Monday, May 30, 2011

2011: International Year of Forests: A Closer Look at the Forest Floor

On your next walk through a forest, look down and give a thought to the living world at your feet.
 Mosses & lichens are one of the primary plants found one the forest floor
Although little sunlight filters down to this level, a carpet of small plants covers the forest floor.  A few may be wildflowers, but most of them have no discernible flowers at all.  This is where mosses thrive, especially if the woodland is damp much of the year.  Water is essential for the reproduction of mosses and many other non-flowering plants.  The stems of mosses are sponge-like reservoirs that conserve water and promote reproduction.  Mosses are hardy plants, able to withstand drought for considerable periods of time.  When the rain comes again, mosses resume growth.
 Ferns inhabit most forest floors
Interspersed with the mosses are ferns, fungi, and lichens.  Ferns are a highly diversified group.  Some climb like vines, others grow perched on rock ledges, tree trunks and stumps.  Most ferns native to a temperate forest lose all their leaves in autumn, but some, like Christmas Ferns, keep their shiny green fronds throughout the year. Fronds are the part of a fern that most people would normally think of as leaves.  A frond consists of a central rib with multiple leaflets growing along it.  New leaves of some types of ferns are called fiddleheads and uncurl from soft, downy protective scales in the spring.
  A young fern emerging from the leaf litter
The fungal kingdom has been estimated to contain about 1.5 million species.  One major difference between fungus and plants is that fungal cell walls contain chitin whereas plant cell walls contain cellulose.

Coniferous forests have a sparse population of ground plants and shrubs because the layer of fallen needles makes the soil acidic.  The crunchy leaf litter in a deciduous forest is more hospitable to plants.  For example the oak-hickory forest that exists on the World Bird Sanctuary’s property has a thick undergrowth of plants in spring and summer.  Forest floor litter provides habitat for small animals as well, and the material may be used to construct nests.  Also, as litter decomposes nutrients are emitted into the environment.  The animals, fungus and bacteria that live in and eat plant litter are called detritivores.
 This seemingly barren leaf litter is teaming with life
A Fallen Log is Full of Life 
When a tree dies and falls, all the nutrients that were locked in the tree become available again.  Bark kept out many insect invaders, but soon it will become loosened.  Wood-boring beetles and termites will create tunnels and egg-chambers which will then allow water, bacteria, and other invertebrates to enter.  Sometimes the tunnels carved by young beetles can be seen as engravings on the surface of the wood under the bark.  The log will slowly become softened as it becomes a source of food and shelter for more and more organisms.  Snails, slugs and insect larvae eat fungi and bits of log.  Eventually cavities form and invite snakes, small mammals and small birds.  Each new set of creatures attracts a new wave of predators.  Raccoons, opossums, weasels and short-eared owls may use hollow logs for nests. 
 A fallen log may be a home and/or a free buffet to hundreds of creatures
So even though the Forest floor may at first glance seem to be nothing more than fallen leaves and detritus, remember that the litter under your feet is really teaming with life.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spring = A Fuzziness of Babies

Spring = A Fuzziness of Babies admitted to the Wildlife Hospital!

It's the time of year when hawks and owls start raising their young and we get an influx of little ones to the Kathryn G. Favre wildlife hospital.
  This young Barred Owl broke his leg when a storm broke the branch his nest was on.

They are admitted to the hospital for a variety of reasons – they have been orphaned; their nest has fallen out of the tree; they have fallen out of the nest; or a well-meaning passerby assumes that the youngster, who has jumped from the nest while learning to fly, needs help.
 There are currently 10 baby Barred Owls of varying ages being looked after by our Propagation Department.

Fortunately, there is nothing physically wrong with these birds – so they will be raised and released as soon as they are old enough.  These youngsters will be ready to embark on their journey as a wild bird of prey within the next 6-8 weeks. 
 These week-old Red-shouldered Hawks were admitted to the wildlife hospital after the tree their nest was in was blown down in a storm.

This is a rare opportunity for you to be a part of the positive journey for these babies by participating in the Return to the Wild Program.  For just $150 you can sponsor and take part in the release of one of these youngsters at your home, a nearby park, or school.  You may do it to celebrate a special event – birthday, anniversary, wedding, or graduation.  Do it as a celebration of a loved one’s life.  Do it because there is nothing like the feeling of being a hands-on contributor to the success of this species in the wild.  It costs us approximately $300 per baby to look after them and ready them for the next stage of their bright young lives.
 You can have your own hands-on Return to the Wild experience!

If you would like to participate in one of our mission-critical activities and sponsor a Return to the Wild for one of these 12 youngsters, you may purchase your release online or call 636-225-4390 ext. 102 to speak to Catherine.

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

Submited by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Staff Member

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Dime at a Time

The Raptor Project encourages you to do away with plastic and paper grocery bags and get your re-usable shopping bag at Whole Foods Town & Country on Saturday!

Stop in at Whole Foods Market Town & Country on Saturday between noon and 3pm for a Raptor Project concert – watch them as they perform songs from their two children's music CD's Save the Future and All Along the Watershed.
Raptor Project members Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffmann perform a song from one of their CD's
If you are one of the first 50 audience members you will get a free re-usable shopping bag!

Then take your shopping bag inside and help World Bird Sanctuary when you bag up your groceries . . . here's how:

World Bird Sanctuary is the beneficiary of Whole Foods Market Town & Country's One Dime at a Time program for April, May and June 2011.  This means that every time you shop at Whole Foods Market Town & Country, and take in  your own shopping bag, you will be offered a 10¢ refund.  You can then choose to have this refund donated to World Bird Sanctuary.  It's a win-win!  The environment wins – no non-biodegradable plastic finding its way into our waterways; and World Bird Sanctuary wins – your donated refunds will help us continue the important work in our wildlife hospital and endangered species breeding center.
  Murdock, the Military Macaw, encourages you to "go green" by shopping with a reusable bag
We'll even get you started!  When you shop at Whole Foods Market Town and Country between 12pm and 3pm on the following dates, you will get a free re-usable shopping bag from Whole Foods Market and World Bird Sanctuary (offer limited to first 50 visitors to the World Bird Sanctuary table per day).

Saturday May 28th             12pm – 3pm
Saturday June 18th            12pm – 3pm
We wish to express our thanks to Whole Foods Market for supporting World Bird Sanctuary through their One Dime at a Time program, and through their ongoing efforts to encourage us all to shop in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Helping Baby Birds

It's Spring!  This time of year we receive many calls regarding young birds that have fallen from the nest. 

Some are in genuine need of our help, like the baby green herons whose nest was destroyed when a tree was felled and parents failed to find the makeshift nest. 
 Baby Green Herons
Others are baby birds that you may think need help, but don't always need our well-meaning 'help' – like this baby Barred Owl that was admitted.  It was a fledgling and was spending time on the ground learning how to fly, while his parents still cared for him.  Instead he had to learn to fly in our rehab flight cage.
  Baby Barred Owl
Follow the guidelines below to determine whether or not a young bird needs your help:

If you find a baby bird that has feathers, it's eyes are open, and it is able to move away from you:
·      The best thing to do is leave it alone!  The parents will find it and continue to take care of it wherever it is.  Sometimes baby birds do not leave the nest knowing how to fly very well.  They initially flutter out of the nest, and start clinging to branches or brush.  They stay close to the ground for about 1-2 weeks, and start flying with short hops from branch to branch.  The hops gradually get longer, until the bird eventually flies.

If the bird is in immediate danger of being attacked by a cat or dog:
·      When possible, remove the cat or dog from the area until the bird is able to fly (1-2 weeks).
·      Put the bird in a nearby bush, shrub or tree limb, out of harm's way.  Most birds have a poor sense of smell, and the parents will not abandon a baby bird touched by humans.
·      Don't stay in the immediate vicinity of the bird – the parents are probably watching and will not approach if you stay around.

If you find a baby bird with little or no feathers and you know where the nest is:
·      Return the bird to its nest, of course keeping your safety in mind!

If the nest is destroyed, cannot be found, or cannot be reached:
·      You can make one using a small basket or margarine container.  Punch holes in the bottom of the container and line it with dry material from the old nest or dry grass or leaves.  Do not use materials that are not already brown and dried as it may grow mold if it gets wet, or retain moisture and chill the babies. 
·       Secure the 'nest' with duct tape in a branch fork near the old nest, but make sure the ‘nest’ is taped in a way that the bird(s) cannot become caught in the tape.  The parents will find it.  Check out our blog about a makeshift basketball net nest for a family of Cooper's Hawks last year.

If you are certain the bird is an orphan:
·      When you are certain the parents have been killed, prepare to transport the bird to a rehabilitation facility.  Carefully place the baby bird in a small open container lined with paper towels, and place both in a cardboard box
·      Do not attempt to feed or water an orphaned bird.  A bird's diet is very particular and they have a feeding schedule that must be followed.
Baby Great Horned Owl  
If you are tempted to keep the baby bird:
·      DON'T.  Migratory birds, including songbirds, are protected under federal law.  Possession of a bird, its nest, or eggs without a permit is illegal.

Which rehab facility?
The World Bird Sanctuary Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital admits 300-400 birds per year.  We are unable to do pick-ups or rescues due to staffing issues.  We are open to accept birds from 8am to 5pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.  We accept all birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, falcons etc.) as well as herons, pelicans and swans.  We do not accept songbirds.

If you find a songbird – Cardinal, Bluebird, Bluejay etc. – you can call Wild Bird Rehab at 314-426-6400.

As always, if you are in any doubt and need further guidance, please call our wildlife hospital at 636-861-1392 for more information or advice.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager for World Bird Sanctuary

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tales From the Nest – Part 4 – 4/9-4/13

 4/9 & 10
Due to other commitments I was unable to visit the nest over the weekend.  I can’t wait to see how much these rapidly growing chicks have changed in this short space of time.

We had severe thunderstorms and rain most of the night with winds gusting to 37 mph, and I am worried that the bad weather may have damaged the nest.  Even though it is still raining I can’t contain myself any longer. The suspense is killing me.  I arrive at the nest and see no activity.  Are they still in there, and if so are they OK?  I settle back and wait for what seems an eternity (in actuality—probably only 10-15 minutes). 
 One very wet baby owl 

Finally I see one small and very drenched head pop up over the edge of the nest. They survived the thunderstorm!  I take a couple of quick shots of our rather comical looking baby—all the while trying to protect my camera gear from the rain.  My fears allayed, I head for my nice dry home, thankful that I am not an owl today sitting in the rain in an open top nest.

Today I arrive at the nest to find Mom and only one baby visible.  Even though I sit and watch for over an hour I see no other activity.  Is the other baby OK?  Did it succumb to yesterday’s storm?
 Mamma and one baby
Our homeowner has graciously offered to let me look for owl pellets in his yard if I am so inclined.  I’ve combed the area under the tree, but found only one pellet.  Unfortunately for me the yard has been raked to clean up Sweetgum balls and I believe any pellets were picked up along with the offending Sweetgum balls.
 The only pellet I found - note the bones sticking out of it
I will return again tomorrow to see if there is still a second baby in the nest.

On arriving at the nest today I am thankful to find both babies visible and very active.

Today the younger chick is exhibiting more curiosity and becoming bolder about peering over the edge of the nest.

The feather tufts are becoming more prominent on the older chick. Many people think these tufts are ears, but in fact they are simply tufts of feathers, which can indicate the bird’s “mood”.  When the bird is relaxed they may lay down flat against it’s head and be almost invisible.  However, if the bird is curious, feels threatened, or is simply on alert due to something strange in it’s environment, these tufts of feather may stand straight up. 

I watch these youngsters play for a while until they settle down into the nest—probably for a nap after all their strenuous activity.

Check back again for more Tales From The Nest.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Friday, May 20, 2011

National Trails Day

Get outside!

Join us as we celebrate National Trails Day at World Bird Sanctuary!
One of the trails through the World Bird Sanctuarys' Oak/Hickory forest
Enjoy the outdoors at this family-friendly event, with three different length trails to suit your pace!  Naturalists with live animals will be at interpretation stations along the trails.  There will be free children’s activities with prizes and snack foods will be on sale!
Naturalist Sara Oliver and Volunteer Jennifer Jones talk to guests about the reptiles that inhabit our Missouri forests 
Take this opportunity to explore the outdoors in a setting that is close-by, with interesting stops along the way.

