Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Really Weird Birds Part 7

During our education programs about birds of prey, we tell the audience that most birds do not use their nose to find food, but their excellent eyesight and hearing.  There are some exceptions, however. 

Turkey Vultures have an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to find dead animals that may be under trees and bushes.  Another bird that uses its nose to find food is the Kiwi, native only to the forests of New Zealand.
The kiwi is the national symbol of New Zealand.
 There are in fact five species of Kiwis, which I was surprised to learn.  Two are considered vulnerable, one is endangered, and one is critically endangered all due to the substantial destruction of their habitat and invasive mammalian predators.  These predators include possums, stoats, and domestic cats and dogs, all of which were introduced by humans. 

The Kiwi gets its name from the Maori imitation of its cry.  The Kiwi is truly a unique bird and has several interesting characteristics about it.  At a glance, they have a long narrow beak, no tail, large feet, and have little wings that are hidden by their coarse, bristly, hair-like feathers. 

The Kiwi is the only bird that has nostrils at the end of its beak.  They have a very well-developed sense of smell which they use to find insects, grubs, worms, and other invertebrates underground.  They will drive their long beak into the ground to catch them.  They will also eat berries and seeds off the forest floor.  

These mostly nocturnal birds are flightless.  Their one-inch wings are useless. They also lack a keel (bone for attachment of large flight muscles) on the breastbone, and have tough, thick skin.  All are adaptations for terrestrial life.  They don’t have hollow bones either; they have marrow inside them like us.  They do have very strong, muscular legs, which make up about one third of their weight.  Despite its small (adults are about 15 inches tall) and awkward appearance, a Kiwi can outrun a human!
Kiwis typically mate for life, unless a more attractive male wanders along.  Their lifespan is unknown; however, it is guessed to be about 40 years in the wild.  The male will dig a burrow where the female will lay (usually) one egg.  The Kiwi lays the largest egg in proportion to its size of any bird in the world.  One egg can reach up to 20 percent of its mother's weight, which would be like a 150 pound woman giving birth to a 30 pound baby!  The female Kiwi must eat three times her normal amount of food during the 30 days the egg is growing.  However, two to three days before the egg is laid, there is no more room for any food in her stomach, so she is forced to fast.
  Relative size of a Kiwi egg to the female.         

The male will be the sole incubator of the egg.  Kiwi chicks hatch fully feathered with their eyes open and begin foraging for small worms and berries after their first week of life.  It may stay with Dad for up to 20 days before going on its own.

What does the future hold for the Kiwi?  Like many of New Zealand’s flightless birds, the Kiwi has suffered from habitat loss and the introduction of new predators, like cats and dogs.  A Kiwi recovery program called BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust was launched in 2002 in New Zealand.  Also, Operation Nest Egg  collects Kiwi eggs from the wild and raises the chicks until they are large enough to defend themselves against predators.  People living near Kiwi areas have learned to keep their pets leashed or indoors and to slow down their cars at Kiwi caution signs. 

Loose pets in the United States are also a detriment to wild bird populations, so please restrain them!

If you want to help endangered birds, part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.  You can help us fulfill our mission by simply visiting us and spreading what you’ve learned, becoming a member or friend, or adopting-a-bird, which helps us feed that bird for a year!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, October 29, 2012

Of Birds and Kilts

When I began volunteering at the World Bird Sanctuary in the spring of 2011, I had vague dreams of handling and flying birds. 

I worked hard to discover what my strengths (talking to visitors and bird room cleanup – that’s a nice way of saying I clean bird up poop – can I say poop in a blog post?) and weaknesses (bird food prep) as a Naturalist are. 

By fall 2011 I was helping with Owl Prowls.  By January 2012 I was ready to help with remote display events and even held walk-on roles in a few programs.  Having also learned to fly birds glove-to-glove, I had the luxury of volunteering to help out with a variety of on- and off-site events. 
The games were new and strange - here they are doing the caber tossing event (photo by Sandra Murray) 
Each fall, the St. Louis Scottish Games Organization (a not-for-profit) coordinates the Scottish Games event that takes place in Forest Park.  The purpose is for education, cultural exchange, philanthropy, and making clan connections.  They are open to anyone with interest in the history and rich culture of Scotland and Scottish heritage. 
 Executive Director Walter Crawford is quite the picture in his Kilt. (Photo by Sandra Murray)
I have been told by family members that there is Scottish blood (I think up through my paternal grandfather’s family) but I don’t think any research has ever been done.  Note to self: do research on Grandpa’s family line.   I did, however, marry into the Clan Murray.  My husband’s family has been able to trace their roots back to Scotland.  As a result of this history, I have also developed a crush on all things Scottish including several Scottish celebrities like Gerard Butler, David Tennant (Doctor Who – don’t get me started), and Craig Ferguson.  And, I have to admit, that I am crazy for men brave enough to wear Kilts!  I think it has something to do with getting to see their knees (sigh) and perhaps the constant mystery of what they wear (or don’t wear) beneath them!  So I was very excited to see the 2012 Scottish Games listed in the Help Needed email from World Bird Sanctuary that circulated in early September.  I eagerly submitted my name to participate.
 Volunteer Fred Abrolat releases Lewis (Photo by Sandra Murray)
I know you’re thinking, “Isn’t this supposed to be a blog about birds?”  Stick with me-- here come the birds.  A crew of humans from the World Bird Sanctuary (Walter Crawford, Roger Wallace, Fred Abrolat, Cathy Spahn, and Gina Staehle) and a crew of birds were with me at the Scottish Games.  We had Lewis & Clark – Bald Eagles; Tigger – Tawny Owl; Xena – Eurasian Eagle Owl; Sequoia – Red Tailed Hawk; and Lightning – Peregrine Falcon.   Most of us were either in Renaissance Faire style clothes or decked out in Kilts. 
  Little did I know there was something amiss with my skirt (photo by Cathy Spahn)
The first thing that happened to me that day was noticing that I was wearing my borrowed Ren Faire skirt inside out.  It stayed inside out all day.  The second thing that happened to me was a funny encounter with, uh, Clark’s poop.  There I go saying poop in a blog again.  As Clark was being transferred from his traveling crate to his display perch, and in an act of precise timing and aim, Clark sliced all over my lunch bag, water bottle, and camera.  The lens of my lovely Canon Rebel was covered in poop.  I think Roger was more upset about it than I it was his fault Clark was aimed in just the right direction at the exact right moment.  For the most part it was nothing the water hose couldn’t fix.  My lunch was fine, the water bottle was fine, and my camera, after careful cleaning, went on to shoot more than 100 pictures.  I praised Clark for his spot on accuracy, then forgave him and made him pose for a picture with me to get even.
 Lewis was spot on with his flights (Photo by Sandra Murray)
Lewis gave two spectacular flight demonstrations in the main ring to the delight of the crowd.  For many that have seen this wonderful bird fly at Busch Stadium, it was a real treat to see his flight close up.  There were cameras and phones aimed all around as he flew back and forth between Roger and Fred. 
Crowds surrounded trainer Roger Wallace and Lewis after each flight (Photo by Sandra Murray) 
It was a pleasure to see peoples’ delight as they surrounded Roger after each demo to photograph Lewis and ask questions.  This is why I do this; seeing their faces light up as they encounter birds from World Bird Sanctuary.  I know that my face reflects the same joy and wonder as I look at them too.  There were lots of visitors to our area to ask questions about the birds and the facility.  We, of course, were happy to educate and invite them to visit.
 The food booth gave attendees the opportunity to try new foods (Photo by Sandra Murray)
The entire day was a feast for the eyes, ears, and taste buds as we listened to and watched the athletic games, bagpipes and pipe and drum corps competitions, and sampled the variety of distinctly Scottish foods (Haggis anyone?) available.

With a little sun on our noses and necks, we packed everyone back up and headed back to World Bird Sanctuary.  Next up for me is a trip to Kansas City for WBS’s participation in the Renaissance Faire.  Note to self: make sure your clothes are on right side out next time. 

The dreams that dance in my head now revolve around flying a Bald Eagle glove-to-glove and accompanying the flight team to a St. Louis Cardinals game.  And, Ok, I’ll admit it, I’d also like to get my husband into a kilt!

Submitted by Sandra Murray, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer Naturalist

Photo by Lisbeth Hodges

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sanibel The Sensational Bird

Today I want to introduce you to Sanibel.  She is a beautiful Bald Eagle.  She also just happens to be the national symbol for the United States of America.  Once you meet her you will definitely fall in love with her just like I did!
Sanibel - a big favorite with everyone
Sanibel was hatched in the wild on Sanibel Island, Florida.   As a juvenile, she was struck by a vehicle and sustained permanent damage to her right wing, which had to be partially amputated.  She was then transferred from a rescue center in Florida to the World Bird Sanctuary several years ago. 

Sanibel’s “personality” seems to rub off on those that handle and care for her.   As compared to other Bald Eagles I have handled, she has a very mellow personality.  If she has any quirks, she does seem to favor female more than male handlers.   Her favorite foods are fish, chicken, and her all-time favorite—rabbit!

There are northern and southern sub-species of the Bald Eagle.  Northern sub-species are larger than the Southern.  Sanibel is a Southern, since she is originally from Florida. 

The Bald Eagle is native only to North America.  Bald Eagles got their name from the white color on their head.  The term “balde” means white in Old English.  They are not actually bald.   Both males and females look the same when considering their plumage (feather color). 
Norbert at 3 years old - note the beginnings of white head and tail feathers
The differences between juvenile (young) and adult Bald Eagles are, however, very different.   For their first year of life, juveniles have all dark brown feathers with dark brown eyes and brown/black beaks.  Second and third year birds develop white feathers on their breasts, and those same feathers on fourth year birds then start to change back to dark brown again.  It will generally take about five years for the juvenile to change into adult plumage.  Over those years the head and tail feathers will change from brown to white.  Their eye and beak color will change to yellow.
Clark - entering his fifth year - note the white on head and tail
The Bald Eagle’s lifespan ranges from 20 to 25 years in the wild and 40 to 50 years in captivity (Sanibel is 22 years old this year).  Their wingspan ranges from six to eight feet, with the females having a larger wingspan.  In most birds of prey the females are larger than the males.  However, a northern male may be the same size or a bit larger than a southern female.  This is because northern species are larger than southern species.  Their diet ranges from small mammals, small birds, carrion (dead animals), to fish--which is generally their diet mainstay.  Bald Eagles are in the Fish Eagle genus after all!

Bald eagles build the largest nest of all birds of prey!  It is astounding to see one!  They mate for life, and each year they will return to the same nest (if it hasn’t been destroyed by weather or other causes) and add to it, so each year it can grow and grow!   The largest nest ever recorded was found in Florida.  It was over 10 feet wide, over 20 feet deep and weighed almost 3 tons!  Bald Eagles will generally lay from one to three eggs in a clutch (group of eggs).

In the early 1930’s the Bald Eagle population had decreased dramatically, due to the mistaken perception that eagles were predators of livestock.  Many Bald Eagles were shot by ranchers and farmers who thought they were protecting their flocks.  Also, many succumbed to poisoned carcasses put out as bait for wolves and coyotes; some were shot by people who thought it was great sport to take a shot at anything that flies.  So severe was the drop in population that people began to notice, and the Bald Eagle Act was passed in the 1940’s.  This act basically states that they are protected and no harm or disturbance could be targeted toward them.  It is now illegal for people to possess even a feather from a Bald Eagle, with the exception of some Native American tribes, where the Bald Eagle is part of their religious ceremonies.

After enactment of the Bald Eagle Act the populations began to recover, but around the same time DDT (dichloro- diphenyl- trichloroethane) had been developed for pesticide use in agriculture.  Unfortunately DDT had adverse effects on many animals, but most dramatically--birds.  It affects the calcium formation in eggshells. When birds, even Bald Eagles, would sit on their eggs, their weight would crush them because the shells were so thin.  Fortunately in the late sixties and early seventies several states put the Bald Eagle on the Endangered Species List to protect it further.  In 1972, DDT was banned in the U.S. After a thirty-five year recovery period, and due in good measure to the efforts of many conservation and rehabilitation organizations such as the World Bird Sanctuary, the Bald Eagle was finally taken off the Endangered Species List in 2007. 

The Bald Eagle, our cherished national symbol, is still protected to this day by the Bald Eagle Act. 
Like all the birds at WBS, Sanibel enjoys soaking in her water tub
Above and below you can find some pictures of Sanibel bathing.  It is such an awesome sight to see her bathe!   She really makes a big splash, even in the hearts of those who work with her on a daily basis. 
....and then, of course, there's a big splashy bath
Sanibel is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.   To find out more information about our Adopt A Bird program call 636-861-3225 or visit our website.  All adoption donations are tax deductible. 

This summer Sanibel has been performing at Grant’s Farm (on display and in the bird show) in Grantwood Village near St. Louis, Missouri.  Sanibel is a very beautiful bird.  You should stop on by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, October 25, 2012

HEARING: It's Not What You Think It Is – Part 2

Howdy folks. It’s that time again and this time we are on to part 2 of amazing animal hearing.

In my last blog we discussed how the dolphin uses the bone of its jaw to pick up high frequencies and how the elephant can communicate up to thirty miles away with just its feet. So what’s next?
 Big-eared Bat - bats use sonar to "hear"

Well, I suppose we can’t talk about hearing without mentioning the bat.  Of course most people know that bats use ultrasonic echolocation to find their way (and their prey) in the dark.  As the bat is soaring through the air with the greatest of ease, it’s making very high-pitched noises that shoot out into the world, bounce off stuff and come back to the bat, basically telling the bat what’s out there.

What bats use is basically the same as what we humans use in submarines.  You know; like in the movies when the guy (or gal) is in the sub and you hear that BING… BING… BING… in the background.  That …BING… is the sonar, with the BING bouncing off what is around the sub and being “heard” with devices within the sub.  A bat’s sonar is super sensitive and helps them build a three dimensional map of the world.

The bat’s echolocation is so sensitive it can tell the bat the texture of the stuff around it and even how fast the bat is moving.  Some bats have the added ability to change the shape of their ears to help them pick up different types of sounds depending on the situation--if it is looking for its next meal, or just a place to hang for the night.

So, even though the range of a bat’s hearing (how far away they can hear noises) is fairly average, they rank high on my list for the sheer amount of information they get just from their ears.

While we are on the subject of nocturnal creatures, we might as well take some time to talk about the animal that started us down this path in the first place, the Barn Owl.
A Barn Owl's ears are not where you think they are.

Tyto alba…aka The Common Barn Owl…is quite possibly the most beautiful animal on Earth (in my humble opinion anyway).  Barn Owls are one very well distributed species.  Like bats, Barn Owls can be found all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica.  Also, like the bat, their hearing is remarkable.

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing a Barn Owl in person, you know their most distinguished feature is their facial disk.  This is the ring of stiff feathers that gives their face that heart-shaped look.  Do any of you have satellite television?  Well this facial disk acts just like your satellite antenna, except that the Barn Owl’s “antenna” gathers sound.  All that noise is directed to their receivers, or ear openings.  Not only that, but their ears have flaps of skin covering them, and these flaps are not in a straight line on their heads.  On a Barn Owl the right ear flap is higher and further back on the head than the left ear.  This means that sound reaches each ear at a slightly different time.  The Barn Owl uses this difference in time to pinpoint exactly where the sound is located.  So when a mouse goes scurrying across a field way late at night, our Barn Owl friend can tell exactly where that mouse is without ever seeing it.

So our journey through naturally occurring sound receiving apparati continues.  Now we know, and knowledge is half the battle.  Our struggle for knowledge is not over yet.  Come back soon and we will continue our exploration of one of the most amazing senses--hearing.
WBS's Straw-colored Fruit Bats-- Batty & Scar

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary take a stroll through our Nature Center where you’ll find our two Straw-colored Fruit Bats, Batty and Scar, just “hanging out” in their enclosure.

Be sure to check out our blog for the next installment on the wonderful sense of hearing….same bat time, same bat channel next month.

Submitted by Neal Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Last Chance For Our Guided 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!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions: Part 1

So this month I opted for something a little different.  I am going to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions from the simple to the odd question. 
This Barn Owl knows there is a treat hidden in the glove 
How do you train your birds?  All of our birds are trained with positive reinforcement.  This means every time they perform a behavior correctly they get a reward.  For most of the birds it is a piece of food in the glove.  We also use variable rewards, so every now and then they get 2 or 3 pieces of food, instead of just 1.  By keeping the birds guessing this can help reinforce the behaviors the birds are doing.  Along with the rewards we will also use vocal reinforcement words like “Good” with birds like crows, ravens and parrots.  This is a somewhat simplified answer to this question.
 Scoop's beak has razor sharp edges--notice the glove on my right hand 
How much does the pelican weigh and does it hurt when a pelican bites you?  Scoop, our male White Pelican, weighs about 14 lbs., while Mudflap, our female, weighs about 10 lbs.  The pelicans look heavier than they really are, but remember they have hollow bones, lots of feathers, and air sacs within their bodies that make them lighter than they look.  The pelican beak is very interesting.  The White Pelican beak is designed for scooping up fish.  There is not a lot of strength behind the beak like a bird of prey, but the sides of the beak are almost like razors that help the pelican to hold onto the fish.  They also have a hook at the end of the beak that is kind of sharp, so it does hurt some when they bite at the right angle.  The Brown Pelican beak is much stronger since they dive into the water after their food and their beak hurts more if they bite.

Where is the other rabbit—it says you have two on the sign?  In the Nature Center, we have two rabbits, Hazel and Patches.  They are two female Mini Rex Rabbits.  They were housed together for a few years, but then one day they just did not get along.  They are now separated-- while one is housed on exhibit the other is housed behind the scenes.  We just switch them on a regular basis.

While Hazel greets visitors in the Nature Center, Patches waits her turn behind the scenes 
I hope you have enjoyed the answers to a few frequently asked questions.  If you have any questions you would like answered please post in the comments and I will answer them in a future blog.  If you would like your questions answered in person, join us today for the last day of Open House.  Any staff member will be happy to answer your questions.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, October 19, 2012

Open House - Tomorrow!

Open House 2012 is here!  Tomorrow, 10/20 and Sunday 10/21.  Plan to join us for this fun, FREE, event!

The theme for this year’s Open House is “Wings Around The World”, featuring new birds never before seen at Open House programs! 
 Meet one of our amazing King Vultures as he performs for the first time for St. Louis audiences
Programs this year will feature a flying Bateleur Eagle, a flying Tawny Owl, a beautiful King Vulture, and a snake wrangling Red-legged Seriema.  In addition we will have old favorites such as flying Hawks, a flying Bald Eagle, Falcons, Owls – and more.
Feel the breeze as one of our flying raptors skims just overhead 
The Butterfly House will join us this year with a special activity for the youngsters—a “Bug Detective” program. 

In addition, there will be behind-the-scenes tours of our breeding barn, animal behavioral and training center, and wildlife hospital. 
 Have your photo taken holding a photo op bird
For a small fee (just $10.00) our photographer will be taking photos of guests posing holding a live bird of prey.  This year’s photo op will be a bit different than in previous years.  We will be rotating between three birds—an Augur Buzzard, a Tawny Owl, and a Eurasian Eagle Owl.  Plan to have your photo taken with one or all three of these amazing birds sitting on your glove. 
 Having your face painted is always a popular activity
There will be free fun craft centers, sing alongs, face painting and other activities for the kids.  Our in-house band, The Raptor Project will be on site to entertain with their original songs about some of the wildlife you will encounter.
 One of the favorite activities for children is feeding the chickens
Bring a picnic lunch or take advantage of our concession stands.  Be sure to bring your camera, as there will be photo opportunities at every turn. 
 Our paths are now paved and easily negotiable for wheelchairs and strollers
The main paths in our triangle area are now paved and handicapped accessible, and restrooms are conveniently located nearby, but be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as you will want to explore all the attractions that will be spread out throughout our site.  For those more adventurous souls we have several hiking trails that wind through our oak/hickory forest and are natural and unpaved. 

SO….Mark your calendars!….Save the date!
Saturday, October 20
Sunday, October 21
10am – 4pm

Admission and parking are free!

For directions to our site Click Here

As always…for the safety of our other guests and our animals—no pets please.

Open House is sponsored by Ameren Missouri

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Had To Bee There

My husband and I feed the birds—both at our home here in St. Peters, MO and at our cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks, MO—although admittedly the Lake cabin is more my husband’s domain.

Even though he religiously feeds our “Lake” birds and loves watching them, he usually doesn’t have the patience to get out the bird I.D. book and look up new species when they come calling.  It’s much easier to call home and try to describe it to me so that I can I.D. it for him from 150 miles away.  Our conversation usually goes something like this…”It’s greenish and about the size of a robin.  What is it?”  Of course, my stock answer is…”I can’t tell from here—take a picture!”

Last week I got one of those calls.  However, this call had a little bit of a twist to it.  Earlier in the day when we talked he told me that the Hummingbird feeder was so covered with bees that he thought he was going to have to take the feeder inside and quit feeding the Hummers.  He said the bees were literally driving the Hummers away from the feeder.  
 The “mystery bird” trying to get to the bee inside the feeder 
Not too long after that I received a “mystery bird” call.  Apparently this “olive greenish” bird had shown up at the feeder and was feasting on the bees.  My husband wanted to know what kind of green bird eats bees.  Of course I gave him my stock answer…”Take a picture”.

That evening he called again to tell me that the bird had spent a good part of the day perched in the nearby trees at the edge of our deck, and every now and then would swoop to the feeder to feast on the bees. By the end of the day the bees were gone—presumably resting snugly in the bird’s belly!  Our Hummingbird feeder is now bee free!  Isn’t Mother Nature amazing?
  Female Summer Tanager (Western Race)  
And…yes…he did take a picture.  Apparently our feeder was a buffet for a female Summer Tanager, western race—a bird that we’ve never seen at our home feeders.

If you live in an urban area where you only see the more common “city” birds, take a ride out to the World Bird Sanctuary.  If you bring your picnic lunch and your binoculars and your bird book you may see some of the more uncommon birds at our bird feeding stations.  There are benches strategically placed for a relaxing session of bird watching.  Spend an hour…or a day.  No fees and no reservations required.

Restrooms are nearby, and once you get tired of watching the songbirds you can stroll down our paved exhibit line.   The birds in our display enclosures are always ready to welcome visitors..

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, October 15, 2012

Unexpected Bonuses

Sometimes there are unexpected bonuses when doing outdoor presentations!

Last Fall WBS volunteer (and current staff member) Teresa Aldrich and I presented a program to two school groups and the general public to help celebrate the Washington, Missouri, River Festival.
 WBS Volunteer (and current staff member) Teresa Aldrich and Dawn, the Barn Owl.
 The setting was a gorgeous Fall day in a grassy area of Washington Riverfront Park alongside the Missouri River.  Although the day was a bit breezy and on the chilly side, it was a perfect Fall day in a beautiful setting.

Before the program, as we were getting our bird carrying containers into position on a picnic bench, we noted the crowd milling about near the river.  School children were stopping by various booths and listening to educators talk about the importance of clean water, litter removal and recycling. 

There was a barge moored at the bank that was collecting trash and recycling from the rivers edge. The public was encouraged to help remove these unsightly items from the grassy area and from among native plants that line the riverbank.  You could see all of the rusty metal that had already been collected, and was piling up on the barge.

The “Turtle Lady” from Turtle and Tortoise Society  314-374-1389 was there with some of her patients, which included Box Turtles and Snapping Turtles.

All in all there were wonderful outdoor education opportunities going on all around. 

As Teresa and I were almost ready for our program we glanced toward the river and saw a Bald Eagle fly from the far bank and course up river. Then we saw what looked like a raft of ducks floating on the Missouri River. The Ducks it turned out were American Coots—a species of diving duck. Floating on the water a Coot looks like a Black bird (Duck like) with a white beak.

There were about 40 Coots in this flock, and the Bald Eagle had spotted them.  Battling the wind the Bald Eagle flew right for them. As the eagle swooped toward the Coots the ducks dove under water for just enough seconds for the Bald Eagle to miss. The Bald Eagle was strong enough to make four tries at the Coots, even with the wind, and the Coots drifting in the current.

This hovering and diving lasted about a minute and a half. I was amazed at the strength of the Eagle to make so many swipes at the Coots before it gave up and let the wind blow him (or her) back toward the trees on the far shore .

All of this action took place in the couple of minutes leading up to our presentation, and in clear view of the crowds of people milling around on the riverbank.

Once we started the formal presentation about our Raptors and their relation to the environment, I asked how many kids were able to notice and enjoy the Eagle trying to catch the other birds on the river. About two thirds of the children saw the action.

The school children that attended our program were from Our Lady of Lourdes and a second school named St. Francis Borgia. Some of the kids were from the school that was so close that they were able to enjoy the Fall day and walk from the school to the Riverside Park.  Hopefully the children who saw the tableaux will remember the sight for many years to come.  Whether they realized it or not, they were witnesses to a sight rarely seen by most people.

As it turned out there were many unexpected benefits to having such an event outside.  Consider having World Bird Sanctuary fly birds at your next Outdoor Festival.  For information about the many different presentations available from the World Bird Sanctuary Click here, or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0.

Photo and Story by Naturalist Michael Zeloski World Bird Sanctuary

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who's Laughing Now?

Chadder is her name and she is, you guessed it, a Laughing Kookaburra.
Have you heard a maniacle laugh while walking our trails?  It might be Chadder.
She got her name from what she does best, chadder.  She seems to love to voice her opinion in the early morning when the sun is barely coming up and at dusk as the sun is creeping toward the horizon.

The Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is the largest member of the Kingfisher family.  They are stocky birds that range from 13 to 16 ounces and range from 15 to 18 inches in length.  Females are normally slightly larger than the males.  Their beak can grow up to 4 inches in length. 

Kookaburras are native to eastern Australia, but have been introduced to Western Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.  These birds are known for their loud call or “laugh”, which is “kook-kook-kook-ka-ka-ka” repeating multiple times.  These birds also have the nickname of “bushman’s clock” from their early morning and evening calls every day. 
This stocky little bird with the oddly shaped bill is Chadder, our Laughing Kookaburra
The Laughing Kookaburra is a carnivore and will eat large insects, other birds, small mammals, small snakes, lizards, amphibians, and sometimes fish.  Chadder is given a variety of meat each day, such as rabbit, venison, mice, fish, and sometimes beef and chicken. 

They nest in termite mounds in the Acacia forests of Australia.  They also will use hollow trees, and earthen banks.  The female will lay one to five white eggs.  Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs over a period of 25 to 29 days.  When the chicks hatch they are blind for their first three weeks of life. 

These loud birds can live 10 to 12 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.  Chadder is currently 4 years old.  She came to us from the Milwaukee County Zoo where she was hatched.  She has learned to slam a plastic lizard on the ground (this is how they kill lizards in the wild), to step up onto the hand, and to step onto a scale for weighing.  You can see below that Chadder is happily perched on her favorite perch in her exhibit.  Almost every time I pass her, she is up there keeping a look out for new visitors that come by. 
When visitors stop at her enclosure who is watching who is debatable
She 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. 
This summer Chadder can be seen on the Exhibit Line at the World Bird Sanctuary which is open daily from 8am-5pm.  Chadder is a very boisterous little bird.  You should stop on by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wings Around the World – Annual Open House

 Many of you are familiar with our Annual Open House.  It is always held on the third weekend of October, this year being on October 20 and 21, from 10 am – 4 pm. 

Open House is a free event, and definitely one of my personal favorites.  It’s a great event for the whole family.  This year, guests are in for an extra special treat.  WBS staff and birds have been working hard all summer to bring the most unique show ever to our Open House 2012.

This year we are adding some of our very special non-native birds to the shows.  These birds have been away for the summer wowing audiences in WBS’s bird shows at the Milwaukee County Zoo and Stone Zoo in Boston. 

You will marvel at the beauty and magnificence of Tsavo, our Bateleur Eagle as he takes his maiden flight in our amphitheater at this year’s Open House.  Watch and listen to the silent flight of an adorable Tawny Owl.  Don’t think vultures are beautiful?  Wait until you see our gorgeous King Vulture!  Witness the special talents of the snake wrangling Red-legged Seriema. 

We will also still have everyone’s old favorites such as a flying Harris’ Hawk, a falcon, owls and a Bald Eagle flight that just might take your breath away.

This year we will also feature special educational shows and displays in our Outdoor Classroom which is located at our Monsanto Environmental Educational Center, by our very special guest: The Butterfly House.  There will be Missouri Native Arthropods on display, in addition to the presentations.

As with every Open House, you will be able to take Behind the Scene tours of our Breeding Barn, Animal and Behavioral Training Center and our Wildlife Hospital, which are normally closed to the public. 

We will also have free children’s activities and a craft center. 

“The Raptor Project” will close out each day with a concert held in our amphitheater, playing everyone’s favorite environmentally friendly and educational tunes, featuring many of our own animals.  Make sure the kids wear their dancing shoes! 

WBS will be offering a photo opportunity with a live bird of prey, face painting, concessions and souvenirs for a nominal fee.

Be sure to bring your cameras!

Open House comes but once a year, so make sure to mark your calendars.  You won’t want to miss this year’s new and improved line up.

Save the date:
*            Saturday, October 20
*            Sunday, October 21
Time:  10 am – 4 pm

For directions to our site Click Here 

As always, for the safety of our animals and our other guests, no pets please.

Open House sponsored by Ameren Missouri
Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator