Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Minnesota!


When I started my job here at World Bird Sanctuary, I didn’t know that it would involve some travel… Not that traveling is a problem, of course.

After all, you pack some clothes, you grab a road map, and you’re off, right?  Well, traveling with WBS is not exactly a vacation.  It’s a business trip, and not all of your co-workers are human.  The prospect was daunting at first.  Traveling to another state with birds?  But once you get started, you realize just how much fun you’ll have.

The first trip I took was to Keokuk, Iowa, for Eagle Days this January.  We took three birds and two snakes on this five-hour, four-day trek, and Teri (WBS Director of Education), Eleanor (WBS intern), Dave and Kathy King (WBS volunteers) and I had a good time (except for the fact that Iowa in January is really cold).  Compared to my next trip, however, this was just a warm-up.

For the past four years, WBS has made the trek up to Hastings, Minnesota, to present the Masters of the Sky program at the Carpenter Nature Center.  The first major difference between Minnesota and Iowa—Minnesota is much further away.  The second difference between the trips—the Iowa trip had five animals who were relatively low-maintenance.  The Minnesota trip?...Eight birds of prey, one of which was a very large eagle…  And the third difference—this time, we only had three people with us: Teri, Daan (WBS intern from the Netherlands) and me.  Upon hearing about all of these differences, I was, I admit, a bit daunted.  How were we going to pull off an eight-bird show with only three people?  It turned out to be a pretty amazing trip.
Me, Emily Hall, and Duncan the Wedge-tailed Eagle with Carpenter Nature Center in the background
On March 1st, we packed up our birds and our supplies and hit the road.  It took 9 ½ hours to get from Valley Park, MO to Hastings, MN.  When you get to where you’re going, you have to set up your bird headquarters, and make sure that all of your birds are still happy and healthy after the long trip.  When we arrived, we unloaded, made sure our perches were secure, fed our birds and put them to bed.  Needless to say, Teri, Daan and I all fell asleep promptly upon arriving at our accommodations. 

The next three days were a flurry of activity.  We did 2 school programs for a local elementary school on the morning of the 2nd (the kids loved seeing Mesquite the Harris’ Hawk flying right over their heads).  That evening, we gave a show for the Carpenter Nature Center’s annual fundraiser.  It was very exciting to use their facilities—we got some wonderful flights from Goblin the Barn Owl. 

On the 3rd and the 4th, people from all over the area came to watch our shows.  They were awed by the flights of Jet the American Kestrel, laughed at Osiris the Egyptian Vulture’s “feather-do”, and they loved seeing Mischief the Raven taking donations.

Though the weekend was action-packed, I was still proud to be there representing World Bird Sanctuary and St. Louis.  I was very pleased to be part of the team that trucked to Minnesota that weekend.
A Northern Saw-whet Owl...a bird rarely seen in Missouri
…As exciting as it was to present the bird shows, I was equally excited about the northern birds I would be able to see.  On the morning of the 4th, Teri, Daan and I woke up early.  Led by a very generous volunteer at Carpenter Nature Center, we trekked east of St. Paul and hiked to a small grove of pine trees.  Sitting in the branches, clutching a dead mouse, was a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  This is an owl that is rare to see in Missouri, and we were all excited to be able to add a bird to our life lists. 

As luck would have it, that was not the only owl we saw that day.  When we were leaving Carpenter that evening, that same volunteer called us, and gave us the location of another rare owl….  We drove along Hwy 55, and spotted a Snowy Owl on a telephone pole searching a nearby field for tasty food.

As tiring as travel sometimes is, I’m very glad to have had these experiences.  It teaches you endurance, responsibility and patience.  Besides—how often do you go on a business trip and have fun as well?

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Monday, May 28, 2012

365 Photo Project - Rabbit vs. Owl


April was a good month for taking photos.  Spring is always a good time for wildlife photos, and I had a hard time choosing this month’s feature photos.
 Definitely a rabbit/owl standoff
My first favorite photo from this month is of the young Barn Owl our education department is raising—Minerva.  Until they are a certain age, our hand raised Barn Owls are given the freedom to roam our wildlife kitchen.  This accustoms them to humans and their activities. One day she wandered into the Nature Center and discovered our rabbit, Hazel.  She put her wings out in a threatening manner.  This was very amusing to watch especially since, in the kitchen, Minerva always liked the rabbit and would sit in front of her cage for hours just watching.  However, it seems that in the classroom it was another story altogether.

My second favorite photo is not the greatest quality, but it means a lot to me.  On April 21, 2012 a group of us traveled to Onondaga Cave State Park for Missouri’s first bat festival, which was presented by the Organization for Bat Conservation out of Michigan.   We had a good time and saw a program about bats, which featured a few live bats of different species. 
 Peggy, a Malaysian Flying Fox
The program had two live bats; one was a Common Vampire Bat and the other is the one pictured in the photo—Peggy, a Malaysian Flying Fox.  Very cool bat!  This is the world’s largest bat weighing in at about 2lbs.  She is an injured bat and cannot fly, but still an amazing animal.

If you would like to meet Minerva, our young Barn Owl, or see a real live bat up close, come visit our Nature Center, which is open 363 days of the year from 8 am to 5 pm. 

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, May 26, 2012

That Other Guy Chronicles: Silo


My name is Neal Cowan, and this is my first blog post for the World Bird Sanctuary.

Since this is my first article I thought it fitting to talk about the love of my life; a baby Barn Owl named Silo and how she brought me around to these exceptional animals. First, however, let us start at the beginning…before I knew anything about birds…. before I ever intended to work with animals.

I got my degree in English with the intention of teaching.  Before college I worked primarily in construction: managing people, computers or heavy machinery.  I always enjoyed working with people--animals never fit in the equation.  When I initially applied for the internship at World Bird Sanctuary, it was more out of curiosity and the desire to try something new than anything else.  So you can imagine my bewilderment when, following my internship, I was offered a summer job here. Never would I have considered myself an “animal person.”

My experience as an intern was amazing.  I learned so much, met some interesting people and had a blast, though I never would have expected it to lead to an actual job. At first I wondered how I would fit in this new archetype. It is one thing to be an intern, but to be an actual employee? Now that is a whole new ballpark. I was not sure if I had enough interest in these animals to warrant the responsibility: then I met Silo.
 These baby Barn Owls are 14 days old...I thought they were baby dragon look-alikes
On February 13th, weighing in at no more than a few grams, a beautiful baby girl was born (or rather: hatched).  A baby Barn Owl is an interesting sort.  My first impression was that I was looking at a baby dragon.  When they first hatch, before they get their feathers, they are so cute and look nothing like a Barn Owl…in my humble opinion anyway.  Then I (along with the sole member of the Propagation Department) began looking after little number 42 (last 2 numbers of its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band), Silo.  I was hesitant at first, but the first time she crawled into my lap and looked up at me, I was lost.
 By approximately 21 days Silo began to look somewhat less dragon-like, but still not what I thought of as a Barn Owl look-alike
In the Missouri wild, especially eastern and northeastern Missouri, these amazing animals are facing a bleak future as they suffer from habitat loss and secondary poisoning.  Our Propagation Department here at the World Bird Sanctuary is hard at work getting their numbers back up, but their efforts alone will not be enough.  If you or someone you know uses pesticides for mice, be aware that one poisoned mouse can kill an entire family of Barn Owls.  Knowledge of these issues is the greatest chance these creatures have, which is where Silo is stepping up to help her kind.
 It's hard to believe that in the short space of 65 days the dragon look-alike pictured above will morph into a beautiful bird like our Goblin, pictured here
Young Silo is being well groomed for her future as a member of the zoo show team, where, one day she will venture out into the world to teach young and old alike about her amazing species and what we can all do to safeguard their survival in the wild.

Submitted by Neal Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Naturalist Led Nature Hikes


Hey! There's Nature in My Woods!
Family-friendly guided nature hikes! 

Join us for a leisurely two-hour hike through our oak hickory forest to see what kind of nature is in our woods.  An expert naturalist will lead you on your hike - where you may see birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.  Learn about trees, rocks and who knows what else?  Each hike will be a new experience as the seasons change and we encounter different creatures.

·       Fourth Saturday of every month from April through October.
·       9am - 11am (registration at 8.30am)
·       $9 per adult; $7 per child

Reservations required - call 636-225-4390 ext. 0

Bring your family!  Bring your friends!  Bring your camera!  Bring your picnic!  And join us outside in May for fun family entertainment!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bald Eagle Flight at Joplin's Home Football Game


On the 1-year anniversary of the tornado that devastated the city of Joplin, Missouri, I have been reflecting on an amazing experience.  On September 10, 2011 a World Bird Sanctuary crew of staff members, birds of prey, and a Bald Eagle traveled to Joplin, Missouri. 

This was the beginning of a new school year in Joplin—just under four months after the devastating tornado tore through town on May 22nd, 2011. The occasion was the home opening game of the new school season.
 All the Joplin schools have the Bald Eagle as their mascot
World Bird Sanctuary and Missouri American Water Company, who sponsored our trip, wanted to help lift the spirits of the people of Joplin.

We did live bird programs at all 4 of the grade schools affected by the tornado.
We also did a program on Thursday night at the Community Center in downtown Joplin. The program was open to the public and very well attended. We flew some birds of prey over the guests and then capped off the evening by flying Clark the Bald Eagle—twice--over the crowd.  Everyone was in high spirits that night.
 We did programs at all 4 of the schools affected by the tornado
The next day was Friday--the day of the first home game of the new Football season. To say there was excitement in the crowd is an understatement.  The feeling of accomplishment and resilience in this town was palpable.
 Eagle Trainer Roger Wallace and WBS founder Walter Crawford with Clark before the release
Kids and adults were dressed in the school colors. The band was playing.  Roger Wallace, the Eagle trainer, and I had practiced flying the Eagle over the football field the day before. So we were very confident that Clark the Bald Eagle would fly straight and true.  Roger Wallace has done an excellent job training this beautiful bird.
 Roger Wallace & Clark before the release
 As I walked onto the playing field with Clark, after the National anthem, the crowd suddenly went silent.  Over the loud speaker the crowd was told to focus their attention on the 20-yard line to watch the flying of the Bald Eagle. Suddenly you could hear a pin drop.  I was holding the Eagle, which I had done many times before, but this time seemed surreal.  You could almost feel the tension of the crowd. 

I could see that Roger was ready, and then saw him give the cue. I was ready to heave Clark into the air for the flight, but Clark had already seen Roger give his cue and he lifted off the glove as if he knew that this time was something special.  I watched him fly down the field to Roger as he had practiced so many times before, straight and true as an arrow.  WHAT A GREAT FEW MOMENTS!  There was a deafening roar from the crowd as Clark landed on Roger’s glove, and they went crazy!  I’ve never heard such a loud crowd response before or since.

I'm sure more than a few people shed a tear at the glorious sight of our National Symbol, Joplin’s School Mascot, flying down that field.  Clark seemed to symbolize the spirit, resilience and courage of this small town, which had come so far in such a short time.

Our thanks to Missouri American Water Company for making this inspiring event possible.

Submitted by Michael Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Not Just Another Dark Shadow


There are about 60 species of eagles in the world.  One of the eagles at the World Bird Sanctuary is an exceptional bird who has an incredible personality.  His name is Shadow and he is a Bateleur Eagle (Terathoplus ecaudatus). 
 Meet Shadow, one of our Bateleur Eagles
There are four types of eagles: snake/serpent eagles, booted/true eagles, sea/fish eagles, and harpy/buteonine eagles. Bateleur Eagles are in the snake-eagle family.  These eagles are one of the few animals that will eat venomous snakes.  Their tough skin helps to withstand bites and their behavior of puffing up their feathers keeps snakes from actually biting them.  Instead of biting their skin, they would only get a mouthful of feathers!  I think that is very impressive!
 Here, on another Bateleur Eagle,  you can see the coloration pattern for the female of the species--also, note the short tail
Bateleur is French for acrobat or tumbler.  These eagles are very acrobatic when flying during aerial courtship displays.  The shape of their body, and their short tail which acts as a rudder, allows them to do sideways barrel rolls in the sky.  They have a large wingspan ranging from 5 ½ to 6 feet and a very short tail, around 3 inches long!  Males have black primary and secondary feathers on their wings (primaries being furthest from the body and secondaries closer), whereas females have black on the top and grey underneath their secondary wing feathers.   The males weigh around 4-5 pounds; females surpass them at 5-6.2 pounds.  Besides size, this feather coloration is the only way to distinguish males from females. 
Here you can see an example of the facial color change ....excited to be picked up by handler
Aside from the long wings and short tail, Bateleurs also have a distinctive red face and feet.  Their skin will change from a bright red when they are excited to a pale orange or yellow when they are uncertain or frightened.
 ....uncertain about being placed in a new environment.  Photos taken within minutes of each other
Bateleur Eagles are native to central-western and southern areas of Africa.  The tan coloration of feathers on the back can vary in shade depending on which region the eagle is from.  Below you can see a picture of Shadow showing off his impressive colors and wingspan. 
 Shadow displaying his impressive wingspan
Bateleur eagles are a near threatened species. A BirdLife International study (2009) estimated the total global population of mature birds at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals. The total regional population for southern Africa, including Swaziland, is now probably less than 700 pairs (Barnes 2000). From 1980 to 2000, there was an estimated 75% decline in total numbers in southern Africa (Watson and Maritz 2000).   For more information about population densities click here

These beautiful birds mate for life-just like the Bald Eagle native to North America.  Another interesting fact is that they will sometimes travel up to 200 miles a day looking for food.  Their diet consists of reptiles, eggs, crabs, insects, small mammals, birds, carrion (dead animals), small antelope, and sometimes fish.  These birds are definitely carnivores!

Shadow came to us through U.S. Customs.  He was once wild in Africa, but captured and taken out of his home illegally.  He is at least 25 years old this year.  The lifespan of these birds range from 20 to 30 years in the wild.  The oldest Bateleur Eagle in captivity lived to the ripe old age of 55.  On average, the lifespan in captivity is 40-50 years old.

In 2010, Shadow was at Grant’s Farm with me helping educate the public.  Grant’s Farm is located in Grantwood Village near St. Louis.  This year he is back again with Whitney Cowan, who is a new addition to our staff this summer.

Shadow is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.  To adopt Shadow click here (Link) or for more information call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  I invite you to visit Grant’s Farm this summer to see Shadow up close and personal!  He is an amazing bird.

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, May 18, 2012

Clyde Appears at Akers Eagle Scout Ceremony


At 3 pm, on September 17, 2011 at the Beaumont Scout Reservation World Bird Sanctuary helped Christopher Michael Akers celebrate his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. The setting for the Eagle Scout Ceremony was a wonderful early fall day outside.
 Eagle Scout Chris Akers with WBS Naturalist Michael Zieloski and Clyde the Bald Eagle
Christopher did his Eagle Scout project with us at the World Bird Sanctuary. He coordinated the building of two eagle-sized rehab cages for the hospital.  Thanks to Christopher and his crew for improving World Bird Sanctuary with his project.

In order to do an Eagle Scout project for the World Bird Sanctuary a scout must contact our Eagle Scout project coordinator, Walter Crawford, who will help him choose an appropriate project.  The Scout is then in charge of coordinating the project, which can range from securing donated materials to recruiting family, friends and other scouts to help with the labor.   

In appreciation of a Scout’s time and effort in doing their Eagle Scout project for the World Bird Sanctuary, we bring an eagle to his Eagle Scout ceremony.  For Christopher’s ceremony I brought Clyde, the Bald Eagle.  Clyde has his magnificent adult plumage, which Bald Eagles do not fully attain until 5 years of age. Clyde the Bald Eagle is with the World Bird Sanctuary because he is missing a toe and has wing damage. Clyde looked great at the outdoor event. 

Christopher and his parents were gracious enough to let me set up a display of World Bird Sanctuary items from our Gift Shop for the event.  The display consisted of one of our Executive Director's books, plus eagle-themed items.

We hope that more Scouts will follow Christopher’s example and do their Eagle Scout Project with World Bird Sanctuary.  If you are interested in doing your Eagle Scout project for the World Bird Sanctuary, call 636-225-4390 for more information.

Submitted by Michael Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Manchester United Methodist Church Helps WBS


Recently a church group from the Manchester United Methodist Church contacted the World Bird Sanctuary and volunteered their services for an annual “workday”.  WBS was grateful to these volunteers for all their help.  Here is their group leader, Vickie Foster’s, description of their day at the World Bird Sanctuary.

“We had the pleasure recently, of working at the World Bird Sanctuary during our church’s Faith in Action Day. 
 Members of the work party clean a weathering area while two eagles supervise
“A crew of 25 members from Manchester United Methodist Church worked from 8 until noon. We had all ages participating, including families and children.  We like to have a place to work that has wildlife and animals because it is always so popular with the kids. The team enjoyed the day thoroughly.

“Our church had worked at the sanctuary during last year’s workday also.  We were excited to be back again.  We cleaned the cages for the “education” birds while they were out on a field trip.  Everyone pitched in and swept, scrubbed and moved the cages.  We had the company of a raven in his cage and he was very calm despite all our noise.

“Then we moved into the outdoor aviaries and pulled weeds.  This gave us a chance to see several tethered eagles up close. Such magnificent creatures!  I even saw an eagle taking a bath – just like he was a little robin in a birdbath, splashing all around.

“We had a great time during our workday and especially wanted to thank Teri Graves.  She was so well organized, informative, fun and kept us on track that day.  It was a fantastic day for us all.”

If your church or organization is looking for an interesting community service project the World Bird Sanctuary usually has a project that will work for you.  For more information call 636-225-4390 and tell the operator that you have a group that wants to volunteer to do a community service project. 

Submitted by Vickie L. Foster, Guest Contributor

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rehab Releases


One of the hardest jobs at World Bird Sanctuary is working in the Rehabilitation Department.  I don’t mean in terms of physical labor, although keeping the Wildlife Hospital clean is by no means easy.   Each department at World Bird Sanctuary has quite a lot to maintain.
A Great Horned Owl recuperating in our wildlife hospital
When we receive a bird into our hospital, we immediately check it over to determine any injuries.  Any treatable injuries are immediately addressed, and if no physical injuries are apparent we, along with our vet, attempt to determine the problem with tests and x-rays.  Sometimes all a bird needs is supportive therapy until it is old enough or strong enough to hunt on its own. 
A Red-tailed Hawk well on his way to recovery
Once a diagnosis is made we prepare an enclosure where it can recover.  We then feed it, to make sure it gets the nutrients it needs to heal.  We admit between 300 and 400 injured birds of prey every year, and we generally have a 44% release rate.  This is one of the best release rates in the wildlife rehab industry.  It means that 44 out of every 100 birds we see in the hospital are released back into the wild without a problem.

It is hard to see birds struggle with illness and injury, and succumb to these maladies every day.  We do everything we can to help these birds recover, but  even with our best efforts it sometimes isn’t enough.
An Osprey spending time in a flight mew to build up his flight muscles
Working in the Wildlife Hospital is a paradox.  Dealing with those patients who don’t survive is one of the saddest parts of WBS.  At the same time, those who do survive, and are able to be released, is one of the most rewarding experiences at WBS.

In my time with WBS, I have released two birds from the Rehabilitation Department: a Cooper’s Hawk and a Great Horned Owl.  The Cooper’s Hawk was a female, and she had been injured after she flew into a window.  Her shoulder was dislocated, and she recovered at the hospital for a few weeks before she was ready to be released.

It was the very last day of my internship in 2010, and I was very excited to be able to release a rehabbed bird.  I picked the hawk up on a Saturday morning, and drove with her to Busch Wildlife Conservation Area in Weldon Spring, MO.   My parents came along, happy to be part of the occasion… and happy to take a gazillion pictures as well.
My very first release - a rehabilitated Cooper's Hawk
We picked a spot near one of the numerous lakes at Busch Wildlife, as there was certain to be a large concentration of small songbirds, the Cooper’s Hawk’s favorite prey.  I pulled the hawk out of the crate and prepared to release her.  The release went off without a hitch.  My parents and I watched the hawk soar over the lake, into the trees and out of sight.

My second release was just this summer.  This time, it was a Great Horned Owl.  This bird had been an orphan, brought into the hospital because its parents weren’t feeding it anymore.  She was fostered at the lower site by our experienced Great Horned Owl mother, Genie, for a few weeks before her release.

I drove this owl all the way to Cuba, MO to release her.  I could have gone somewhere closer to home, but this release was special to me.  My grandfather lives in Cuba, and I wanted to be able to share something special with him.  He is a bird lover like me (I come by it honestly, I guess), and I knew that he would be thrilled to witness the release of this owl.
My most special Return To The Wild because I got to share it with my Grandpa
My grandpa owns land in Cuba, and one part of this land has a small pond.  We chose that spot to give the owl some flying room.  At dusk, we walked down to the edge of the pond--my grandpa, my parents and me. I  pulled the owl from her crate, and, with a much smoother movement than with the Cooper’s Hawk so long ago, tossed her into the air.  She winged her way silently over the pond to begin a new life.  My grandfather stood in awe as she flew away.  I was so happy to be able to experience the thrill of release with him.

Though working with the sick and injured birds in the Wildlife Hospital can be disheartening at times, you remember the reason you do it when you see a rehabbed bird soaring away from you toward freedom.

If you or a member of your family would like to experience the thrill of releasing one of our rehabbed patients Click Here for information about our Return To The Wild program.

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Really Weird Birds: Part 3


On Tuesday, April 24th, I participated in the judging of a creative contest hosted by the World Bird Sanctuary.

Younger children who entered had to also submit in writing why they like birds.  Many of them said things along the lines of, “because they are cute and fluffy and can sing pretty songs!”  So innocent!  Little do they know that there are many birds that are none of the above.  Many are downright gross and merciless!  One such example is the Marabou Stork, native to sub-Saharan Africa. 
 The marabou stork’s wingspan can reach 10 ½ feet, making it one of the largest wingspans of any land bird, competing only with the Andean Condor.

The Marabou Stork doesn’t win any award for beauty, but it is a master opportunist.

Marabou is French for “ugly, misshapen, old man.”  It has a naked pink head and neck, an oversized beak and a gular sac.  The gular, or throat sac can be inflated during courtship, when it is threatened, or to help with heat loss in hot weather.  Like some vultures, it will also defecate down its legs to help with cooling through evaporation.

This stork survives by scavenging meat that vultures tear free from carcasses, since it cannot do so with its straight bill.  It will also stir up water in shallow pools and stab catfish with its beak then swallow them, head first.  Marabous will walk in front of small grass fires, snatching up the fleeing small animals.  They have also become more dependent on human garbage and have even been seen fighting with feral dogs for scraps in the streets of African villages.  They’ve been observed to consume anything that will fit down their throat, even shoes and pieces of metal!
 The Vampire Finch is native to Wolf Island and Darwin Island in the Galapagos.

Currently, the idea of vampires is very popular in movies, TV and books.  Bats are often connected to vampires in one way or another.  But have you ever heard of the Vampire Finch?
 The Vampire Finch is a distinct subspecies of the sharp-beaked ground finch.

Native to very arid islands of the Galapagos, these birds need moisture rich foods.  They seek out nectar from cacti, but that’s not where their name comes from.  They will also peck at the feet and wings of other birds, mainly Blue Footed Boobies, until they bleed.  They will then feed on the warm nutritious blood.  These birds will also roll freshly laid eggs away from other bird nests and hit them on rocks until they break, so they can enjoy what’s inside.  What monsters!

A group of birds call Petrels, coastal birds found all over the world, have a similar foul habit to vultures.
 Petrels have two tube nostrils joined together on the top of the bill.  Shown above is a Giant Petrel chick.

Their stomach contains thick, horrible smelling oil.  If a predator comes too close, they will projectile vomit that oil all over the intruder.  The oil is dangerous for other birds in that it actually makes their feathers less waterproof.  Giant Petrels, nicknamed the Stinker, will regurgitate the foul-smelling oil into their gravel nests to keep predators at bay.  Even after 100 years in a museum, their eggshells still smell.

This is just a sampling of some really weird birds that are not cute nor do they sing pretty songs, but do have odd and fascinating behaviors. 

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 the word about 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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Backyard Birds: The Carolina Chickadee


The second bird in our Backyard Bird Feature is the Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.
 There's nothing much cuter than a baby Chickadee
In the St. Louis area we are on the border where Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees occur and in this area they look similar and will even do each other’s calls.  World Bird Sanctuary’s Bird Banding team has found that 99% of the chickadees on our property are Carolina Chickadees, so this is the species I will focus on. 

Carolina Chickadees are about 4.8 inches tall.  They have a black cap and bib with white cheeks.  Their call is a fast high-pitched chick-a-dee-dee-dee.  Carolina Chickadees are found in the South Eastern US as far west as Kansas and Texas. 
 Here you can see the soft mosses and down which line a Chickadee's nest
Carolina Chickadees make their nests inside tree cavities or nest boxes.  They line their nests with moss, grass, plant down (the fuzzy down that allows seeds dispersed through the air by certain plants to float on air currents—such as dandelion and thistle), feathers and hair, and lay 5-8 eggs that are white with reddish-brown spots.
 A nest full of Carolina Chickadees waiting to be banded and then returned to the nest
Chickadees are in the family Paridae, which includes Chickadees and Titmice.  Worldwide there are 53 species in 8-12 genera.  Most are in the Northern Hemisphere, except for a few that occur in southern Africa and Indonesia.  In North America there are 11 species in 2 genera.  All are considered omnivorous, eating mainly insects and seeds. 

Many species of the chickadee family pair for life.  Chickadees are flock birds--especially during the winter--and will often travel with other species of birds.  Chickadees are also well known for their mobbing tendencies.  This is where smaller birds try to drive predatory birds out of their territory.  Chickadees will especially mob the smaller owl species, like Eastern Screech Owls.

Carolina chickadees have adapted well to humans, and frequently live in towns and cities.  They are common at feeders.  They prefer sunflower seeds and peanuts.  They will even enjoy a little suet during the winter months.  They will go to the ground for food, as well as frequenting hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc. 

If you wish to enjoy chickadees even more, they will frequently use nest boxes.  If you wish to build a nest box, you can go to our web site and print nest box plans—or visit our Gift Shop in the Nature Center and purchase a nest box.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is an attribution of human characteristics to a non-human, such as animals, plants, phenomena or inanimate objects.  It is a common occurrence in cartoons, television shows, books and movies. 

A prime example of anthropomorphism is the movie Ice Age.  All the characters had humanlike characteristics.  We all know that animals do not really act and think like people do. 
Tsavo, displaying the regal bearing of a Bateleur Eagle 
When you work with animals as much as we do here at World Bird Sanctuary, it can sometimes be difficult not to wonder what the birds would be thinking if they did think like humans.  So, in my head I often anthropomorphize our birds.  A good example of when I do this is when I am handling Tsavo, one of our beautiful Bateleur Eagles.  In my head I always imagine Tsavo speaking in third person, short and to the point.  Like in this picture I imagine him saying “Tsavo hates symmetry!  Obey Tsavo!” 
A very wet Jack
During the Stone Zoo show season in 2011, there was one very rainy day and the look that Jack, our Harris’s Hawk, had on his face made me think that he was thinking “I hate being wet, can I have a towel please?” 
Baton Rouge loves attention
Baton Rouge, our amazing and sweet King Vulture often slyly walks along the mew in a posture that seems to me as if he is begging for attention.  He often sticks his beak through the wires and makes adorable lip-smacky noises. 
Waylon does the hip hop
Our Blue and Gold Macaw, Waylon, seems to get super excited while sitting on the back of a chair.  In my head I often find myself thinking that he would be saying “Look at me! No hands!  Now I’m gonna dance.” 
Nemo, the African Grey Parrot seems to be saying "Who me?  Would I do that?"
Finally there is Nemo, our African Grey Parrot.  He is very intelligent and he seems to know it.  Sometimes he will mimic the sounds of a Red-Legged Seriema because he seems to know that it will cause the other Seriemas to start their vocal battle of dominance, by seeing who can be the loudest.  After he gets them all calling out, he will sit on his perch with a look on his face that makes me wonder if he’s thinking “Don’t look at me, I didn’t get them started.” 

All in all, at the end of the day we know that they are just birds and they don't think like we do, but it is too much fun not to wonder what it would be like if they did.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What Does A Field Studies Coordinator Do?

In the past month or so I have been asked the same question numerous times. “So what exactly is your job?”  So, for all of you who have wondered just what a “field studies coordinator” does—here is a short description.
 One of the 330 nest boxes in the St. Louis/Franklin County which we monitor
My workweek is similar in timing to most Monday through Friday workweeks, but that’s where the majority of the similarities end. I am in charge of around 330 nest boxes, or birdhouses, around the St. Louis/Franklin county area. With the support of Ameren Missouri we have developed a study to find the most advantageous way to manage flora (plant life) around the electrical lines while keeping our feathered friends happy.

The three different ways that Ameren manages flora in the power line cuts are by spraying, mowing, and a combination of the two. What we have done is place boxes in the mow, spray, and mow/spray areas. What we are looking for are the success rates of the nests and number of active nests in each of the three areas. With this process being repeated over a number of nesting seasons we should be able to notice a trend. The trend that we are looking for is the most productive nest box area. This in theory will point us towards the best flora management practice.

As noted earlier there are 330 nest boxes that I oversee, and the boxes are located at the base of the electric line stanchions. For those who don’t know what a stanchion is--think of the Eiffel tower scaled down and that’s what a stanchion looks like, with current carrying wires strung between each Eiffel Tower!  Every stanchion has four legs, and on each leg there is a nest box.

My weekly duties are to visit each nest box once a week and record weather or not there is a nest and if there are offspring. If so, I record the nesting material, species, and the number of offspring.  At the correct age I will place a band around the leg of each individual youngster, and the banding information will be sent to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for their banding records.

So—the next time someone mentions a “field studies coordinator” in casual conversation you can say, “Of course, I know what that is!”

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cupid: The American Barn Owl

I would like to introduce you to a new member of World Bird Sanctuary; Cupid the Barn Owl. 
How could anyone resist this face?
Cupid’s parents are Buffy and Moonshine—one of our newest breeding pairs.  Cupid was hatched on February 14th, 2012 in one of the Propagation Department mews in the Sunnen Building.  His hatch date, fluffy white down, and striking heart-shaped face inspired the name Cupid.  (And if those beautiful brown eyes don’t pierce your heart, it probably isn’t beating).  

When Cupid turned five days old, Roger Wallace, WBS’s propagation coordinator, gently took him out of his parents’ nest and transferred him to a brooder box.  This box keeps the bird warm, like its real mother would, until it is big enough and has a thick, downy coat to keep itself warm.  Some of Cupid’s nest mates remained in the nest to be raised by the parents.  Those birds will have  minimal contact with humans and will be released into suitable barn owl habitat when they are old enough. 
Cupid was removed from the nest at such a young age in order to accustom him to humans.  When Cupid becomes an adult, he will fly in World Bird Sanctuary Education programs as an ambassador for his species, and will help to educate the public about the threats to his wild cousins that have caused them to be put on the endangered species list in some states here in the U.S.  He will need to be handled by, and fly around humans every day.  That is why we want Cupid to not have fear of humans. 
During the earliest days, Cupid--then known as #43 because of its band number--was hand fed, mostly by Roger Wallace.  By the time he turned 30 days old, he had gained enough body mass that he could maintain body temperature outside the brooder box.  At that point I put a carpet square in a small crate, gently placed him inside it, and took him to my apartment.  I felt a little nervous when I first began to take care of him; I had never raised baby barn owls before.  But Cupid responded well when I began to feed him. 
I love watching Cupid grow and change every day.  He spends his days in an owl playpen we built in half of an empty mew in the Educational Training Center.  That way he can get used to the pace and sounds of human activity.  In the evenings I allow Cupid free run of my apartment.  He normally tries to seek out little hiding places, such as behind the couch or under the desk.  I don’t allow him to hide for very long, because the whole point of his spending time in my apartment is to become accustomed to humans.  Even though I know he doesn’t understand, I spend a lot of time talking to him, and he just stares back and “chitters” at me. When I am ready to sleep, I just place Cupid’s crate on the floor and he runs right into it!  He knows which crate belongs to him, even when given the opportunity to go into more than one. 
Cupid has already made his public debut at World Eagle Day.  His next big step will be in April when he will travel with me to Milwaukee to continue his Education Bird training at our Milwaukee County Zoo bird show.  There he will become used to the routines of the day, his equipment and the commotion of the crowds at the zoo.
I am really enjoying the opportunity to help “Clever Cupid” to become a comfortable and proficient Barn Owl Education Ambassador.  After all, how often do you get the opportunity to be a foster mom to a Barn Owl?

Submitted by Leah Sainz, Naturalist/Trainer

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Camera Day is Here

Spring Camera Day
Bring your cameras! 
Taking photos of our birds has never been easier.  Join us for our Spring Camera Day, when we place birds in natural settings and fly them from trainer to trainer.  Our naturalists position the birds with photographs in mind - no fences or perches to obstruct that perfect photo - just a beautiful bird posing for you!

You have to be a WBS Friend to gain admission to Camera Day.  If you are not already a WBS Friend you can join on the day for as little as $35!

Bring lots of film, data cards and enthusiasm.  Schiller's Camera and Nikon will be on hand to help you get the perfect shot!  Concessions will be available.

·       Date: Sunday 6 May
·       Time: 10am - 2pm

Admission: Must be WBS Friend - you can sign-up on the day!