Friday, November 30, 2012

A New Home

Jersey (the Barred Owl), Goober (the Black Vulture) and I all have one thing in common; our stories all begin in the humble state of South Dakota--but that’s not where they end. 

My fascination with raptors began in Rapid City, SD. at Reptile Gardens with an organization by the name of Wildlife Experiences, and also with Jersey and Goober.  Goober and I didn’t get along too well at first, but he has learned to live with me since I came to intern at the World Bird Sanctuary in August 2011. 
Jersey the Barred Owl - a former acquaintance of mine
Wildlife Experiences, which closed in November 2010, opened my eyes to all the wonders of raptors, and their fantastic quirks and personalities.  For months I begged them for a job; little did I know that the closing of Wildlife Experiences would lead to the beautiful deciduous forests of Missouri, where my experiences with raptors would mold my true appreciation for them.

When I first came to Missouri and visited the World Bird Sanctuary, I immediately knew that I had to be a part of this wonderful association; and that is how my path took a surprising turn.  I moved from Laramie, Wyoming (where I was attending college for Animal science) to Missouri so that I could have the opportunity of a lifetime--to be an intern at the sanctuary. 

It just so happens that when Wildlife Experiences was finding homes for the birds that they could no longer house, Jersey and Goober (formerly known as Steinbeck and Grax) were placed at WBS.  My former acquaintances and I were reunited and are still hanging out to this day, because after my first internship (which generally last about 3 months at WBS) ended in November I knew that I was not done gaining knowledge from the staff (including the birds of course--they are staff, too) and all the amazing experiences here.
My old buddy, Goober the Black Vulture
Once I discovered that I would be welcome to complete another internship with WBS, I rushed off in search of a source of income, since Ramen noodles, unfortunately, does not grow on trees.  Lucky for me I was job hunting right before Thanksgiving (and “Black Friday”) and the sanctuary offers free housing to interns and staff members.  I was able to obtain a part time job, still have time for a part time internship, and happily continue to feed my newly found raptor addiction.

Since of course all good things must come to an end, my 2nd internship was unfortunately going to be over mid February.  I was not sure what my next plan of action should be and was still not ready to leave the sanctuary, which was starting to feel like a sanctuary for me as well as for the birds.

At that point I discovered that there were going to be job openings for the educational summer shows that WBS presents in the cities of Milwaukee, WI and Boston, MA.  Fortunately there were some open positions and, amazingly enough, I was offered a position for the Masters of Flight Birds of Prey show that WBS presented at Stone Zoo in Boston.  Also chosen for the Stone Zoo show was none other than my old buddy Goober the Black Vulture himself!

Goober and I were able to travel from the Midwest, all the way to the East Coast and back; and after a demanding but also astounding summer in Boston, I was able to come back to St Louis and be a part of the World Bird Sanctuary again! I will forever thank my lucky stars that led me to this place, where I have not only learned remarkable things about birds, but learned a lot about myself as well.

Submitted by Teresa Aldrich, World Bird Sanctuary ETC Naturalist/Trainer

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rookie Files: Enrichment

At World Bird Sanctuary, enrichment is a key part of our birds’ lives.

Enrichment prevents the birds from getting bored, keeps them entertained and fosters natural abilities that they would use in the wild.  Enrichment can range from a cereal box to a new game or behavior; it doesn’t have to be complex, just different.
Something as simple as a head of lettuce to tear apart is enrichment
Last summer I presented a bird show at Stone Zoo in Boston, MA, and when you are away at shows like I was, enrichment items are a little more difficult to come by, so you have to get creative.  The good news is when you all live and work together like my staff and I did in Boston, in one house, you buy a lot of groceries, which leads to a lot of recycling.  Pretty much every paper board product that passed through our house ended up as a crow or raven toy.  Boxes, toilet paper tubes, ice cream tubs, shipping boxes, tissue boxes, paper towel tubes, Chinese takeout containers (no metal), to-go coffee cups (cardboard only), drink caddies; you name it, we probably stuffed newspaper and food in it to give to a crow or a raven. 

Enrichment is not just about objects though, it is also about timing.  Giving a bird the same thing over and over again or doing the same behavior over and over again is less enrichment and more routine; it is no longer as stimulating.  We had an issue this summer with Othello, our African Pied Crow and Hugnin our White Necked Raven not wanting to do their enrichment behaviors, since they did them every day that winter.  Once we invented new behaviors and found new enrichment toys for them to play with (thrift stores are an enrichment enthusiast’s best friend), they were more excited.

Enrichment is not just for crows or ravens, although their higher intelligence does demand more stimulating activities.  Many of our raptors got enrichment devices this summer as well.
Osiris our Egyptian vulture sometimes received her extra food in a soda box or collapsible box, both of which required her to use her long, narrow beak to find her food--much like she would in the wild.
 Clark standing on one of his enrichment toys
Clark, the Bald Eagle would get something different every night; boxes, bags, old towels, blue jeans tied in knots, sisal rope tied in knots, and even heads of lettuce.  Clark loved to rip, tear and nibble…kind of like a puppy. If he didn’t have anything to play with, he made his own toys…out of his jesses and anklets. Since it was no fun for us--or Clark---to replace his anklets, we always made sure that Clark had something to play with every night.
 Jesses and anklets were not an approved "toy"
Clark was not the only one who loved the heads of lettuce.   Mia the Spectacled Owl liked to tear them into shreds and Peabody a European tawny owl liked to eat them, after tearing them into tiny shreds (the lettuce is not bad for this carnivore).

Even when the raptors are not working, we like to give them fun things every now and then, like a chicken egg or crayfish.  Sometimes we go all out and carve pumpkins for Dorothy the Andean Condor and stuff them with food.
 One of Dorothy the Andean Condor's favorite toys
Enrichment can be simple, like a box stuffed with food or complex like designing a new game for a crow.  Regardless of the complexity, as long as it keeps the bird stimulated and all items or enrichment training is safe for the bird, it is like surprising the bird with a trip to the amusement park. 

Bet you’ll never look at a cereal box the same way again… I never have!

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Monday, November 26, 2012

Working The Kinks Out

Along with three other staff members, I spent the past summer in Boston, MA presenting World Bird Sanctuary’s Masters of Flight bird of prey show at Stone Zoo.  This show is a free flight demonstration as well as a demonstration of the birds’ natural behaviors.
Oracle--an Augur Buzzard
As part of our team we had nineteen birds, and of those nineteen we had two rookies-birds that had never been in WBS education programs.  We had Oracle, a one-year-old African Augur Buzzard and Peabody, a European Tawny Owl who is about three.
Peabody--a Tawny Owl
At first there can be many challenges when young birds are learning to fly in shows.  For one thing, they are uncoordinated in some respects.  From what I had seen and heard they often have a hard time landing on the glove.  Sometimes, when they come in to land, the momentum they’ve built keeps them going right off the other side of the glove.  Oracle didn’t have too rough of a time with that, but it was a bigger problem for Peabody. Eventually, with practice and experience, they got the hang of it.
Another challenge we ran into is that very often the birds are afraid of things they didn’t experience as they grew up at WBS.  Of course, this makes sense because these things are unnatural to them and they don’t know what the object will do.  Wheeled objects like strollers, and wheelchairs, are particularly scary.  They don’t know that the stroller isn’t going to eat them; they just know that it’s strange and scary and they want to get away from it. 
Peabody making his St. Louis debut at Open House
Throughout the season we learn more about each bird and what makes that individual bird frightened or uncomfortable.  Then we do our best to slowly acclimate each bird to these scary things, especially the ones we know they will see a lot.  This allows for the birds to be as comfortable as possible and for us to present the best show possible.  It’s kind of a learning experience for both the birds and the trainers.
With time and patience the kinks get worked out and the show is great.  All in all I would say that we--humans and birds--had a great season.  We learned a lot and had a great time doing it.
Submitted by Jaimie Sansoucie, World Bird Sanctuary, Seasonal Staff Member

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Really Weird Birds: Part 8

Hornbills are very unusual looking birds.  

There are 54 species of hornbill in the world.  They have some of the most impressive beaks in size, shape, and color.  Even more fascinating are their courting displays and unusual nesting habits.  Their range extends from Africa across India and Asia to Papua New Guinea in the southeast Pacific Ocean.
The very colorful Knobbed Hornbill, native to tropical evergreen forests of Indonesia. 
Hornbills are characterized by long down-curved beaks which help them to reach food in tree branches.  Unique to most species of Hornbills is a large outgrowth on the upper beak called a casque.  This structure is hollow and made of keratin (the same substance that composes our own hair and fingernails), with the exception of the Helmeted Hornbill where the front end of the casque is solid ivory.  Their skull makes up 10% of the adult birds weight. 
 Helmeted Hornbill, native to evergreen forests of Southeast Asia. 
Hornbills are the only birds in which the first two neck vertebrae are fused together in order to provide a more stable platform for carrying their large bill.  The casque is larger in adult males and can assist in dominance displays and attracting mates.  In fact, a few species will undergo aerial “jousting.”  Helmeted Hornbills for example may joust to compete for food, territory or mates.  They fly towards each other and smash their casques together creating a loud clacking noise.  They may flip upside down or be pushed backwards from the force that is created.  The collisions may occur repeatedly and may last up to 2 hours.

Hornbills studied so far breed as monogamous pairs.  With the exception of ground hornbills, the female will lay her eggs in a tree cavity.  She will then seal up the hole using mud, leaving enough room for her to climb inside.  The remainder of the opening will then be sealed by the female using feces and regurgitated food, leaving only a small opening for the male to pass regurgitated food to his mate and their chicks.  While inside the females of some species will molt all of her flight feathers as she incubates the eggs.  Sealing the cavity of course protects the nest from predators, but in turn causes problems of sanitation in the nest, and a lot of work for the male.  Young of the previous year have been seen to help the males with feeding.  In some species of hornbill, when the chicks are half grown, the female will break out of the nest cavity.  The chicks will re-seal themselves in and the parents will continue to feed them until they are ready to fledge.

Many species of hornbills are threatened or endangered.  Habitat destruction and hunting are among the biggest threats.  Some are in danger of being captured for the exotic pet trade.  Many hornbills are killed for their casques, which are used for carvings and traditional medicines.  In Sarawak, Malaysia, local people hunt the hornbills for their feathers, which are used for headdresses and ceremonies.  Luckily however, ceremonial leaders have agreed to receive shipments of molted hornbill feathers from zoos.  

If you want to help endangered birds, you can help by simply visiting us and spreading what you’ve learned, becoming a member or friend, or adopting-a-bird, which feeds that bird for a year!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What We at WBS Are Thankful For….

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we all step back from our busy schedules and reflect on the things for which we are thankful.

Here at WBS we have many blessings…

*            The dedicated staff who work so tirelessly to rehabilitate the more than 300 injured birds that pass through our hospital doors each year

*            The Education Department staff who work long hours and give up their weekends and even some holidays to carry the message of environmental responsibility to schools and organizations across the country

*            The Propagation Department staff--the often unsung heros and heroines of our organization--who remain “behind the scenes” caring for and training our large roster of non-releasable birds

*            The “Tuesday Crew” – a group of retired tradesmen who show up every Tuesday, rain or shine, to lend us their construction trade skills, and literally “keep us together”

*            The many volunteers without which we could not exist.  These dedicated individuals come from every walk of life and span every age group—all for the love of the birds

*            The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who choose the World Bird Sanctuary as their Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold project.  Most of our outdoor structures would not exist without them

*            The many wonderful corporate sponsors who support us financially and in so many other ways. 

*            The individuals who call us from out of the blue offering to donate anything from raptor food or birdseed to automobiles or tractors

*            Our wonderful visitors who purchase merchandise from our gift shop because they know that the profits help to feed house and care for the birds, or the drive through visitor who stops to drop a few dollars in our donation kiosk at the entrance

*            All the diehard supporters who show up at WBS special events in spite of weather conditions ranging from rain and cold to hundred degree temperatures

To all of you out there—HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


It’s almost here—that ultimate of all shopping days—BLACK FRIDAY!  This year why not avoid the crowds and at the same time help the environment and the World Bird Sanctuary by shopping green?
Just one of the many jewelry items available for purchase at the gift shop

For those adults and children on your list who love the outdoors and wildlife we have a well-stocked gift shop in our Nature Center.  Here you can find gifts ranging from stocking stuffers to great t-shirts and outdoor wear—all with a nature related theme.  All of these items may be purchased in person while enjoying all that the Sanctuary has to offer.
Choose from a large selection of bird of prey related t-shirts
Don’t have time to visit in person?  Other gift options that may be purchased on-line include:

What better way to give a lasting gift--one that will survive for generations
For those on your list that fall into the “hard to buy for” category consider giving them a lasting gift – an inscribed brick to be installed in our amphitheater with your holiday wishes or other sentiment permanently etched on it.  Two brick sizes are available with the option of including a presentation gift certificate for gift giving.  To purchase a brick click here or call 636-225-4390 Ext. 0.

Tigger the Tawny Owl--just one of the many animals available for adoption
All of the birds and other animals that call World Bird Sanctuary home are available for adoption. Your adoption helps to care for your animal for a year, and adoption fees include:

            Certificate of Adoption with a full color photograph of your special animal
            World Bird Sanctuary sponsorship for one year
            One year’s subscription to our newsletter – the Mews News – printed three times per year
            Natural history and life history of your special adopted animal
            10% discount on all World Bird Sanctuary merchandise in our gift shop
            10% discount on all public programs offered at World Bird Sanctuary, such as Owl Prowls, Nature Hikes etc.
            Visiting privileges and photo opportunities with the special new member of your family  (just call ahead first to make sure your adopted animal will be here on the day of your visit).

To adopt your bird  select the category of bird that you want to adopt, and then click on the individual bird within that gallery and complete the adoption form.  Don’t see your desired bird or animal on the website?  Call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0.  All animals at the sanctuary are available for adoption.


Take part in the release of a rehabilitated bird!
Give the gift of freedom--release a bird back into the wild
Returning a bird of prey back to the wild can cost up to $1,000 in care and rehabilitation. Your contribution of only $150 helps our patients and gives you the opportunity to participate in the release of a wild bird of prey.
Invite family and friends to release a bird of prey at your home or nearby park.  Celebrate a wedding, birthday, anniversary, family reunion, school or corporate function with this special gift.
The World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital is a cornerstone of the World Bird Sanctuary, and is entirely funded by donations from the public. Help us give our patients a second chance to fly. Sponsor a release today!

Questions about Return to the Wild? Call: (636) 861-1392 or email:

A WBS Friend Membership

Your WBS Friend Membership includes:
            One year’s subscription to our newsletter – the Mews News – printed three times per year
            Reusable WBS shopping bag
            10% discount on all World Bird Sanctuary merchandise in our gift shop
            Invitation to Friends-only events like Camera Day offering unique photographic opportunities featuring live birds of prey. Bring your cameras for rare shots of raptors in natural settings
            10% discount on all public programs offered at World Bird Sanctuary, such as Owl Prowls, Nature Hikes etc.
            Invitations to members-only events held at World Bird Sanctuary

To purchase a WBS Friend membership click here

For the youngsters on your list there is a selection of two audio CDs by our in-house band, The Raptor Project.  These CDs also contain encoded lyrics and teacher activity pages.  Enjoy songs such as “Mr. Frog Blues”, “Those Wonderful Birds”, “The Food Chain Blues” and many more.  All proceeds from sale of CDs supports the Wildlife Hospital.  To purchase a CD click here  or visit the  Raptique Gift Shop in our Nature Center.


For the book lover on your list purchase “Beak To Beak”, a book by our Director, Walter C. Crawford, Jr.  This book is filled with Walter's musings on wildlife, conservation and life in general told through a collection of short, true-life stories.

The book is available for purchase  for $10.

Any of the above items may also be purchased in person at the World Bird Sanctuary’s Nature Center, or call 636-225-4390 Ext. 0 for further information.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What It's Like To Be A WBS Intern

The World Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful example of the people in this world that care about the environment and the creatures that live in it.  They do a fantastic job of sticking to their principals and running an extremely professional facility.

Before I started volunteering I never really put much thought into who runs places like this.  Of course there is the year round staff, but there are also volunteers and interns as well.  As a previous intern at the World Bird Sanctuary I would like to tell you what it was like to spend the summer at this amazing place.
 Megan Weidman, another intern, helping to train the Pelican
This internship was truly a shot in the dark for me. Being a senior photography student from Indiana needing only 12 credits to graduate, my motto became, “Why not?!” when applying for a summer internship might provide me at least 6 credits toward my December 2012 graduation.  When Roger Holloway called and offered me the internship I can honestly say I did not know what to expect.  As an intern you can choose to stay on the grounds or at home depending on where you live.  All interns have a project they have to do during their internship.  You happen to be reading my intern project--photo articles for WBS’s blog.  You can pick anything, like assisting with Pelican training, as Megan Weidman did this summer (see photo).  We are also required to participate in a few after hours projects during our time there.

Once there you are put on a schedule that rotates you between four different departments throughout any week; Nature Center, Visitors Center, Rehab and ETC.  After a while you get into a rhythm.   You mostly do the same things at each place every week--but don’t be fooled—every day is a little different. 
 Preparing to remove one of our raptors from its travel crate
One thing you have to do is be approved to handle the jessed raptors on your own.  Once approved you start to learn how to free fly the trained raptors for educational shows.  Eventually, you get to go out to shows and help a staff member educate a group of people about our beautiful birds and animals.  I went on a few shows; I flew for a classroom and a group of kids at a day camp.  I also got to go on the news with one of our Eastern Screech Owls and Teri Graves, WBS’s Director of Education. 

One of my favorite places to work was WBS’s Wildlife Hospital, where injured raptors are rehabilitated.  The reason for this is because I participated in the treatment and rehabilitation of wild birds that people would bring to us.   Every Thursday we have a volunteer vet come in to do a check up on the birds at the hospital.  I learned a lot working there.  One of the pictures included is of me releasing a Great Horned Owl back into the wild.  We got her in the week I started working at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Watching and helping her go from almost non-responsive to healthy and being able to release her back into the wild is one of my fondest memories.
 Intern Tracy Swanson preparing to band a bird while assisting the Field Studies team
We also get to participate in field studies with the bird banding team, as you can see in the photo of Tracy Swanson.  In addition there were the fun outings we had with the sanctuary--like intern lake day and the cook out. 
 Just some of the many friends I met at the World Bird Sanctuary
The end of my summer there was bitter sweet.  I was ready to go home, but I realized later how much I missed the other interns, staff members and especially the birds. 

As an art student at Purdue, with little to no experience up close with wildlife, being an intern at the World Bird Sanctuary was a completely new and different experience. 

So, if you have the chance to be an intern here, take it.  You will not get an experience like this anywhere else.

Submitted by Kaitlin Conti, World Bird Sanctuary Intern

Friday, November 16, 2012

365 Photo Project - October

October was a good month for photos and out and about activities.

My family visited, so that gave me a few more photo opportunities, and with fall Camera Day at World Bird Sanctuary more opportunities arouse.  Needless to say it was a month of a lot of photo editing.

I started off the month with a trip to the Butterfly House.  Taking only 300 photos made looking for just that right photo difficult, but I managed to find one in that trip that just stood out above all the others.  This month it is a black and white butterfly on pink flowers--a very simple photo, yet striking at the same time.

The next photo is from a second trip to the Butterfly House later in the month which produced another 250 photos.  This time my favorite photo was even harder to choose.  The photo I chose from this trip also stands out for the same reason--simple and striking and even pink flowers.  This time the butterfly is black and pink--absolutely beautiful.

The last photo I wish to share is from World Bird Sanctuary’s Camera day on October 28.  Schiller’s Camera & Video sponsored the event and had Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses for people to try while visiting.   Guests, volunteers and staff took advantage of this great opportunity.   I took advantage of this opportunity and tried a camera I have been looking at for the last 6 months.   I am really interested in the Nikon Coolpix P510.  It has a 42X zoom, which is equivalent to a 1000mm lens.  I took many great photos with this camera and there was one that stood out above all the rest.  I took a closeup of Xena, the Eurasian Eagle Owl.  This photo is a profile headshot and just makes the feathers and her eyes stand out.

At times choosing photos for this type of project is very difficult because I take so many fun photos; but as I look closer at them there are always a few that just start to stand out.  I hope everyone enjoys these photos. 

I have shared some of the really nice photos from Camera day on World Bird Sanctuary’s Facebook page.  I hope you like them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Love Lucy

The Bearded Dragon is quickly becoming a household name and a popular pet.  They have a unique way of attracting you to them

Bearded dragons are native to Australia and will vary in species depending where they are found on the continent.  There are eight different species of bearded dragons. 
 Lucy, WBS's Bearded Dragon may be seen any day in our Nature Center
The Drysdale River Bearded Dragon, Pogona microlepidota, is a small lizard that is found in the northwestern area along the Drysdale River basin. 

The Coastal Bearded Dragon, P. barbata, is the largest of all beardies at two feet in length.  These are found along the eastern and southeastern coasts. 

The Lawson’s Dragon, P. henrylawsoni, is found on sandy flatlands and hillsides of Queensland and the edges of the Northern Territory.  Mitchell’s Bearded Dragon, P. mitchelli, can be found in the central and western areas. 

The Western Bearded Dragon, P. minima, is found in the far west and southwest of Australia.

The Dwarf Bearded Dragon, P. minor, is found in the interior western area to the western coasts. 

The Banded Bearded Dragon, P. nullarbor, is commonly called the Nullarbor Plains Dragon.  It is only found in the Nullarbor Plains region which is in the far south area of the continent. 

The last type of breaded dragon is the Inland Bearded Dragon, P. vitticeps, found only in the inland of the Outback.  This “beardie” also happens to be the most popular one in the pet trade today and the species I will discuss here.

At the World Bird Sanctuary, we have an adorable Bearded Dragon named Lucy.  She is an Inland Bearded Dragon and was hatched in captivity.  Lucy is at least four years old now.  I love her personality and behavior.  She will look up at you with her red/gold eyes and make you wonder what she is pondering at the moment.  Her seemingly quizzical expression often leads her human observers to think that she may be wondering how lucky she is to have come to a place that cares for other animals like her….or…., more likely, she is fixated on that fly in the distance and is waiting for it to get just a little closer. 

When I give her a bath, she at first will just stand very still.  Then after I have been sprinkling water over her back she will begin to move around and even drink some up.  Each day she is given a type of green lettuce (green leaf, red leaf, collard greens, romaine, or turnip greens), bearded dragon pellets, and bugs (on certain days of the week).  Her favorite bugs are crickets, but she will also eat super worms (a larger form of a mealworm), too. 

In the wild a small beardie’s diet will consist of leaves, fruits, seeds, and insects. Larger beardies will eat other small lizards, mice, small snakes, and small birds as well.  As with all reptiles, beardies are cold blooded, which means that their body temperature is the same as the temperature around them.  They need to receive heat from a different source, like the sun or heat lamp in captivity.  In the wild, a Bearded Dragon’s lifespan ranges from 3 to 6 years.  In captivity they can live up to 10 to 12 years with proper care.  If you have a Bearded Dragon, then you know they are intelligent and can become excited to see you after a length of time apart.  Bearded dragons are so docile and intriguing to interact with, but as with any animal be sure to do your research before acquiring one as a pet, since reptiles have a number of special needs in captivity.   

Lucy is available for adoption in our Adopt a “Bird” program (yes, we adopt almost all the animals we have at WBS!).  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  Lucy can be seen at the Nature Center at the World Bird Sanctuary which is open daily from 8am-5pm.  Lucy is a very interesting reptile and delightful, too.  Be sure to stop by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, November 12, 2012

Snakes Alive!

As our name implies, World Bird Sanctuary is commonly associated with the primary topic of most of our educational program--birds--more specifically, birds of prey.  But at WBS we seek to conserve and educate about a multitude of different bird and animal species, not just birds of prey.
To highlight just one specific topic, we offer a great program about reptiles called “Reptales”.  In this interactive program we present live snakes, lizards, a raptor and a tortoise.   One of our Naturalists will explain the benefits that reptiles offer to our ecosystem.  They will speak about several of the misconceptions about snakes.  Most of us have grown up with these common misconceptions and have passed them along to each generation.
You will learn about each of the special guests’ natural histories, fascinating facts, and what makes them so unique.  This program is best suited for grades 3 and up, and for groups no larger than 150.  There will be an opportunity for those that wish to touch a live snake.
If you are interested in scheduling one of our programs--either at our facility or yours-- please call our Education Department at 636-225-4390, ext. 0, and ask to speak with one of our Schedulers.

For a list of available programs and other resources, visit our home web page at and click on the “Enviro-Education Programs” tab.  There you will find program descriptions, age recommendations and more.  Be sure to check out “Field Trips” for programs that can be held on our site as well.

WBS’s environmental educational programs are developed in accordance with the State of Missouri’s Show-Me Standards for Education in life science.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Myths, Tales & Facts About Birds

Learning about birds has made me realize the vastness of the information surrounding these diverse creatures.
 Cock Pheasant--What is a gathering of this bird called?—Read on…)

It wasn’t until I started working at the World Bird Sanctuary that I learned that the people who watch and observe birds are called birders and that birding is the field activity of observing birds. So for this blog, I thought I might put together a collection of what I believe to be some interesting myths, tales and facts about birds.

Common bird myths.
You might believe birds only sing when they’re happy. However, most male birds use singing as a form of aggression to warn off competing males or to indicate their unique qualities to attract females. Also, males with more complex songs or who sing more often tend to be preferred by females.

Secondly, there are birds considered to mate for life or be monogamous, but “divorce” is something common for almost all birds. Most birds will live with their partner for just a few months or years with divorce ranging from high in the greater flamingo to never in the wandering albatross. Most songbirds in North America often “cheat” on their mates with DNA paternity testing showing that cheating results in 40% of the young in several species.

You may believe two bird parents are required to raise their young, but in birds such as the hummingbird or woodcock, only the female will raise the young. Also, other birds such as crows and blue jays recruit nannies--often former offspring--to help support and protect their young.
 Turkey Vulture--One of the few birds with a well developed sense of smell

The last myth I will mention is that birds have no sense of smell. Certainly, most birds cannot smell as well as a dog, but there are seabirds that recognize their mate using smell alone and a turkey vulture will find its meals by sniffing the odors coming from dead animals or carrion.

Here are some Interesting “old wives’ tales” about birds.
One superstition states that a wild bird trying to fly into a home or hitting a house widow represented death in that household. The ill luck associated with this superstition could be extended to include having a pet bird or even the image of a bird in your home.

 Another interesting bird tale is why an artist's last work is commonly called a swan song.  European Mute Swans are relatives to the North American Trumpeter Swan and a legend from ancient Greece tells that right before these swans die they will burst into a beautiful song. Greeks believed this represented a celebration of the bird's joyful departure to join the god of music, Apollo.

Interesting Facts
I found interesting terminology used for birds, and what struck me were the many names given to the gatherings of certain birds, which happens to be a long list including:
*            congress of crows
*            parliament of owls
*            sord of mallard
*            paddling of ducks
*            gaggle of geese
*            muster of peacocks
*            stand of flamingos
*            watch of nightingales
*            murmuration of starlings
*            exaltation of larks
*            nye of pheasants
*            covey of quail

If you ever wondered if there were names for a birds diet, here are the terms related to what a species of bird consumes;
*            granivorous (birds that eat grains or seeds)
*            frugivorous (birds feeding mainly on fruit)
*            insectivorous (Birds that eat mainly insects)
*            nectivorous (birds feeding mainly on flower nectar or juices of fruits)
*            piscivorous (Fish-eating birds)
 Baby Robin--Can you guess which of the above diet terms would apply to this little guy?

Above is a picture of a baby robin which I was lucky enough to catch a close picture of in my own birdingJ.

Of course, there is a multitude of even more interesting and curious information out there about these amazing animals. I hope you enjoyed these tidbits enough to do some exploring on your own.

Submitted by Whitney Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Grant’s Farm Seasonal Supervisor