Date: Saturday, June 4th
Time: 9am – 1pm. 
Admission: Admission and parking is free.  No reservations required.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mission Critical – Breeding & Releasing threatened bird species

Over the last 30 years World Bird Sanctuary has released over 800 captive-bred Barn Owls into the wild.  The Barn Owl is the most endangered owl in the mid-West.  While the species is no longer endangered, the wild population is still considered threatened, so we continue our work to breed barn owls and release them into the wild.

With the generous donation of a local family foundation, we plan to release 12-16 captive-bred Barn Owls this year.  The first three were placed in their ‘hack Barn’ on Monday, May 9, and were released to the wild on 16 May.
Banding a young Barn Owl.

Once the birds are old enough to fly and support themselves (approximately 60-80 days) they are banded with a leg band issued by the United States Geological Survey.  This band will serve as a unique identifier should the bird ever be captured during a study, admitted to a wildlife hospital, or if its body or skeleton should be found.  This data will enable researchers to determine how long these owls live, how they move, and where they live.
The Barn Owls safely released into the hack barn, where they will stay for one week.
Once the birds are banded they are released into a 'hack barn.'  This is a safe, enclosed barn where the owls will live for a week.  They will continue to be fed while they are in the barn.  After a week of acclimatization, the barn is opened and the owls are free to come and go as they please.  Food will be left out for the birds for approximately a week after their full release.  More often than not, they leave the first night to embark on their new lives as wild owls.

At World Bird Sanctuary we are proud of our propagation program, which was instrumental in getting the Barn Owl removed from the Missouri state endangered species list.

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Development

Monday, May 16, 2011


On May 6, 2011 our staff sadly said good-by to one of our most beloved veteran performers, Rifle the Harris’ Hawk, who succumbed to old age after a long and eventful career.

Rifle was hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary in the spring of 1987, and was raised by our staff to help educate the public about the many problems faced by wildlife in the modern world.  She quickly learned to fly from one trainer to another and soon became a featured performer.  Rifle spent the summers of 1988-1990 at WBS’s Louisville Zoo Bird of Prey show. 

Since that time she has thrilled thousands of audiences far and wide with her low swooping performances.  Every fall she was a featured performer at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs, Kansas.  She even took part in a wedding, acting as the ring-bearer by flying the rings into the wedding ceremony of one of our staff members.

Many people had a tendency to refer to Rifle as “he”, probably because of the masculine sounding name.  However, there was no doubt among our staff that Rifle was a female, since she was one of the largest Harris’ Hawks we have ever had.  With most birds of prey there are very few, if any, outward differences between the sexes.  Short of doing a surgical procedure, the only guideline to determining sex is based on differences in weight and size.

Recently we noticed that during performances and training sessions Rifle seemed to be having trouble landing on the trainer’s glove.  We discovered that she had arthritis of the wings and that flying was becoming increasingly painful.  WBS staff respectively decided this veteran performer had earned the right to a comfortable retirement.

Rifle spent her last days on the display line just beyond the hospital, where she could be seen basking in the sun, enjoying a refreshing bath, or just people-watching. 

Rifle will be sorely missed by one and all.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


On Tuesday, May 3, the World Bird Sanctuary sadly lost one of its long-time ambassadors, Luna the Barn Owl.

Luna was hatched January 30, 1995 to parents who lived here at the World Bird Sanctuary. From the beginning this bird, which we think was a male, was easy-going and very adaptable.  And when you scan a list of all the programs he was involved in and the places he went, being adaptable was a big asset!

Known for his ability to remain calm, and fly, in almost any situation Luna began his first season of flying at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.  Here are some others;
1996 North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, North Carolina & Milwaukee County  Zoo, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1997 Milwaukee County Zoo, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1998 North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, North Carolina & Cleveland Metroparks  Zoo, Cleveland, Ohio
1999 Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne, Indiana
2000 Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia
2001 Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia
2002 Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, Branson, Missouri
2003 Milwaukee County Zoo, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2004 Milwaukee County Zoo, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

During the last several years Luna was an important part of the education programs presented by our Office of Wildlife Learning (O.W.L.), and helped educate thousands of youngsters and other audience members about the reasons for the decline of Barn Owl populations in the U.S., and Missouri in particular.  He also helped raise awareness of the importance of the Barn Owl in controlling rodent populations. 

Jeff Meshach, Assistant Director of WBS, had some final words on Luna.  “He was one of the most consistent flyers ever in the zoo show department.  This is really saying something, since this department has flown literally hundreds of different birds in over 80,000 shows since 1985.  When Luna was taking his winter break from flying in zoo shows, you could enter his mew, he would let a trainer place jesses on him, and then he would step to the glove and go wherever you needed him.  He was a true pleasure to work with, and he will be sorely missed.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

1904 World's Fair A Success

The 1904 World's Fair was a huge success!  ...yes, that's right--The 1904 World's Fair

Of course, we're talking about the World Bird Sanctuary's Fete du Feather version of the Fair.

Saturday, May 7, 2011, was our re-creation of the World's Fair that put St. Louis on the map in 1904.  
Many of our guests joined in by wearing period costumes and posing in our photo booth
We had our own version of The Pike, served foods made popular during the original 1904 Fair, played games based on popular games of that era, held critter races commemorating living conditions prevalent at that time in history, had a photo booth offering sepia photos for fairgoers, sampled food stations offering cuisines from some of the many countries represented at the Fair, and many other activities too numerous to mention
 Our "Critter Races" reflected some of the living conditions encountered at the Fair in 1904
Our staff and volunteers were dressed in period costume, and many of our guests joined in the festivities by coming dressed in period clothing--some of them in authentic outfits dating back to 1904!
 Naturalist Sara Oliver holding Flip, an unreleasable Red Shouldered Hawk admitted through our wildlife hospital
Guests browsed the merchandise offered in our silent auction--some of them bidding fiercely to win the item of their choice.  As our auctioneer said "...friendships are put on hold at an auction!"
 The bidding was hot and heavy for many of our live auction items
In addition to the competition normally expected at a live auction, ours was enlivened by our Assistant Director, Jeff Meshach's, demonstration of how to use the treadmill that was one of the premier items up for auction.  We believe there were many bids offered just to see how long they could keep him running!
 Assistant Director, Jeff Meshach, ran the treadmill as long as people kept bidding
Our thanks to all the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make this bi-annual event a great success. 
 Our hardworking staff and volunteers who helped make this evening possible
Above all--our heartfelt "thank you" to those generous individuals who donated the many items up for auction, and to those wonderful guests who joined us for the evening and bid so generously on the items offered.

Mark your calendars for the second Saturday in May 2013 when we do it all over again with a new theme.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boston We're Here!

So long to the cast and crew of the Masters of flight; birds of prey show.

They shoved off from WBS the last week of March in search of greener pastures at the Stone Zoo in the Boston area. 

The previous several weeks had involved not only packing up personal belongings, but also preparing the birds for their long trip. 
 We're on the road again! 
The stars of the show (the birds) and their supporting cast (the staff) have started their show season a little early this year--the first weekend of May.  Usually our shows run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but this year we will have an extended season.

Unless you plan to visit the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA (right outside Boston) this summer, this is the last time you will see many of these birds until fall.  So, meet the cast.

Greeting you, and handing you a program, will be one of our official "Greeters": 

Gomer, a Military Macaw
McCoy, a Green Winged Macaw, or

Waylon, a Blue and Gold Macaw.

Stars and Cast members will include:

Marz- a Red- tailed Hawk, 

Sam- an Auger Buzzard

Jack- a young Harris Hawk 

Osiris- an Egyptian Vulture and one of our veteran performers

Baton Rouge- King Vulture 

Otis- Abdim Stork 

Buddy- Double Yellow Headed Amazon Parrot 

Rio- Green Wing Macaw

Riley- Barn Owl 
Detour- American Kestrel 

Cherry, the Pied Crow

McGwire- the Bald Eagle 

and finally, Hugnin- White-Naped Raven 

And of course, a generous thank you to our comedy relief cast who make appearances throughout the show, Black, Brown, Yellow (Cochin chickens), as well as Moose and Squirrel (‘Fancy’ Rats.)

So if you live in, or are planning to visit, the Boston area this summer, be sure to catch our cast of characters as they entertain the crowds at Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts (just north of Boston).  Performances are at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm every day.  We promise to keep you entertained (and you may even pick up a few nuggets of knowledge in the process).