Friday, June 29, 2012

From Intern to Staff Member

My name is Whitney Cowan and I wanted to tell our readers about the great experience I’ve had working with the birds and people at the World Bird Sanctuary.

Before coming to the sanctuary, I had absolutely no prior experience involving birds of prey, but of course I realized that an internship at the World Bird Sanctuary would be an awesome experience. 
 I never dreamed that an internship would evolve into a full-time job
I was born in Phoenix and we moved to Missouri when I was about 5 years old and have lived outside the town of Bland (it is a real townJ) ever since. Ever since I was young, I’ve had a deep love and respect for all animals.   As a child growing up in the woods I was fortunate that I could spend most of my free time with such animals as horses, cats, dogs, chickens, emus and others.

As a great many youngsters do, I wanted to be a veterinarian because I wanted to have a career caring for animals.  However, after attending college and getting a degree in Biological Science, I decided I wanted to have a more hands-on day-to-day experience working with animals. Most vets only see their patients for a short visit and then the animals go home.  I wanted to be part of their lives on a daily basis.  I never imagined I would be able to work so closely with the birds of prey at the World Bird Sanctuary.

Initially I was introduced to the Sanctuary by my brother Neal, He works in the Education Department at the World Bird Sanctuary’s Nature Center and he suggested that I should apply for an internship. After touring the facilities and seeing the birds kept there, I definitely knew this was what I wanted.

When I started my internship I was introduced to a variety of birds of prey.  The best part was being able to carry them on the glove! I learned a lot about the care of these birds, including prepping their food and flying them for exercise. Working at the rehabilitation hospital, in the Nature Center, and at the Training facilities was an eye-opening experience that taught me about how the World Bird Sanctuary is educating the public and helping to protect biodiversity.

My internship evolved into a full time job, and I am now responsible for several birds of prey that WBS keeps at Grant’s Farm for the Animal Encounter shows. I couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity to introduce these birds to the public and show them the majesty of the Bald Eagle and the entrancing beauty of the Barn Owl!
 Stetson, the Harris' Hawk 
One of the most exciting experiences I’ve had because of my Grant’s Farm job has been training a Harris’ Hawk named Stetson. He has a set pattern of flights that involves flying to perches above the audience, then flying back to perches on the stage. We have certainly been through a lot of “practice” flights before he got the routine down and nothing is quite as exciting as when he flies a perfect pattern!

Submitted by Whitney Cowan – Grant’s Farm Supervisor

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Unique Location for an Eagle Scout Ceremony

World Bird Sanctuary was honored to attend the Eagle Scout Ceremony of Eric Polashek on Saturday May 26, 2012 at Klondike Park in Augusta, Missouri.
Eric, his family, myself and Myakka, the Bald Eagle...note the unique background
This Eagle Scout Ceremony took place in a very unique location—cliffside at Klondike Park.   Eric was honored, with his back to the cliff face, in the outdoor ceremony at the amphitheater behind Shelter #3.  Klondike Park is beautiful and unusual as it had a previous life as a quarry, very close to the Missouri River.

Myakka our majestic adult male Bald Eagle and I waited in the shade of a sycamore tree for our part in the ceremony.   Our part of the ceremony was to thank Eric and his family and fellow scouts for their project to assist the World Bird Sanctuary in our mission.  Eric's project was the construction of a 50-foot wraparound bench for the outdoor classroom center, located near our library and very close to the eagles that are on our display line. The bench is a beautiful piece of outdoor furniture, very comfortable and functional, and will certainly enhance our outdoor classroom.
Some of the badges and awards Eric earned on his way to the Eagle Scout award
During the ceremony I could not help but listen and see wild birds going about their lives in this beautiful park setting.  I heard or saw 14 species of birds during the ceremony.  What a beautiful setting to enjoy an Eagle Scout Court of Honor!

Eric, and Troop 984 have an interesting history connecting them to the Bald Eagle.    Eric’s father, Frank Polashek, as well as his uncle and a number of other relatives, have all achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.  Eric completed his Eagle project at the young age of 14.  Plus—Eric is the 22nd Eagle Scout from Troop 984 to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.  Troop 984 is based in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. 

While helping me carry Myaka’s crate, Eric's uncle Dan Martinek, told me that he is from Decorah, Iowa.  You avid Eagle Watchers may know that Decorah, Iowa, is the home of the Eagle nest and Eagle nest Cam that has had over 1 million views to its webcast.  Dan Martinek told me that the Decorah, Iowa, Eagle Web cam is the most visited website ever on the internet. Dan grew up near the Fish Hatchery in Decorah, Iowa, where the Bald Eagles have nested for the past 2 years.   Each year this pair of Eagles has raised 3 Eaglets.

Our thanks also to Home Depot for donating the materials for Eric’s project, and
a big thank you to Eric and his family for a very useful Eagle scout project and a most interesting day for me!

Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/EEC Manager

Monday, June 25, 2012

May - 365 Photo Project

May was a good month for photos for me, and this month it is very difficult to pick my favorites.
 Acorn--seems to been enjoying the Kestrel/Screech Owl Nestbox
Let’s start with a photo of Acorn, the Eastern Screech Owl, at World Bird Sanctuary’s Camera Day.  Joe Hoffmann set up our displays for Camera Day and guests had a great day photographing Acorn sitting in a Kestrel/Screech Owl box.  Acorn did a great job and seemed to enjoy sitting in the box.  She was a big hit with her head sticking out of the hole.
 Baby Tawny Owl taken with a Nikon P510 on Camera Day
My second favorite photo was taken at the same event.  Schiller’s Camera store, Nikon and Cannon were present at the event to allow visitors to try out the different camera models.  I tried the Nikon P510 and fell in love with this camera.  This photo of a young Tawny Owl was taken with the P510 and I just love the photo.  If you look closely you can see reflections in the bird’s eyes.
 Need I say more?
The last photo I would like to include is the self portrait I took while at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  This photo is titled “Stop and Smell the Roses.”  I do not think there is anything else to say about the photo.

I truly have enjoyed this project and have learned a lot.  One of the things I enjoy the most about this project is that I can see others’ photos and receive comments from other like-minded individuals.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Goodbye, A Special Turkey Named Fred

Fred the Turkey began his life at WBS as an egg.  Before he had even hatched he was under the watchful and tender care of his keeper, Joe Hoffmann.  Once hatched, Joe and his family raised Fred in their own home as a member of the family.  When Fred was old enough he came to live at World Bird Sanctuary, and was immortalized in the song that Joe wrote for him, "Turkey Named Fred."

Fred, the Turkey, displaying his fine feathers.

Fred had developed a loyal following, with many of his supporters coming to WBS just to visit him.

Sadly, last week Fred passed away peacefully from old age.  He was almost 7 years old. 

Please join us in remembering Fred, and the joy he brought to all of us, with his own special animated music video!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Return to the Wild "Blowout Sale"

Spring has been a busy season for World Bird Sanctuary's wildlife hospital.  We currently have 8 American Kestrels and 3 Cooper's Hawks that will be ready for release in the next 2-4 weeks.

World Bird Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann, with baby
hawks admitted to the Wildlife Hospital

This is the perfect opportunity to help wildlife - sponsor the release of an American Kestrel or Cooper's Hawk for the low, low price of just $150!

For this low price, you get all this:
  • Help sponsor the care and feeding of the bird that you will release back to the wild!
  • Help our wildlife hospital continue to do their important wildlife rehabilitation work.  Our wildlife hospital survives on the donations from members of the public, like you!
  • A warm fuzzy feeling, knowing you'll help future wildlife hospital patients survive!
But that's not all!  With each Return to the Wild Release booked before July 15th, we'll include a Kestrel Nest Box or Wren Nest Box FREE!

Order now by calling 636-225-4390 ext. 102 or emailing while stocks last!

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, Naturalist/Fundraiser

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Helping Baby Birds

Recently I received an SOS call from a Florida relative.  She and her husband (our nephew) were at her parents’ house in Tennessee helping them with some home repairs and cleanup.  When they took down a birdhouse that was falling apart, they found a nest of baby birds inside (still without feathers).
 At this stage the only help for these babies is to put them where the parents can find them
My niece wanted to know what they could do to save the babies.  Since the birdhouse was all but disintegrated there was no way they could put them back in the nest, nor could they put the nest into the new birdhouse, since it did not have a removable bottom or wall.  I advised them to try suspending a box or container below the birdhouse, placing the nest in the suspended container (see solution #4 below).  Time will tell if this solution will work and the parents find the nest. 

Following are some tips from Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffman for what to do if you find yourself confronted with the dilemma of how to help a baby bird seemingly in need of assistance:

Every spring 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.
 The baby Green Herons were in need of help when the parents couldn't find them
Others are baby birds that you may think need help, but don't always need our well meaning 'help' – like the 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 in our rehab flight cage.
 Baby Barred Owls learning to fly in our rehab flight cage
If you find a baby bird that you think needs your assistance, first follow the guidelines below to determine whether or not the young bird truly needs your help. 

If you find a baby bird that has feathers, its 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.  Most 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 on a 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 without putting yourself in harm’s way.

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 and line the container with paper towel (not with grass, as moisture in the grass can cause birds to become too cold).  Secure the 'nest' with duct tape in a branch fork near the old nest.  The parents will find it.  Check out our blog about a makeshift basketball net nest for a family of Cooper's Hawks last year: (link:

If you are certain the bird is an orphan:
·      When you are certain the parents have been killed or there’s no way a makeshift nest can be made, prepare to transport the bird to a rehabilitation facility.  Carefully place the baby bird in a small open container lined with paper towel, 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.
  Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann, with baby Red-shouldered Hawks
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’s Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital admits 300-400 birds of prey per year.  We are unable to do pick-ups or rescues do 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 Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer
Article excerpted from Joe Hoffmann, WBS Sanctuary Manager’s 2009 article

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ameren/WBS Nest Box Study – May Counts

May was a very busy month for the Ameren/WBS nest box study.  This month I had two new species nesting in the boxes being monitored for the study!

Many birds have started laying eggs for a second time this season, and some latecomers have shown up.  I have been busy with figuring the numbers, but I also have the latest numbers for the 2012 study.

As mentioned earlier, there are some new birds that have been found in the past month.  House wrens have moved in and are producing a good number of babies.  I have found 14 nests in the last five weeks, and they produced 51 eggs.  Of those, 24 hatched in the last three weeks, but only 6 have been banded because many will not be old enough to band until early June.

The other species that was found was the Tufted Titmouse.  Only one nest was found in the study thus far.  This nest produced 6 eggs and three lived to be banded and fledge.

For many birds, this month was the start of their second clutch.  The second clutch refers to birds returning to the same nest box where they already laid one clutch of eggs and had babies.  In the study so far only Eastern Blue Birds have returned to lay a second clutch.  It is hard to give an exact number of birds returning to lay a second clutch because the adults are not positively identified individually, but I think there are at least 15 nests that have second clutches.

So--down to the numbers for May and for the study thus far.  In the month of May I banded 126 babies.  So far, 96 have left the nest and hopefully the rest will have left before the next time I visit the boxes!

The real numbers that count are the overall numbers for the study up to May 31st.  Over all the study has produced 92 nests out of a possible 240 nest boxes.  These 92 nests produced 552 eggs  and 305 have hatched.  Two hundred seventy-four babies have been banded and 233 of the babies have fledged.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog and have a good one!

Adam Triska. World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Creative Contest Winner

World Bird Sanctuary recently held a Creative Contest, where we asked entrants to submit their appreciation of birds in any medium of their choice.

This poem, the winner in its age category, was submitted by Melissa Anderson.  It brought tears to the eyes of every single one of us who work or volunteer in the wildlife hospital, and I wanted to share it with you.

"Stuffed in to a cage, bars surround me..."

I sit on a tree, sun shining on me, my chicks squawk, chirp, cheep, for some food from me.  I swoop down, wind in my wings, I feel free, lucky, alive…..Bang!  My wing, my insides, they’re broken, I cannot fly.  My babies-oh my, my babies, they need me, I must try.  My body is in control, I tuck and roll, to the ground I fall, this-this is not good at all.  The earth rough, the mountain steep, I grow weak, I let out one final call, letting them know I have fall-en; I won’t be home for dinner.  Be strong, be brave, trust the sky, I will not die.  Dusk falls, from the brush I hear a rustle, oh dear.  What now? What could it be? Have they finally come for me?  Orange vests, sunlight in their hands, a person shouts, bends down.   I make a struggled sound, they pick me up, put me to sleep.  In the morning-give me something to eat, I search, I cry, I bite, I just want to fly.  They poke me, they study, they seem to care, yet I long for fresh air.  One day they come, eager, excited, I turn my head, from my make shift bed, I see kill for me.  A rope around my feet, a glove on her hand.  Am I going to see real land? Stuffed in to a cage, bars surround me, I will fight, I promised, for my babies-I will! I’m taken out, held in hands, they surround me, watching, observant, they lift me high, watch me fly.  I blow kisses goodbye, thank you strangers!   Babies I’m home! “Mama, Mama? They call, not confused at all.” You’re well!” “Yes aren’t things swelling?”
A squawk in the distance calls my attention, my mate, he brings me food.   Thank you dear strangers, World Bird Sanctuary, for a while I was very wary, but you made me well, you made me strong.  Its making my heart swell, to just think you did this for me, I’m home, with my chicks, hunting, flying, soaring high.  Just watch me fly!"
 "....they lift me high, watch me fly."

Thank you, Melissa, for such a beautiful poem – which serves as an inspiration to us every day.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It is with a sad heart that we tell our readers that Gumbo, the Brown Pelican, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week.

There was no indication at feeding time that morning of any problem, but a few hours later he was observed acting strangely by one of our volunteers,,who immediately alerted a staff member.  By the time the staff member reached Gumbo’s enclosure he had expired.

Gumbo’s actual age was unknown.  He came to World Bird Sanctuary during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010.  He was originally treated for a left wing injury at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida in December of 2008.  Gumbo was not releasable, and so was kept on permanent exhibit with fellow Brown Pelican, Cocoa--an exhibit that was the perfect size for two permanently captive Brown Pelicans

The experienced wildlife rehabilitators at Suncoast knew that Gumbo’s and Cocoa’s enclosure could house up to 40 injured oiled seabirds on a short-term basis, if needed.  The large number of birds admitted to Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary during the 2010 oil spill stretched their capacity to the llimit.  Suncoast asked World Bird Sanctuary to provide a home to Gumbo and Cocoa so that their enclosure could be used for the short-term housing of the many injured seabirds admitted to Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary during and after the oil spill.

Gumbo will be missed, as he and his companion Cocoa were a welcome addition to our display line—allowing visitors to see the differences between the Brown Pelican and their neighbors on the display line, the American White Pelican.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, June 11, 2012

Coopers' Hawk Journal

Pulling weeds is never a pleasant chore—even when you love to garden.

However, this Spring I had some entertainment that went along with my weed pulling.  Following is a short journal describing the show.
The female gave a few short "Kek's" (apparently this species' "come hither" call)
Saturday 3/24 -    Today as I was working in my yard, I saw a Cooper’s Hawk sitting in the pin oak tree in our yard.  At first I thought it was a small red-tail hawk, but on closer inspection knew that it couldn’t be.  Every so often this bird would give out a short sharp “Kek” call.  After several “Keks” I heard an answering “Kek, kek, kek,” call and saw another hawk sitting in the Burr Oak about 30 feet from the first bird.  There was no doubt about the second bird—it was definitely a Cooper’s Hawk.  Then it dawned on me—this was a pair!  I’d been seeing two hawks soaring in tandem over the neighborhood for most of the winter.  This must be them.

                                As I watched, the smaller bird (the male) took off over our rooftop.  The larger bird, the female, remained for a while, then she took off in the same direction toward the front of the house. 

                                I returned to my yard work and a short time later rounded the front of the house to discover both birds on the lowest limb of the pin oak in the front yard.  She was eating a morsel that the male had brought her.  As I watched he mated with her. 

Sunday 3/25 -    The hawks are still hanging around.  I haven’t spotted any nesting activity yet, nor have I been able to find what looks like a nest large enough for these birds.  There is one nest perched precariously halfway out on an overhanging limb in our next door neighbor’s yard, but I can’t believe they would be using this one. 
The male would answer the female with a longer call
Monday 3/26 -    The hawks are still here, and today I spotted what looked like breeding activity in the neighbor’s tree.  Again, the larger bird (the female) called with a few short “Kek” calls whereupon the male answered with his longer call and shortly thereafter mated with her.  Apparently, the female initiates the breeding by issuing her invitation.  Soon after they mated I saw one of them soar between our houses with its talons full of nesting materials—away from the nest mentioned earlier.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t determine its destination.  There is a wealth of large trees in our neighborhood and it could be any one of them.

                                This afternoon I saw one of the hawks fly from the neighbor’s backyard tree carrying a stick.  It flew into the tree in our neighbor’s front yard where I spotted a now substantial nest in a large crook of the tree.  I think we’ve found their nest!

Tuesday 3/27 -    Early this morning we spotted one of the birds in the neighbor’s backyard tree.  It’s early and she’s just a silhouette, but clearly she’s dining on something.  As we watched, the male landed in the same tree, plucked a few sticks from it and then made a beeline for the front yard nest.  Soon he returned with a gift for his bride and then promptly mated with her again.  It appears that the backyard tree is their favored perch from which to hunt, breed and guard the nest.   I saw him mate with her three more times today.

Wed 3/28    I watched them mate several times today.  As evening approached both birds settled onto the branch near the “practice nest,” where they’ve mated several times.  My husband and I thought they might be going to roost there tonight, but just before dark they flew off.

Thu 3/29 -    I’ve only seen them flying into a tree several yards away today—but then I wasn’t out in the yard much

Fri 3/30 -    One of the birds spent quite some time on the branch near the “practice nest” today.  It eventually took off and flew into our pine tree.  This “practice nest” is within sight of the nest that we think they’re going to use in the crotch of the pin oak tree in our neighbor’s front yard.  Never did see the other bird—so possibly she may be in the nest.
We believe this is the male who is now bringing food to his mate on the nest
We’ve had a very early Spring this year, and unfortunately for me the leaves in the tree canopy have now become so thick that I can barely see the nest, even when standing directly under it.  I continue to see the male bird, but have not seen the female recently.  I believe she’s sitting on eggs.

Over the next few weeks I spotted the male flying back and forth toward the nest tree, so know they are still in the neighborhood.  Then, one morning I spotted three hawks in the backyard tree.  I think the young have fledged.  One of the birds was the larger female with what appeared to be a younger smaller bird in hot pursuit—obviously looking to mama for food. 

Because of the thick canopy I’ve not been able to tell if there is more than one fledgling. However, it has certainly made my weed pulling less of a chore; and certainly much more entertaining since I could watch the Cooper's Hawks and their antics.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mesquite...Not Just Another Barbeque Sauce

Today I want to introduce you to a truly amazing bird!  His name is Mesquite and he is a Harris’ Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus).  

Mesquite was hatched at a breeding facility in California in 2010, and WBS purchased him at about 8 months of age for educational purposes.  He travels around the country to help educate people about his species and how all birds are in need of our help.

Harris’ Hawks are also known as the Bay-winged Hawk because of the chestnut-colored patches on their wings.  John James Audubon discovered this species and named it after a friend, Edward Harris.  This species can be found in the southwestern areas of the United States, and through most of Mexico and South America.  In the United States they can be found in arid habitat.  They can also be found in lowland shrub and tropical deciduous forest areas.

From the tip of the tail to the tip of the beak, a Harris’ Hawk’s length is typically 18-23 inches with a 4 foot wingspan, and they weigh only two to three pounds.  Harris’ Hawks can live from 10-15 years in the wild and may range from 25-30 years in captivity.  Their diet consists of mostly mammals, but will occasionally include small birds and reptiles.  These amazing birds lay two to four eggs per clutch (a group of eggs).  Females will lay a second clutch, depending on whether their first clutch is successful or not.  These birds have been known to have chicks or eggs in a nest in every month of the year.

Harris’ Hawks are extremely intelligent.  They are social birds that not only raise young together, they also hunt together, especially when hunting large prey. They use three different methods of hunting; relay chase, surprise pounce, flush and ambush. The relay chase method occurs when the birds take turns chasing after prey so that no one bird will tire out.  The surprise pounce method suggests that multiple birds will fly at the prey at different angles to capture and kill their food.  The last tactic Harris’ Hawks use is the flush and ambush method.  One hawk will flush prey from cover, say a bush, and sometimes as many as 5 other hawks catch it.  Harris’ Hawks are the only raptor in the world that will hunt in a pack!

Through trial and error Harris’ Hawks learn which perches are the best ones to hunt from.  Harris’ Hawks have devised a very clever strategy—a behavior called stacking.  One hawk will land on a cactus, for example, and another one will fly up, ball up its feet and stand on the shoulders of that first bird.  Then a second hawk will fly up and do the same thing.  Harris’ Hawks have been observed stacked 4 high on a single perch! 

Even though they are listed as a species of “Least Concern”, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss.  Their habitat is decreasing from habitat destruction due to expanding human development.

In the summer of 2011 Mesquite worked with me at Grant’s Farm in the bird show.  He is an amazing flyer! He loves to sit up high on his jump box (an outside perch with three walls and a roof) each day.  I love his “personality,” too!  He is always on the lookout for any wild intruders and loves to bathe in the brilliant sunlight. This summer he can be seen at the Nature Center at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Be sure to look for Mesquite when you visit. 

Mesquite is available for adoption through our Adopt A Bird program. To find out more information Click Here or call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Raven: A Fable by Allison Brehmer

The Interns, Staff and Volunteers that cross the threshold of the World Bird Sanctuary on a daily basis have come in many shapes, forms and abilities.  Not the least of these abilities is talent. 

Many are talented musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, actors, photographers and poets whose talents remain hidden behind the unassuming façade of a dedicated naturalist--until a chance remark reveals that they have untapped abilities.  Such was the case with today’s blog contributor—Allison Brehmer whose “day job” is supervising the care of our “behind the scenes” animals.  When asked if she would write for our blog she came up with the following story reminiscent of an Aesop’s fable.  The Raven in the photo is our own Poe who lives in one of the Octagon enclosures on the display line.

The Raven that wanted to be Beautiful

A long time ago, in a place that has long been forgotten, there lived a Raven.

He was rather content with his life.  The chilly winds and icy touch of winter were giving way to the warmth of spring.  The Raven always loved when spring came around.  That’s when all his friends, the songbirds, would return from their winter grounds and fill the air with their love songs.  He watched everyday for them.  As soon as the sun would show its shining brilliance on the horizon, he would watch the skies for his friends.

One day, his friend, the Indigo Bunting, arrived.  The Raven, being a polite fellow, asked how he was and how was his journey.  The Bunting began to tell the Raven of all he saw and heard while he traveled.  He saw bustling towns, open fields and endless forest.  The Raven listened and wondered in awe at the travels of his small friend.  “Oh look Papa!” a little girl ran up to the tree that the Raven and Bunting were sitting in and said, “Look at that beautiful blue bird!”  “Ah yes,” the man picked up the little girl and placed her on his shoulders, “That is an Indigo Bunting.  That means that spring has truly arrived.”  “What about the bird next to it… the black one?” the little girl pointed to the Raven. “That’s just a common Raven.  A drab bird that is an ill omen,” the man snorted, “Let us be on our way.  We don’t want mother to worry.”  “Yes Papa,” the little girl continued to stare at the birds as she passed by. 

The Bunting noticed the Raven’s frown and said to his friend “Don’t listen to that man-- he doesn’t know anything.”  The Raven only nodded; his friend was only trying to comfort him, but still he thought about the man’s harsh words.  The Bunting took his leave and left the Raven to think.  He thought day and night about how he was just a drab bird and how he could be just as beautiful as his friend.

One day, while pondering in his nest, he overheard a couple of doves. “The Sun makes everything shine.”  “Oh yes” said the other.  “From the water to trees, it makes everything seem so beautiful, even the plainest of objects.” “Indeed”, said the first Dove, “the Sun has miraculous powers.”  That’s it! The Raven thought to himself,  I will go to the Sun and ask him to make me beautiful like the Bunting. 

So saying, he set off to find the Sun. He flew across many lands and over open waters.  He flew until he could fly no more. He had followed the Sun along his path, but never seemed to catch up to him.  Taking refuge in a tree, he decided to rest for a while.

It was about midday when a soft voice awoke him.  It was an old woman with grey hair that was calling to him.  She asked him to retrieve her hat that had blown up into the branch he was sitting on.  Taking it gently in his beak, he brought it down to her.  She was grateful and invited him to dinner to thank him.  He was hungry and went to her home.  She fed him all his favorite things until he could eat no more.  “I know why you fly about all day and night.  You are looking for the Sun, so you can ask him to make you beautiful.  I know this because I am the Sun’s mother and he tells me many things.  My son doesn’t like guests, but because you retrieved my hat, I’m going to hide you so you can hear what he has to say.”  The old woman turned the Raven into a mug made of ebony.

The Sun soon came in and demanded his dinner.  His mother waited on him and served him all sorts of delicious meats and drinks.  He was satisfied and sat back as his mother started to clean.  “My dear, I know that you’re tired, but…,” she started.  “Go on,” the Sun encouraged her.  “I saw a Raven the other day and wondered if such a drab bird could be made beautiful?”  “Is that all Mother?, the Sun laughed.  “I think that the Raven is the most beautiful bird in the world.  They remind me of my lover, the Moon,” he smiled.  “They are as black as the night where she walks, but when I throw my rays upon their black feathers, they glisten like my sweetheart does when I give her some of my light as I come home.  No Mother,” he yawned, “I love the Raven the best of all.  I think it is more beautiful than even the Bird of Paradise.  Goodnight Mother,” he went off to bed.

As soon as the Sun left, the old woman turned the Raven back into his proper form. He was so happy to hear that the Sun thought he was the most beautiful bird in the world! 
He went home, his heart filled with joy.

His friend, the Bunting, was happy to see his return and asked him how he fared.  The Raven only smiled as he said that he fared well.  “Look Father! The blue bird again,” it was the little girl from before, “And the pretty black bird too! They must be friends.”  “I told you before,” the man pulled her along; “the Raven is an ill omen and is rather drab.”  “I don’t care,” said the little girl staring at the Raven, “He’s like the night sky and he shines like the Moon and stars.  I think he is the most beautiful bird.”

Submitted by Allison Brehmer, ETC Supervisor

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free Animal Encounters This Summer

Visit World Bird Sanctuary this summer and experience Amazing Animal Encounters!

Ameren Missouri brings you free, family-friendly, fun and educational Amazing Animal Encounters at World Bird Sanctuary, all summer long!

Free, fun, family-friendly environmental education programs are presented by our naturalists, using snakes, parrots, birds and mammals to teach you about the amazing creatures that share our planet, and what we can do to help them survive.

Dates: Every Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Time: Saturdays at 11.30am and 2.00pm; Sundays 1.30 pm  

Admission: Admission and parking is FREE.  No reservations required.

Sponsored by:

Really Weird Birds: Part 4

Some birds have certain behaviors and adaptations that make them not your average birds.  

The first example is the Black Heron, also known as the Black Egret, native to Africa.
Black herons are found south of the Sahara Desert, including Madagascar.
 Are those umbrellas in the water?  Nope, they’re birds!  This behavior is called canopy feeding.  The black heron spreads its wings and ducks its head under its wings to shade the water from the bright sun.  This helps the heron to see its prey fish – under the water.  Even better, it may lure fish looking for a cool shady spot.  The fish unknowingly swims right to the heron’s beak!  Check out this video clip.  They mainly eat fish, but they will also snack on crustaceans (crabs and crayfish), aquatic insects and amphibians.

The Burchell’s sandgrouse is literally a desert sponge.
 Burchell’s sandgrouse is one of 16 species of sandgrouse in the family Pteroclididae. 
They are found in very dry areas of southern Africa and they eat dry food – hard little seeds.  These birds still need water, so they sometimes spend hours every day searching for a puddle, pond or pool to drink from.  But what makes these birds amazing is they have special water-holding feathers on their bellies, and when they finally find water, a male sandgrouse will soak up droplets of it.  He will then carry the precious cargo back to his nest of chicks for them to drink from.  What an amazing adaptation!  Although the chicks are precocial – they leave the nest almost as soon as they hatch – they still cannot fly to watering holes yet.  Yet, they are mobile on foot and capable of feeding themselves.  They still remain close to the nest and learn skills from their parents for several months.  Also, at first the chicks are too small and young to thermoregulate (maintain correct body temperature), so the parents provide them with shade during hot parts of the day and warmth through brooding at night.   

Australian Malleefowl males are super dads!
  Australian malleefowl are stocky ground-dwelling birds about the size of a domestic chicken. They eat herbs, seeds, invertebrates, fungi and fruit as is available. 
Australian malleefowl occupy semi-arid scrub on the edges of the moderately fertile regions of southern Africa.  In winter, the male will begin to construct a huge nest mound.  He will first dig a depression in the ground, about 9 feet wide and 3 feet deep, by scraping backwards with his powerful feet.  In late winter/early spring he will begin to collect sticks, leaves and bark to fill the depression (up to 2 feet above ground level) and he will continue to scrape materials for up to 150 feet around the hole.   He waits for rain.  Then he will turn and mix the material to boost decay producing warmth, and dig an egg chamber.
 Australian malleefowl nest mound  
The female will then lay one egg per week for an average of 15 weeks.  The egg chamber is covered with a layer of sand for insulation.  The eggs cannot get too hot or cold, so dad sticks his temperature sensitive beak in the mound each day to check the temperature.  In order to make the nest cooler or warmer, he scratches sand away creating air vents, or piles it back on.  I also found it amazing that it can take up to 15 hours for a newly hatched chick to reach the surface of the mound!  Once it emerges, it quickly staggers or rolls down the mound and scurries away, never again to see its siblings, mom, or dad, who worked so hard! 

The Sociable Weaver of southern Africa builds huge bird condos!
 Sociable weavers are mostly insectivorous, insects making up 80% of their diet and seeds and plants 20%. 
As their name suggests these birds construct amazing community nests by weaving together grasses and other plant material.  The nests are large enough to house over one hundred pairs of birds!  They team up to build a nest with tunnels and chambers, which several generations will inhabit at one time.  This nest continues to grow every year.  The nest appears like a haystack in a tree or on a telephone poll.  When looked at from below, many holes for entering can be seen.  Check out this videoThe entire structure can weigh more than a ton and sometimes other species of birds will move in, too! 
 The nests of sociable weavers are among the largest bird-made structures. 
These four birds look like they are just your average birds, but they all have a weird behavior or adaptation that makes them stand out as unique! 

You can help in the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission of maintaining earth’s biological diversity so future generations can enjoy the same amazing animals.  You can visit us and spread what you learn, become a member or friend or adopt-a-bird and feed that bird for a year!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, June 3, 2012

April - What's In A Nestbox?

April was a very hectic month for the AmerenUE/WBS nest box study. In the month of April I counted eggs, banded babies and some fledglings have even left the nest already, probably because of the very early spring!
 Black-capped Chickadee nest
The study has been a success in all of the three habitats I am monitoring, and the data is pouring in. The numbers can be overwhelming, so I wanted to hit on the key points of my findings thus far.

Each area is prescribed a different treatment for maintaining the vegetation under the power lines within power line right-of-ways, and these prescriptions make different habitats. The three habitats that are being monitored are mow, spray, and a combination of the two; mow/spray. Each habitat has 80 nest boxes for a total of 240 for the whole study.

Before I give you the data, I want to explain two key things to remember. When looking at the fledged numbers one must bear in mind that there are still birds that haven’t decided to leave the nest yet. Also, not every egg is going to be successful, and the trend that I have noticed is that about half will hatch.

Habitat 1 (mow area) has been the most productive line so far with a total of 106 eggs. Of those 106 eggs 67 hatched, 45 have been banded and 31 have fledged so far.

Habitat 2 (spray area) is the second most productive area with a total of 101 eggs. From the 101 eggs 66 hatched, 63 were banded, and 26 have fledged to date. This area has been a surprise so far because all 80 boxes were installed in early March.

Habitat 3 (mow/spray) has been the least productive area with only 98 eggs. Of the 98 eggs 60 hatched, 50 were banded, and 13 have fledged so far. The most shocking finding on this line is that 80 of the 98 eggs were bluebirds! There were a few Black-capped Chickadees, too.

Overall for the month of April I have had 305 eggs, 203 babies, 141 birds banded, and 80 have fledged. This is only the beginning of what can be a very busy/great nesting season!

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

Friday, June 1, 2012

They Did It Again!

The St. Charles County Great Horned Owls did it again.  The Great Horned Owl nest that I watched diligently at this time last year has produced two more youngsters.

On March 27 I found Mamma Owl still sitting vigilantly on her treetop nest   This nest sits securely in the top of an 80-100 foot White Pine where the top had been broken out of the tree, creating a nice “bowl” for the nest. 

Four days later I again visited the nest to find two curious young owlets peering out at the world.  Unfortunately for me the tree had sprouted a new branch that protruded right in front of the nest.  The only way I could get photos was to wait for the few seconds when the wind blew the branch to the side. 

Because of other time constraints I was not able to watch the nest on a daily basis as I did last year.  However, from the few visits I was able to make it appears there are now two more Great Horned Owls patrolling the skies of St. Charles County.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer