Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bats and Rabies

Often when you say the word bat, many people immediately think of rabies. 
Batty, one of our resident Straw-colored Fruit Bats
Did you know that less than 1% of all bats have rabies.   In order to understand this topic it’s important to understand the facts about bats and rabies.  Worldwide about 55,000 people die per year due to rabies.  Most of the rabies contracted by people come from dog bites. 

Rabies is a preventable viral infection of the central nervous system in mammals.  Rabies is generally transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.  You cannot get rabies just from looking at a bat, being in a room with a bat or by coming in contact with bat guano.  Rabies is readily prevented by post-contact vaccination, but is almost always fatal after symptoms appear.  If you are bitten by any animal you must seek prompt medical attention and follow all doctor’s advice.  Bats do have small teeth and bite marks may not be apparent.  If you find a bat in the room of an unattended child or mentally impaired person seek medical advice.  If you are able, try to capture the bat using a box or a can while wearing leather garden gloves.   Do not handle it with your bare hands.
Scar--he and his brother greet visitors in our Nature Center
Most of us have been told if you come across a strange animal acting aggressive, foaming at the mouth, or just acting weird to stay away; good advice.  Rabies in bats is very different.  The virus will actually cause the bat to become paralyzed.  So the best advice is, if you find a bat on the ground do not pick it up.

For more information on the subject go to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on exposure to rabies.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Calling All Bird Brains!

The "Bird Brain Reading & Activity Center" opens at World Bird Sanctuary.
These two youngsters have each discovered a book that's "just right" for them
We have a new attraction at World Bird Sanctuary!  The "Bird Brain Reading and Activity Center" was developed over the last few months and is now open on a limited basis.  It is located in the Olga Reyes Memorial Building along the exhibit line, near the Bald Eagle and White Pelican Exhibits.
Youngsters enjoying our "puppet theater"
The Reading and Activity Center is full of donated books relating to wildlife, conservation, animals and other nature-related topics. There are also coloring activities, puppets and a puppet theater, and numerous reference books for visitors to enjoy.  We encourage kids, teens and adults to take a book, read it, enjoy it and learn from it.  Then, pass it along and share it, or return it for other visitors to enjoy (one book per visit). 
This young lady gets to take home a book to enjoy and share
Are you passionate about wildlife and helping people learn?
The Reading and Activity Center is open on an ad-hoc basis right now – as docent/volunteer hours allow us to open it.  We plan to be open from 11am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, and are recruiting docents who would like to volunteer at World Bird Sanctuary because they support our mission, but are not able or interested in working directly with the birds.  If you want to be a pioneer docent at our library or activity center, click here  to download a volunteer application form.
If you have some new or gently used books you no longer need you could help us keep our library stocked
We are also taking donations of new or gently used nature-related books, magazines and games for the library.  These can be brought to WBS or mailed to:
World Bird Sanctuary
Bird Brain Reading and Activity Center
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park, MO 63088.

Submitted by: Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctary, Sanctuary Manager

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011: International Year of Forests

Is Your Coffee Sustainable?

Every year thousands of migratory birds fly the long journey from North American forests, parks and backyards to the warm rainforests of Central and South America.  Many of these birds will take shelter in the trees that provide shade for coffee farms. 
Possibly one of the best known North American migrants--the Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Traditionally, coffee plants are grown in the same habitat required by many birds and other creatures.  In the 70s however, farmers developed a coffee-hybrid that produced greater yields and did not require shade, resulting in the clearing of many shade trees.  As a result, soils washed downhill, streams clogged with silt and agrochemicals, wildlife disappeared and also many species of migratory birds suffered as their winter tropical homes were converted from forests to full-sun coffee farms.

Coffee is the second most valuable commodity today in international commerce after oil.  Two billion dollars’ worth is traded every year.  People drink coffee in every country in the world. 

Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to grow their beans in harmony with nature.  They help farmers to conserve their soils and waterways, run their farm more efficiently, and protect wildlife habitat.  Wildlife in well managed coffee farms can be amazing!  In areas where deforestation is rampant, the forested coffee farms may be the only resting points for weary migrating birds. 
Swainson's Hawks, such as our own Trucker, migrate as far south as Argentina and Uruguay
In addition to protecting the environment, Rainforest Alliance Certified farms take good care of workers and their families, providing access to medical care and schools.  Well run, well-tended coffee farms usually produce high quality beans.  Coffee drinkers everywhere can support coffee farmers who maintain forested refuges simply by purchasing coffee beans stamped with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal of approval.

 Look for the Rainforest Alliance logo on your next coffee purchase
Rainforest Alliance has certified more than 26,000 farms large and small in 18 countries producing many different products we use.  The certification program prohibits the use of dangerous pesticides, and tightly regulates all use of agrochemicals in order to minimize risk to human health and the environment.  The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal ensures that the product is derived from farms where the environment is protected.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center also certifies farms, and their seal states “Bird-Friendly.”  They have the strictest environmental standards and assure that your coffee was grown with biodiversity and sustainability as top priorities. 

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parrots Galore - Part 2

For this second part of my series I would like to introduce you to Myra, my seven year old budgie. 
Myra is the true green of budgies found in the wild in Australia
Myra is a parakeet or Budgerigar (budgie for short) and has turned seven years old this year.  She is not a rescue bird nor did I buy her from a pet store or breeder.  She was produced by two of my previous parakeets, Dana and Mason.

 Dana was a cinnamon green mutation with a pale yellow face and light brown wings and tail.  Mason was a true green wild color budgie with a bright yellow face, dark blue/black wings, and a blue tail.  Together they produced three eggs, one of which turned out to be Myra.  She was the first to hatch and therefore the largest.  The other two were smaller and hatched later.  After about two weeks the smallest chick unfortunately passed away.  Myra’s younger sibling survived as well and I named him Marty.  Both look exactly like their father, Mason.  Below you can see a picture of Myra.

Budgies are great starter birds if you’re not familiar with birds.  They don’t require a big cage like macaws , they are not loud like the larger parrots and are not high maintenance pets.  A safe cage size is 22 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 22 inches tall.  The bars of the cage must be close enough together so the bird cannot stick its head through.  The cages with horizontal bars are more desirable so the bird can climb more easily. 
Be sure to bird proof you home if bringing home a budgie
Your place of residence should be bird proof before bringing in a bird or letting them out of their cage.  Even if you don’t let your bird out of its cage, it could fly out while reaching in to change water or feeding.  Be sure ceiling fans are off, windows shut and curtains closed, doors to the outside locked, mirrors covered, toilet seats closed, sinks drained, open glasses of liquid covered or emptied, outlets covered, electrical cords are monitored and oven/stove are off or not reachable.  The average household contains many hazards to birds.  Sometimes in order to protect a bird, one must think on bird terms.

Myra has been such a joy to have around.  Her existence was a wonderful surprise to me seven years ago.  Dana and Mason were great caring parents.  I remember when Dana was sitting on the eggs in the nest box and Mason would be outside, seemingly pacing back and forth like a nervous father-to-be.  Every once in a while he would go up to the entrance and peek inside.  Dana would then squawk at him as if to say, “Stay out!”  

Budgies lay from three to eight eggs in a clutch.  After hatching both parents feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them.  At around six to eight weeks the chicks begin to eat on their own.  Their lifespan can range from 10 to 12 years, but have been known to live longer depending on care.  Dana lived to 12 years and passed away earlier this year from unknown causes, whereas Mason passed away at a premature age of 5 years from a brain tumor.  Marty--Myra’s  brother--sadly passed away late last year. 

In the wild these budgies nest in tree cavities.  In captivity they will use a nest box supplied by humans.  Captive parents will usually tend to the chicks themselves, not needing any help from humans.  I only participated by changing the cotton bedding in the nest box twice a day and keeping the food and water dishes refilled. 

Budgies are native to the central areas of Australia.  They live in desert areas, arid environments and open woodlands.  Like all parrots, they are a social species that live in large flocks.  If owning just one parakeet, then you become its flock and you must be aware of the extra attention necessary for a budgie to thrive.  Just toys will not fulfill the bird’s need for interaction. 
Myra most closely resembles her father, Mason
Most budgies have their own personalities.  Myra is a happy bird that likes to interact with others, but then likes her quiet time alone, too.  She is very sweet and is eager to come out of her cage and interact with me.  She can be shy and hardly ever picks a fight with any of my other birds.  She is a special bird and is a nice reminder of her parents.  She is mostly like her dad, Mason, in looks and personality, whereas Marty was most like his mother, Dana—a more dominant personality.  Budgies are a wonderful bird to own and I recommend learning as much as you can about the species before deciding to purchase one. 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eagle Release

At the World Bird Sanctuary a Bald Eagle release is always a cause for excitement!

On August 30 as I entered the site on my way to the office for my usual volunteer duties I was stopped by Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann, who asked if I had my camera with me.  All staff and volunteers at WBS wear many hats.  My other hat, in addition to office duties, is as one of several staff photographers.  Everyone knows that I seldom go anywhere without a camera in tow.  Joe told me that they were releasing a Bald Eagle at Lone Elk Park in about thirty minutes!
Drawing names from a hat to determine who will release the bird
The eagle being released this day was a juvenile from the Lake of the Ozarks.  She had fallen out of her nest too early and was not yet able to fly or hunt on her own.  (We believe this bird is a female due to her size—females are larger than males.)  After two and a half months of perfecting her flying skills in one of our large exercise mews we felt she was ready to be released.

Usually a Bald Eagle release is cause for much fanfare, with dignitaries and news media present.  However, this time it had been decided to make this a quiet in-house affair and to give the members of our Tuesday Crew the honor of releasing this bird.
 Tuesday Crew member Bill Kleyboecker won the honor of releasing the eagle
The Tuesday Crew members are an indispensable part of our organization—retired tradesmen who literally keep our organization together with their various construction skills.  They volunteer their skills and expertise every Tuesday come rain or shine.  Today one of them would get to release this majestic Bald Eagle back into the wild, cheered on by the rest of the “crew”.  The choice of who would do the actual release was decided by drawing names from a hat.  Crew member Bill Kleyboecker was the lucky winner.
Removing an uncooperative bird from a crate is never easy
Everyone gathered expectantly at the Lone Elk visitors’ center building.  The time had come to remove our young eagle from her crate—not an easy job since she saw absolutely no reason to cooperate!
 A beautiful release!
Once our youngster was properly positioned Bill lofted her into the air and she burst out of his arms with strong forceful wing beats, making a beeline for the trees at the edge of the lake—and freedom!
 Free at last!
Moments like these are what remind us why we do what we do.  If you would like to volunteer at the World Bird Sanctuary call 636-225-4390 and ask for Teri, or go to our website, click on the “About” header, and click on “Volunteer Program” in the dropdown menu for more information and an application.
Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, September 19, 2011

Have Puppets – Will Travel

Did you know that the World Bird Sanctuary offers Resource Nest Boxes? 
Some of the contents of our Nest Boxes
No, they aren’t boxes for birds to nest in.  They are boxes loaded with educational books, games, videos, activities and more.  For a nominal fee of $25.00, you can rent one of our Resource Nest Boxes for a two-week period through our Education Department.

The Resource Nest Boxes are a great addition to classroom teaching, for home schoolers, daycares, scout leaders or for kids that just want to have fun and learn more about our great planet and the creatures that we share it with.  Topics include:  Protect Our Planet, Rocks Rock, Talon Tote and Where We Live.

I want to highlight a particularly popular Resource Nest Box:  Talon Tote
The focus of this box is on Birds of Prey, and offers a sort of “hands on” approach to learning about them.  Birds of prey “come alive” with life-sized wearable wings, puppets and scripts for your own puppet show, books, crafts, replicas of talons and tracks and an audible Bird Identifier with raptor calls.

This box offers life size wearable “wings” of the Andean Condor, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl and Peregrine Falcon.  These are great tools to show children the actual wingspan of these magnificent birds.  The “wings” are made of cloth and have photos of each bird that they represent.  You will be truly amazed at their size.

Also included in this Resource Nest Box are five different books about birds of prey, track and talon replicas of the Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon, as well as an audio Bird Identifier which can be used to hear the actual sounds or calls made by specific bird species.  There are also two different puppet show scripts along with nine puppets, instructions for several craft projects and props to outfit yourself with “tools” like a raptor.

If you would like to reserve one of our Resource Nest Boxes please call the Education Department at 636-225-4390 ext. 0.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Parrots Galore

I have loved birds ever since I was young. 
 Calla-one of my Budgerigars (more commonly called Parakeets)
For 15 years now I have had birds of my own.  I currently have five Budgerigars (commonly called parakeets in the pet trade) and one Green-cheeked Conure (pronounced con-yur).  Conures are also members of the Parakeet family.   Both Budgerigars (commonly called “Budgies” for short), and Conures, are native to Australia.  For purposes of this blog article I will refer to them by the commonly held pet trade name—Parakeet.

All of my Parakeets are female and my Conure is male.  The sex of a Budgie can usually be determined by the age of six months by the color of their cere (the fleshy looking growth containing the nostrils).  In a juvenile bird the cere will be pink to purplish pink.   Once they attain maturity at about six months the male’s cere will be a bright blue, and the female’s cere will become a light to pale beige, or darken to a brown during breeding season.  

My Parakeets’ names are Parker (9 yrs. old), Avery (8 yrs. old), Myra (7 yrs. old), Perri (7 yrs. old), and Calla (5 yrs. old).  Jazz is my Conure and he is 4 years old.  Their behavior is so fascinating!  I could watch them all day.  Bird behavior is one of the things about them that I love.  The way they interact with each other is very entertaining.  They all have their own personalities too, especially Calla. 
Calla is an albino, identified by the lack of color pigment in her feathers, along with the trademark pink eyes of the albino 
Calla has the strangest personality of all my Parakeets.  I named her after the Calla lily, which is an all-white flower because she is an albino Parakeet.  Albinism is a rare condition that alters the pigment of the body to a white color.  In this case, feathers and not skin, scales, or fur.  She has all white feathers and pink feet and eyes.  Because of the albinism, if she were a male her cere would not turn the typical blue color.  It would remain the pinkish purple of the juveniles.  Wild Parakeets are green with yellow heads.  However breeders, pairing males with subtle color differences with females with color differences, have created a large diversity of colors for the pet trade —albinos being one of these.

Calla hangs upside down—a lot.  She will even try to take her daily naps like this.  In the evening when all the birds are finding their spot to roost for the night, she will be the only one hanging upside down.  Every night I have to check on her and put her back on a perch.  I probably will never understand why Calla does this.  She is also a very frantic flyer.  Sometimes she will just fly until she runs out of energy and does an emergency landing on the floor.  More than once she has flown right into the side of my face.  If you let your parrots fly around your house or a room it is important to have curtains over windows and to have all doors locked.  Parrots could fly into windows and hurt or kill themselves, and if someone walked into a room unexpectedly, they could release a parrot into the wild, which could mean death to that parrot.

Being too forward is another one of her quirks. If she wants a certain perch or food dish, she will push the others right off!  Females are typically more dominant and socially intolerant and this seems to be a trait she is displaying here.  Calla also acts extra friendly to the other girls.  She will often chatter right in their faces.  (This is most likely a form of dominance.)   Calla loves when I talk to her through the cage too.  She gets excited and puffs up her head feathers and then her pupils get very tiny!  Because almost all parrots are very social in the wild, in captivity humans often become part of a budgie’s “flock,” and parrots will show these behaviors to humans.  She will always step on to my finger, but doesn’t stay there for very long because she seems to want to explore and interact with the other birds.  She takes frequent baths in her bathing dish, but again she will nudge others off if they are in her way. 

Calla’s diet, and that of my other birds, consists of mostly pellets.  Pellets, manufactured by humans, are a very nutritious form of food that has a very scientific balance of nutrients.  They do get vegetables and fruits from time to time and seed on occasion.  I use one style of cup for the seed.  Whenever she sees it, she knows what to expect.  Sometimes something else will be in the bowl and when she takes a look, she will do a double take.  It is funny and interesting because I can generally guess what her next behavior will be if I give her a form of enrichment that I have given her in the past.  I have studied her behavior for five years now, so it’s fun to try to predict what she will do next.

Calla is definitely one of a kind, and always keeps me on my toes.  A short while ago she was in the habit of kicking her pellets out of her food dish.  I’m not sure why she does this.  These behaviors may be similar to what some Parakeets do in the wild.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Calla and will look for future blogs about my other birds!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Time is running out—only two weeks left to sign up for our Avian Training Workshop at the reduced rate.
This seminar offers both lecture and "hands on" sessions
If you are a novice or are already experienced with birds of prey and training, but want to learn more, you should attend our “Avian Training Workshop” this November.  The workshop is an intensive 4-day long experience where you will learn from the senior staff at World Bird Sanctuary.  Part of the workshop is classroom lecture style, and part of it will be hands-on working with equipment and the birds themselves.  Some of the topics we will cover include:

·     Different species of birds utilized for education programs, which ones work best, and comparing hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, pelicans, horn bills, crows, ravens, parrots and other bird species.

·      Information about how to develop your own raptor center, the permits and necessary experience needed, insurance, etc.

·      How to best house raptors and other birds– perches, mews, jump boxes and other caging.  How best to protect weathering and exhibited raptors and other birds from potential predators, weather, etc.
Learn to present effective education programs 
·      How to present education programs – dress code, scripts, voice protection exercises, audience participation and much more.

·      Transportation of birds – driving, flying, shipping – how best to keep them safe and comfortable.

·      Bird diets – what to feed, how to get and store the food, vitamins, etc.

·      How to train your birds– what is a base weight, what is a target weight, creance line, flyer food, positive and negative reinforcement, and we train a White-necked Raven to perform a new behavior throughout the workshop!
Mischief, our White Necked Raven, is trained to accept donations 
·      Hands-on making of jesses, anklets and leashes.  Learning how to imp feathers on a bird.

·      Flying a bird!  A chance to fly a Harris’ Hawk or a Barn Owl and learn the correct techniques for free flying.

The registration fee includes your workshop guide. This guide contains a wealth of information, most of which is covered during the workshop, as well as additional information.  The class is small; we take a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20 people.  But that also means that if you don’t act, the spaces could be filled.  Enroll today to insure your place in this unique and highly informative class, now in its 15th year!!
The workshop runs from Thursday, Nov. 3rd through Sunday, Nov. 6th and the cost for the 4-day event is $650 per person (this includes lunch each day).  In order to register, we require a $100 non-refundable deposit by October 1st, after that date the price will increase to $750 per person.

If you would like to learn more, or register for the workshop, please contact Teri Schroer at or call 636-225-4390 ext. 3.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hey There's Nature In My Woods!

Hey!  There's Nature in My Woods!  Time to go find it!

Have you booked your family onto World Bird Sanctuary's family-friendly guided nature hikes yet!

Join us for a leisurely 2-hour hike through our oak hickory forest to see what kind of nature is in our woods.
 Turtles are frequently seen on our nature hikes.
An expert naturalist will lead you on your hike – where you may see birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.  Learn about trees, rocks and who knows what else!

Each hike will be a new experience depending on the season and creatures we encounter.

Time: Hike starts at 9am.  Registration at 8.30am.
Dates: Every fourth Saturday of the month from until October, except August.
Sept 24th
Oct 22nd

Enjoy a walk through our oak hickory forest.
 Cost: $9 for adults; $7 for children under 12.  Groups of 10 or more - $7 per person regardless of age.

Reservations Required: Call 636-225-4390 ext. 0 to make your reservation and find out what nature is in your woods!

Dress for the weather and don't forget your binoculars and cameras

Saturday, September 10, 2011

There's Still Time to Buy A Brick

With the World Bird Sanctuary’s Open House coming up soon it’s time to think of bricks!

What does Open House on October 15 and 16 have to do with bricks?  That’s the weekend when thousands of visitors will see the inscribed bricks installed in our beautiful newly remodeled amphitheater. 

We will soon be ordering the next group of inscribed bricks to be installed on our stairs by Open House weekend.  So if you would like to see your brick when you visit us for Open House be sure to place your order no later than 9/19.

To order your brick go to our official website, click on Support WBS, and then click on Buy A Brick in the dropdown menu.  You may also order a brick by calling us at 636-225-4390, Ext. 0 and telling us that you want to buy a brick.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Little Litter Lives a Long Time

Have you ever wondered how a gum wrapper dropped on a street in Fenton, Missouri, ends up in the ocean?

In the town of Fenton, right here in Missouri, there is a creek called Saline Creek that catches the storm water from many of the creeks in town.  It runs through many back yards and right behind some commercial buildings and even a school.  I used to walk through the creek all the time for fun when I was a little boy. 
There goes our gum wrapper--beginning it's trip to the ocean in a drainage ditch that empties into our creek
Amidst all of the rocks and pools of water were countless pieces of trash, among them our innocuous little gum wrapper.  Other larger items would include anything from plastic bottles to old mattresses to old exercise machines to lawn mowers and even cars.  Yeah, there were lots of cars.    Saline Creek empties out into the Meramec River, which is another place one can find a multitude of old tires and pieces of garbage, plus our little gum wrapper.  The Meramec drains into the Mississippi.  The Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.  Well, you get the picture--in the end, most items in Saline Creek will eventually find their way into the ocean.

Saline Creek isn’t the only creek that has waters destined for the great big blue.  Most, if not all, creeks do, and many creeks are full of trash.
 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
In the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco, California, is a multi million ton swirling, floating pile of trash--mostly plastic—better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  You can read all about it at, or if you like mockumentaries you can be entertained and learn about it if you Youtube “the majestic plastic bag.”  Reading and seeing these things would be a great follow-up to this blog.

So why am I rambling on about the flow of trash through our waterways?  Because, as we speak, wildlife and nature all around us is being choked and poisoned by our mess.

Plastic is a HUGE problem since it never biodegrades.  In the oceans it continually breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and is eaten by fish, birds, mammals and all other types of animals.  Fish can detoxify it in their bodies but everyone else is out of luck.  Animals have starved because they eat pieces of plastic, thinking it’s food, and then they get nothing out of it.  They can’t digest it so it just stays in their bodies.  Of course this doesn’t only happen with plastics.  At the Grand Canyon National Park people have been dropping (or throwing) quarters onto the rocks by the viewing areas and birds like the California Condors have been eating them.  In no way can these quarters be helpful to the condors.
These may seem to be extreme examples, but they are also pretty common occurrences.  I hope that by now the point has gotten across that our stray trash is a major problem for nature.  So… what are we going to do about it?
We can start by making sure we throw our trash in the trashcans and our recycling gets into the recycling bins.  Even more importantly, we can minimize the amount of waste we use.  Use re-useable water bottles and dishes.  Cut out those paper plates that are so popular.  Use small sheets of paper for small memos.  Minimizing waste is effective for a lot of reasons—even when we use those trashcans.  Often times even when we throw our trash in a trashcan it will fall out somehow, even if it’s already on its way to the trash dump.

Some more pro-active and direct ways of maintaining a clean environment are by physically cleaning up litter-infested areas.  There are some great organizations here in Missouri that put together big events dedicated to the clean-up of rivers and parks.  Missouri Stream Team is the basis of most of those activities.  Check out this website:  There is also the Missouri “adopt-a-highway” program that you can see signs for along highways throughout Missouri.  If you live in another state do an internet search for similar organizations where you live.

Here’s the twist though.  I get the feeling that if you’re reading this blog, chances are that you already know about these things and have acted on them before.  Acting on these issues is exactly what we need, so thank you!  If you are looking into what one can do about litter, I hope you’ve taken what I have said to heart and will start to act now.

 Something you can do that’s just as important is share enthusiasm for keeping our environment clean.  Get friends involved and make it a good time together.  Encourage any youngsters you may have contact with to take care of their environment by disposing of trash in the proper receptacles.  The more people that care, the less problems we have. 

Submitted by Nathan Thoele, World Bird Sanctuary Seasonal Staff Member

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011: International Year of Forests

Activities for Kids: Getting to know a tree and making leaf-print t-shirts

A forest can be a child’s paradise.  Even for many adults a forest can be a calming escape from daily life, with its filtering light, sweet air and soaring trees.  Some are lucky enough to live in or near a forest.  For those that live in towns or cities, getting your family to a forest is a worthwhile trip.  Before you leave, pack some blindfolds for the kids.  For information on trails near St. Louis, Click Here

The World Bird Sanctuary also has several trails through our forest that are open to the public.  Once your family has reached the forest destination, it’s time to break out the blindfolds!  Spin your blindfolded kids around a few times, and then lead them each to a different tree.  Encourage them to feel the texture of the bark with their hands, to take in the earthy smell.  Have them slowly walk around the tree with outstretched arms feeling high and low for any other trees and plants growing nearby.  Encourage them to feel as high as they can on the tree to see if they can reach any of its branches.  Feel the base of it to see if any roots are showing.  Next, have them wrap their arms as far around the trunk as they can to get an idea of its size.  When they are done exploring with touch and smell, lead them away from their individual tree, remove the blindfolds and ask them to find “their” tree.  They can repeat the touching, smelling, and hugging until they find their woody friend.      

A fun way to remember your day in the forest is to make a leaf-print t-shirt.  While in the forest, collect a variety of leaves in different shapes and sizes.  Fresh green leaves work best, but be sure to not take too many from one tree.  Also needed for this project is a pre-washed dark color t-shirt.  To get started, put several layers of newspaper inside the body and sleeves of the shirt.  Lay the shirt on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles.  Arrange the leaves in a pattern on the shirt, weighing them down with small stones or coins along the edges.
 T-shirt with leaves weighed down by coins ready to be sprayed
For a non-toxic approach, mix equal parts white vinegar with lemon juice in a spray bottle.  Spray the shirt thoroughly and leave it in the sun for several hours.  For faster results, mix one part bleach with three parts water and spray the shirt carefully, dunking it in cold water right after you spray.  The result is a tie-died leaf effect!

Another method for kids who are a bit older involves fabric paint.  When you arrive home with your leaves, flatten them by placing them in between newspaper on a flat surface with books on top for about a week.  The following materials will be needed: fabric paints, pre-washed white t-shirt, paintbrushes, small craft sponges (not kitchen sponges) and paper plates (for pallets).

To get started, again put several layers of newspaper inside the body and sleeves of the shirt to keep paint from bleeding through to the back.  Lay the shirt on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles.  Use a paintbrush to paint a craft sponge with one color.  Dab (not wipe) the sponge on the veiny side of a leaf.  Then press the painted side down on the shirt and press firmly in all areas.  Advise the kids to keep their fingers paint free to avoid getting fingerprints on the shirt.  It is also recommended to make test prints on paper first.  To avoid the colors becoming muddy, be sure the kids fully rinse brushes and sponges before using a different color.  These T-shirts can be machine washed, but only after the paint has been heat set according to the directions on the fabric paint bottles.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pigeon Intern

Josh Kuszmaul is World Bird Sanctuary's first Homing Pigeon intern.
 Josh Kuszmaul, World Bird Sanctuary's first pigeon intern, holds two of his charges
Josh is from Eastern Ohio and attends Ohio State University during the college year.  His major is Animal Science with a minor in Environmental Science. 

Josh has had prior experience raising Pheasants, Turkey, Guinea Fowl and Quail, so our flock of Homing Pigeons seemed to be a natural for him.  His focus so far has been to get the young birds flying almost daily. He has separated the Loft into 3 main areas--the breeders in Coop 3, the experienced team into Coop 2 and the rookies into Coop 1.

Josh also has begun to try to improve our breeding program by pairing birds with the best flying records to improve the flock’s “Homing” genes. He has also paired up some of the vibrantly colored hens with the more colorful males.  In addition, he has really focused on trying to breed for more birds with white feathers.

Josh is quite gregarious and will often be the instigator of fun and laughter among volunteers, interns and staff.  He has also exhibited somewhat of a Tom Sawyer characteristic in that he has involved all of the other interns in catching up the birds to take out to release, medicating a pigeon which was strafed by a hawk and hand raising a baby pigeon that I have affectionately begun to call "Shortbread".

Josh told me that they had some real excitement the other day.  A squirrel crawled into the loft and was in there when he went into the coop.  It’s a toss-up as to who was more startled—the human or the squirrel.  I could attest to that by the table that was knocked over, the oyster shell spilled on the floor and the brooms and duster strewn around, with which Josh was trying to coax the squirrel out of the loft.  Josh said that at one point he thought the squirrel was going to run up his leg.

When asked what originally sparked his interest in the Homing Pigeon project, Josh said, “I think it is fascinating in the big races that the Homing Pigeons travel 500 miles & come back." 

Josh is fun to be around and I will continue to urge him to keep learning while improving our Pigeon Loft operation.  I am glad he decided to take on the Homing Pigeons as his Intern Project.

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pigeon Release at Boys Summer Camp

Recently The Spring Bluff Baptist Boys Summer Camp hired WBS to present a program for the boys at camp.

WBS intern Ashley Epperson from Marshfield, Missouri, and I brought birds of prey to their camp, to share with them some cool facts about the birds.
Naturalist Mike Zieloski tells the boys some of the fascinating statistics about Homing Pigeons
In addition to the birds they requested for the program I brought our Homing Pigeons along for an extra long exercise flight. I figured that the birds would have to fly about 40 air miles to get back to the loft at World Bird Sanctuary. I was excited to fly the pigeons this distance because prior to that the birds’ long distance record has been 35 air miles. So I wanted to break our record for distance flown back to WBS.
Some of the boys already knew about "Messenger Pigeons"
We had all the boys and adult leaders gather behind the Pigeon release baskets.  We talked with the boys about the Pigeons’ homing ability, and how the birds are in tune with the sun and the earth's electromagnetic field. The birds have extra magnetic tissue in their brains. 

Some of the boys at camp knew about the birds being used as "Messenger" Pigeons throughout history. Some of the men and some of the boys knew that during World Wars I and II the Allies and the Germans used "Messenger" Pigeons. The Allies would try to shoot down the Germans pigeons or try to capture them with the aid of a Peregrine Falcon, to intercept or interrupt the message being sent, and vice versa.  Some of the most famous Pigeons are in the Homing Pigeon Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

We told the boys that the fastest pigeons average about 45 miles per hour.
Two of the boys get set to release the pigeons
We picked a couple of young boys to flop open the Release Baskets. We decided that we would yell "Set Sail" as that was the theme for Camp this year.
So Ashley Epperson got into position with her cell phone camera and we had the boys release the birds. We all yelled, ”Set Sail!!” as the birds took off and headed for home.  The boys thought this was great fun.
Everyone yelled "Set Sail" as the birds began their journey back to the loft at WBS
After the program, Ashley and I drove back to World Bird Sanctuary--57 miles by road.   One all star bird beat us back. More birds came in throughout the afternoon. The next morning 3 more came home.

We all had a great time, exercised the birds, learned a little bit and set a new distance record for the Homing Pigeons that live and work at World Bird Sanctuary.

If you would like to have a Homing Pigeon release at your next special event you can make arrangements by calling 636-225-4390, Ext. 0

Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ballpark Flying

World Bird Sanctuary is home to numerous bald eagles.

Many of these are rehabilitation birds that were injured in the wild and deemed non-releasable.  Some of them have wing amputations, rendering them unable to fly.  You can see many of these birds on the display line at WBS, just past the hospital and down the gravel path.
 Just two of the non-releasable Bald Eagles on exhibit at WBS
However, some of our bald eagles, while still non-releasable for myriad reasons, are able to fly quite well.  Two of these eagles, Lewis and Clark, can be seen flying from Homer’s Landing out to the pitcher’s mound at Busch Stadium before certain Cardinal Baseball games.  I recently had the opportunity to go along with Roger Wallace, our lead eagle trainer, as he practiced flying the eagles at the stadium.  It was a very cool experience.
 Volunteer, Melanie Kunkel, waiting with Clark as he waits his turn in the release box
When we got to Busch Stadium, we met one of our long-time volunteers, Melanie Kunkel, who enjoys helping out with the eagle training.  She, Roger and I unloaded both birds, and a stadium employee drove up on a golf cart to help us take Lewis’s and Clark’s crates up to Homer’s Landing.

Once there, we deliberated. The birds had both flown well in the past, but we wanted to make sure that they were going to be comfortable during their flights.  Clark was a very experienced flier, but Lewis had a troubling habit of making circles around the field before he came down to land.  After a few minutes, we decided to fly Clark first.  We put his crate in a special release box that the stadium keeps for us, while Roger climbed down a ladder into the field, and began to walk toward the pitcher’s mound.

Melanie and I waited.  Since Roger was so far away, we had to rely on hand and body signals to know when to release the eagles; we never would have heard him if he had shouted.  We watched closely as Roger got closer and closer to the pitcher’s mound.  Suddenly, he turned around.  That was the signal!
Clark came bounding out of the release box
Melanie quickly opened Clark’s crate, and the big eagle bounded out and into the air.  At Roger’s whistle, Clark began his descent, and soon after, alighted upon Roger’s arm.  The whistle sounded twice, and Clark got a treat—some nice, juicy mice.  Then Roger walked back to us with the bird.  He had flown beautifully, and we were very proud of him.
Lewis flying straight and true to Roger Wallace 
 After a couple more flights, it was Lewis’s turn.  We decided to try a different approach with Lewis.  To get a straight flight, we flew him from next to the wall in the outfield--at the same elevation as the pitcher’s mound, instead of from up on Homer’s Landing.  We hoped it would negate the circling, and give him a smoother flight.  I held Lewis as Roger walked to the mound.  When he turned around, I released Lewis.  We all watched nervously as the eagle began his flight… and flew a perfectly straight line from me to Roger.  We were all very happy, and Lewis got an extra big treat.  We flew him once again from on the field, and then once from the top of the outfield wall.  Each time, Lewis flew straight and true, from my glove and then Melanie’s, over center field to the pitcher’s mound, and the snack he knew was waiting.  As Roger returned each time Lewis displayed another habit of his—he chirped, which seems to be the sound he makes when he’s happy.  By all means, he should have been.
 Lewis chirping, a sound he makes when he seems to make when he's pleased with himself
Roger took Lewis to fly at the stadium on July 4th.  Unfortunately, I had to go out of town, and was very sad I missed the opportunity to see Lewis in flight just before the game started.  Roger told us what happened later.  He said, “I told Lewis (as if he was really listening to me) he could make one circle around the field, and then he had to come to me.  So when he was released, he made three circles, just to show me who was boss, then came and landed on my glove.”

I smiled. I’d been to a game to watch the eagles fly before, so I tried to guess from a human’s perspective what Lewis had been thinking.  Maybe he was caught up in the sheer exhilaration of seeing—and being—a bald eagle in flight.

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer