their own original songs featuring the animals that call the Sanctuary home, as well as appearances by our talented performing birds.

Our amphitheater provides bleacher style seating, but guests are invited to bring blankets, lawn chairs, and picnic baskets if so inclined.

Performance starts at 7:00 pm.  Click here for directions.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase (hot dogs, snack food items, soft drinks, etc.)


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

Birds in Concert is sponsored by Ameren UE

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Rookie Files: Mesquite

Having only flown two Harris’ Hawks, both of whom are old pros, I didn’t know what to expect when we got a new juvenile. Mesquite, otherwise known as skeet or skeeter, was definitely not what I expected. Eager from the get-go and always learning, I can tell that one day he will be an excellent flyer, once he matures.
Meet Mesquite, the Harris' Hawk 
Mesquite is a juvenile male Harris’ Hawk. He is only a little over a year old and not only is this his first year flying in shows, but it is his very first year in shows period. Mesquite was put on equipment and manned (taught to sit on the glove) this winter. He is very precocious and a quick study. Within a matter of days he was eating in front of us, and only a few weeks later he stepped to the glove and was walked around the ETC.

Mesquite has always allowed us to push the envelope. He was hopping from one glove to another within a couple of months of being introduced to humans. This ready adaptation to humans is not completely uncommon in Harris’ Hawks, which is why many falconers use them and why they are a favorite bird for educational programs.
 Mesquite displaying the juvenile plumage typical of an immature Harris' Hawk
Harris’ Hawks are one of the only social birds of prey. They will actually hunt in family groups of four to seven birds. Hence their nickname “wolves of the sky”. One hawk will chase their prey, for instance a jackrabbit. If the jackrabbit dives for cover in a burrow, that Harris’ Hawk will actually crawl in after it to flush it out. Once it is flushed the jackrabbit is in for quite the surprise, since waiting on the other side is the rest of the family of hawks, and together they would kill their prey and join in the feast. In this social situation however, the young actually get first dibs on the kill. This helps to ensure their survival and the survival of the pack.
 Rifle, an adult Harris' Hawk - note the difference in overall plumage and tail feathers between Rifle and Mesquite
Now, unless you live in the US Southwest, it is unlikely that you have seen this particular species of hawk in the wild. If you are familiar with the Southwest, right about now you’re picturing how very sparse it is in terms of plant life and therefore perching options. Have no fear; the Harris’ Hawks have a great adaptation for this as well. One hawk will land on top of a cactus where the spines are still nice and soft. Then another hawk will come along, carefully ball up its feet and land right on top of that first hawk. This is known as stacking, and up to four Harris’ Hawks have been seen hunting in this manner. Not only does this offer them somewhere to perch, but there are now four sets of eyes on the lookout for food and predators.

Mesquite does not stack with other Harris’ Hawks.  For now he enjoys soaring right over the audience’s head (twice!), and getting used to Malone in the weathering area. If you happen to stop by before shows start (9-10:30ish) then you can see both Mesquite and Malone on display.
 Notice the stripes on Mesquite's tail feathers
Right now you can tell them apart since Mesquite still has his juvenile plumage. His front looks like cookies and cream ice cream as opposed to Malone’s solid brown, and Mesquite’s tail feathers are striped. This coloring would help him to blend into the nest in the wild.

Better hurry though! He already has two white-tipped dark brown tail feathers. They grow up so fast…

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scout Project - Nick Allen

Once again the Boy Scouts are helping WBS to expand our display area on the walking path that we call “the line”.
Scout Nick Allen, Center, and his "construction crew"
When I was photographing the new Brown Pelicans last week I heard the whine of a Skilsaw and the pounding of hammers on just the other side of the Pelican enclosure. 
One of the purposes of an Eagle Scout Project is to teach the Scout organizational skills
Sure enough, when I went to investigate I found Scout Nick Allen, a member of Troop 335, along with four friends, his dad and another adult advisor, busily building another of the geodesic dome type enclosures that line the path beyond the Hospital.   Building this structure for us is Nick’s Eagle Scout project. 
Another objective is to teach problem solving
Boy Scout’s have been doing their Eagle Scout Projects in coordination with the World Bird Sanctuary for quite a number of years now.  When a young man does his Eagle Scout Project for us we bring an Eagle to his Eagle Scout Ceremony.  As you stroll our paths you may notice that almost all of our structures have plaques indicating that they were built by a Scout.  We don’t know what we’d do without them!

For more information about Scout Projects Click Here, or to arrange to do your Eagle Scout Project for the World Bird Sanctuary call Roger Holloway at 636-861-1392.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary volunteer

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Recent Hospital Patients

Green Herons
(Osh, Kosh & BGosh)
Case #061410
Admitted 6/14

On June 12, when a tree fell on a house in Ballwin, the residents discovered that it contained a nest of Green Herons.  There were three babies in the nest.
 Osh, Kosh & B'gosh 
The concerned homeowner put them in a box in a nearby tree, in the hope that the parents would continue to feed them.  However, they saw the mother looking for them for two days, but she apparently was unable to find them, at which point the homeowner brought them in to the World Bird Sanctuary.

Our veterinarian determined that they appeared to be in good condition, although they were still very young, so our course of treatment consisted of supportive therapy in the hope that they would do well until old enough to be released.

They were fed minnows for about two weeks; then graduated to small trout.  They continued to do well and thrive on this diet.

They soon became staff favorites, and even though we don’t usually name our temporary charges—we couldn’t help ourselves.  They became known around the Sanctuary as Osh, Kosh and B’gosh.  One of the trio assumed the role of “protector”, and would hover over the other two whenever he perceived a threat, such as being weighed. 

Soon they were released into a rehab cage where they built up their muscles by making short flights.  Last Tuesday was “Graduation Day” for these three lucky little birds.  They were taken to a marshy area near the Meramec river by several staff members, where they flew out of their crate and back into their natural environment. 

Our hospital treats upwards of 300 birds in a year’s time. Stories such as this one are what keep our staff and volunteers motivated when we have an outcome that isn’t as successful.  Some, such as these three little guys, spend only a short time in our hospital and require only supportive care.  Others, with more serious injuries, may require surgery and months of intensive rehabilitation.  This is just an example of the many types of birds treated in our facility.  Because our space and resources are limited we do not treat Geese, Ducks or Songbirds. 

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary volunteer

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Feathers distinguish birds from every other animal!
 Clark, one of our team of flying Eagles, using his feathers to brake for a landing
Feathers evolved from scales, and birds still have scales on their legs and feet.  In addition to helping a bird fly, feathers provide insulation and camouflage.
An Upland Sandpiper photographed from a mere 20 feet away - notice how his feathers blend in with the rocks
 Same photo cropped in close to show that there really was a bird there
Feathers are composed of a protein called keratin, the same material that makes up hair and fingernails.  The flight feathers on the wings are called “remiges”, which come from the Latin word for “oarsman”.  The tail feathers on a bird are called “rectrices”, which comes from the Latin word for “helmsman”.
 Photo of Clark showing how he uses his feathers to direct his flight
The feather plumage in adults and juveniles often differ.  For example, juvenile Bald Eagles have brown feathers with white specks.  Around the time the bird turns five years old, the feathers on the head turn completely white (with the majority of eagles) and the feathers on the body turn a more solid brown.
 Photo of Clark as a four-year old still wearing his juvenile plumage
Immature Augur Buzzards have a light brown breast, whereas the adults have a white breast.  Adults have a darker body with white barring on the lower wings, and a red tail.

A young bird’s feathers must grow in all at once.  This requires a great amount of energy, so the feathers are weaker than adult feathers and could wear out more quickly.  However, the first set of feathers will easily get the bird through to it’s first molt, when it slowly replaces all feathers over the next summer.
 Close-up of Harris' Hawk feathers
Juvenile wing feathers are generally more narrow and sharply pointed at the tip than that of adult birds.  Juveniles also have shorter, broader wings than their adult counterparts.  These adaptations sacrifice a little agility, but help the young bird compensate for it’s lack of flying experience:

Trail, Pepper (2001) (PDF), Wing Feathers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist