Monday, December 10, 2012

Osiris – Not The God Of The Dead

 Welcome new and returning readers!  Today’s blog is about Osiris—not the Egyptian God of the Dead—but an amazing Egyptian Vulture that resides at the World Bird Sanctuary. 
 Meet Osiris, the only Egyptian Vulture ever hatched at WBS
First off, there are two groups of vultures; Old World and New World.  There are 15 Old World vultures and 7 New World vultures, with 22 in total.  The big difference between old and new is old world vultures are related to birds of prey, and have very strong feet.  New world vultures are more closely related to storks and cranes, and have no strength in their feet.  Egyptian vultures are Old World vultures and are native to northern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and India.  In those areas they can be seen in the mountains, wetlands, plains, and uplands.
 How could anyone resist Osiris's new age hairdo?
Egyptian Vultures are very adaptable birds whose territories will even include populated areas.  Sometimes they can be spotted at garbage dumps.  These beautiful vultures will eat carrion (dead animals), eggs, and they will even catch and eat large insects. 
 Osiris demonstrates the Egyptian Vultures' tool using ability
Eating the eggs of other birds is a very well known trait of the Egyptian Vulture--especially how they do it.  Egyptian Vultures are among the few birds that use tools!  They will use stones and with their beaks throw them on the eggs to break them.  Once the eggs are broken, they will then use their long slender beaks to pry off the fractured shell pieces to get to the very nutritious center!  In addition to flying in our shows Osiris demonstrates this remarkable tool using adaptation for our audiences! 

Egyptian Vultures live up to 20 years in the wild.  In captivity however, they can live much longer.  The longest recorded age in captivity was 37 years old.  At 14 years of age, Osiris has a long way to go. 

Osiris was hatched in the spring of 1998 at the World Bird Sanctuary.  She was the only Egyptian Vulture to be bred here. 

In the wild, these vultures like to nest on mountainous cliffs and ledges that have cavities where they can nest under an overhanging rock to provide chicks with shade and little direct sunlight.  Their clutch size ranges from one to three eggs.  During incubation, if an egg is stolen or damaged early in the incubation period, they can lay another to replace it.  The chicks will fledge (leave the nest) at the age of only three months!  The fledglings’ plumage (feather color) will change from brown to white over a period of months.  Mature Egyptian Vultures have white plumage with head feathers that give them a touseled look.  I especially love Osiris’s head feathers! 

These vultures are among the group of animals on the Endangered Species List.  There are a variety of different reasons why they are at risk.  Lead poisoning from gunshots, electrocution from power lines, collisions from wind turbines, direct and indirect poisoning, and habitat change.   
 Adopt A Bird parents will have a private visit with Osiris
Osiris is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  Osiris is a very smart and beautiful bird.  I actually adopted her in 2010 as a birthday gift for someone.  Adopt A Bird Parents will need to make a reservation to see her since she resides at the behind the scenes ETC (Educational Training Center) building. The ETC is not normally open for public viewing except during our Open House in October each year.

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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