Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ginger


It is with a sad heart that we must tell you that Ginger, our little red Bantam Cochin Chicken, passed away suddenly last week. 

Ginger had some big shoes to fill when she took over the post of “official greeter” at WBS’s Visitor Information Center, but she was quickly becoming a favorite in her own right. 

She will be sorely missed by staff, volunteers and guests alike.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Rookie Files: Training Clark


I’m sure I’ve mentioned Clark the Bald Eagle in previous blogs, but he is one of my favorites.
 Clark, one of our magnificent flying Bald Eagles
I know, I know, parents aren’t supposed to have favorite kids, and trainers are not supposed to have favorite birds--but we often do, and Clark is one of mine.

My Clark fan club membership was recently renewed because I got to work one on one with him for the first time in years.  The first year I worked with Clark I was but a young rookie myself.  Fresh off my second internship and summer at Grant’s Farm I was told we were going to fly Clark at Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri, in the fall of 2009.

When he first arrived for preliminary training at WBS’s Milwaukee County Zoo bird show (where many of the staff who would eventually work at WBS’s Silver Dollar City bird show were stationed) I was a little on the nervous side.  A Bald EAGLE was going to be flying towards me!  It was a little unnerving to say the least.
 A Bald Eagle in full flight heading straight toward you can be a little unnerving!
Luckily for me at that point in my career, Clark was first trained by our excellent Bald Eagle trainer, Roger Wallace, and then continued his education with our amazing ETC supervisor; so no Bald Eagle landing on MY head!  …well, there was that one time when he didn’t really understand that we were calling him to a stump rather than the glove, but that was a fluke.  He was amazing to fly at Silver Dollar City, never missed a beat, and had the most incredible flights!

I was able to work with Clark a few more times over the next couple winters.  I only heard about his great double flights with Lewis the Bald eagle, but overall I did not work with Clark in a show capacity again until the summer of 2012.  We flew Clark at WBS’s Stone Zoo bird show in Stoneham, Massachusetts, near Boston.

This time I was the one in charge of Clark for the summer--his training, his pattern, his health and wellness.  To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, but felt confident that I was up to the challenge.  And then I remembered all of Clark’s delightful little quirks that I had completely forgotten about during the winter!  Clark loves to rip, tear and shred—it doesn’t matter what, just as long as he can turn it into a chew toy.

As I mentioned in my earlier Enrichment blog we had to provide Clark with a variety of different things to distract him at night so that he would not destroy his anklets or jesses.  Due to his “chewtastic” nature, Clark has to have special woven, nylon jesses instead of the usual leather ones.
 The goal was to get Clark to cue to the word "feathers"--and only to "feathers"
Clark is also very smart and very good at picking up on patterns.  At the beginning of the show we would ask the audience a question, the answer to which was the word “feathers!”. Once this guess was confirmed by the speaker, Clark would be cued for his exit.  Clark first picked up on the connection between the audience speaking and his cue for food.  When the audience would guess incorrectly, Clark would still try to leave.  Clark then learned that his food cue was connected to the word “feathers” itself.  By the end of the season, Clark would be ready to exit if the audience yelled “feathers”, but only “feathers”.  If, for instance, they yelled “wings” Clark would sit patiently until they guessed correctly; only then would he be primed to leave!
 Clark launching himself from the second story window of our Nature Center
Clark also started to anticipate his end pattern and became bored with it, forcing us to come up with new and exciting patterns to keep him engaged.  Birds of prey may not be as intelligent as some parrots or corvids (crows, ravens, jays), but don’t ever let anyone tell you that Bald eagles are dumb.  Fortunately it was this pattern recognition and intelligence that allowed us to be able to do an incredible release for WBS’s Open House this year--flying Clark out of our Nature Center’s second story window and out over the audience in our amphitheater!
 Our Open House audience experiencing a Bald Eagle flying just a few feet overhead
Clark and I have both come so far since we first met.  I became a supervisor and trainer in my own right; he flew in tandem with another Bald eagle and before a Saint Louis Blues hockey match.  He is a challenging bird who keeps me on my toes, and for enrichment purposes, I keep him guessing as well.  We may not always be working together due to scheduling conflicts, but when we do I think Clark and I bring out the best in each other.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Trainer Always In Training


In order for anyone to run a successful business it is very important to first show all the employees exactly what needs to be done for the business.
 Scoop the Pelican knows that by hitting his mark he will receive a reward
When the employees fully understand what needs to be done, or are fully trained, the business will usually compensate the employee for their time spent training and working for the company.  At WBS this concept is used not only for the staff, interns, and volunteers but also for the birds themselves.

Positive reinforcement is something that is utilized in day-to day life, many times unknowingly, and is a part of behavioral training in almost any possible situation.  It is also the most used method of the World Bird Sanctuary. 

When first becoming an intern, I was trained to clean and feed the correct way and was positively reinforced by being allowed more and more privileges with the birds as I understood more procedures.  Then, once I was a trainer in Boston, in order to train the stars of the show, I first needed to be coached on how to properly guide them to the correct behaviors, with everything revolving around positive reinforcement.
 How do you teach a Seriema to "slam" a rubber snake?....baby steps!
Unfortunately, birds do not understand English so what speaks louder than words?  Food, of course!  Normally people would say, “Actions speak louder than words,” but when it comes to birds of prey (and many people) a sure way to the heart is through the stomach.  So for every behavior that needs to be achieved, a step-by-step (most of the time baby steps) process needs to slowly take place in order for the bird to catch on, or achieve the goal behavior.  Every time the bird completes one of the small steps, it should be immediately positively reinforced with food so that the bird understands that that exact action will get them food.
 This Barn Owl knows there is a tasty morsel waiting on this perch
The immediate and consistent reward is crucial for proper training to make sure that the correct behavior is reinforced.  While training one of the sanctuary’s newer Bald Eagles, Lina, to step to the leather glove that we wear, there is a fine line between stepping to the glove and footing the glove, or grabbing aggressively for food.  So, instead of rewarding her immediately for putting her foot on the glove (whether it be aggressive or not), she must be rewarded for stepping and only stepping on the glove, and not for footing the glove.  By doing this, we can minimize any confusion she might have about what gets her food, and will also help to keep her from accidentally learning that footing the glove is the behavior the trainer wants. 
 This American Kestrel knows there is a tasty morsel waiting for him in the other trainer's glove
Taking small steps to eventually accomplish the goal behavior and being careful to reinforce only the exact action desired are the two main pieces to the puzzle of training.

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS


From all of us....Staff, interns, volunteers and animals….

To all of you….guests, supporters, donors who make our work possible in a thousand different ways….

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Xena--A Most Impressive Bird


The next bird that I want to introduce to you is such a wonderful animal that I am positive that you will fall in love with her just as I did.  Her name is Xena and she is a Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo).
Xena is a favorite with guests because of her regal bearing and piercing eyes
Eurasian Eagle Owls are native to Europe, Asia, and Northeast Africa.  They live in mostly wooded habitats like coniferous forests, farmlands, grasslands, and even some deserts.  Of the 287 owl species in the world, Eurasian Eagle Owls are the largest!

Depending if it’s a male or female, they stand from two to two and a half feet tall and weigh from four to seven pounds.  Their wingspan ranges from five to seven feet!  As in most birds of prey, females are about a third larger than males.  This is believed to be because greater size can help them better defend their clutch (a group of eggs or chicks) and nest and to also incubate the clutch better with increased surface area of the body. 

Their diet is variable and consists of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and sometimes fish.  The largest animal they have been known to prey upon is small roe deer, which are about 30 pounds in weight!  They of course could not pick up a 30 pound deer and fly away with it.  A good rule of thumb is that usually a bird of prey can pick up a third of its own body weight.  Eagle owls have large orange eyes, disks of feathers around each eye, feather tufts on top of their head, black and various shades of brown feathers covering their body, eight sharp talons, and a sharp curved upper beak. 

Take a look at Xena in the photo above, isn’t she just beautiful?  Do you notice the feather tufts on her head? They may look similar to the tufts you’ve seen on another owl--the Great Horned Owl.  Strangely enough, these two owl species that live oceans apart are actually closely related!

Breeding season for owls is during the winter.  Eagle owls will start laying eggs in January and February.  They nest on high rocky cliffs and generally lay from one to four white eggs per clutch.  The male will do most of the hunting while the female will stay at the nest and feed and protect the clutch.  The female will incubate the eggs for 31-36 days.  After the eggs have hatched, the chicks will stay in the nest for 7-8 weeks.  When they fledge (leave the nest), the parents will still care for them for another 20-24 weeks.  The chicks will be on their own around 8 months old. 

A Eurasian Eagle Owl’s lifespan in the wild can be up to 20 years—and even double that or more in captivity.  Xena was hatched in captivity in 1999 at the World Bird Sanctuary, so she is 14 years old this year. The longest Eurasian Eagle Owl lifespan on record in captivity is 60 years old. 

The Eagle Owl call is described as a monotonous “oohu-oohu-oohu” and will also make an “oo-hooh” call as well.  The females will make a “kraah” sound during mating season.  The males have a deep voice and the females have a higher pitched voice. The first time I heard Xena call, I couldn’t believe it!  She is such a big gorgeous bird and the sound that came out of her didn’t seem to belong.  It was such a high-pitched sound that it made me laugh in amazement! 
Xena has been the feature bird for the photo op at many WBS special events
Xena is part of the Education Department at the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS).  She helps educate people at programs either on site at WBS, off site in a neighboring town, or even out of state!  Xena has also been in numerous parades in St. Louis, MO and St. Genevieve, MO, and even the Tournament of Roses Parade in Los Angeles, CA!  She is a seemingly easy- going bird that seems to like standing on the ground next to her perch outdoors, or take a bath in her water bowl when it’s raining.  She likes to eat rabbit, chicks, mice, and venison, but her favorite food is rat!  Yummy!   Because of her easy-going disposition she has often been the feature bird for the photo op at WBS special events.

Xena 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.  She can be seen at the Monsanto Environmental Education Center at the World Bird Sanctuary, which is open daily from 8am-5pm.

Xena is a very mesmerizing bird.  You will be drawn toward her as soon as you see her!  You should stop on by and visit her!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hazel


 It is with much sadness that we let you know that our sweet little Hazel, the Mini Rex Rabbit passed away last Thursday, 12/13.  She was five years old.

On Tuesday, 12/11 her handlers noted that she seemed to be having trouble eating—often a sign in animals that something is wrong.  They immediately consulted our vet and scheduled her to be seen. Our vet examined her in the morning and was concerned that Hazel could have a cancer.  We continued to give her supportive therapy, but by that afternoon Hazel had passed on.  

A necropsy showed that Hazel succumbed to uterine cancer.  Unfortunately, animals are very good at masking illness and injury since in the wild, if they show signs of illness, this would make them easy prey for predators and even attacks by their own kind.  No matter how sharp-eyed their caretakers are it is often too late by the time the animal exhibits symptoms.

Hazel was a huge favorite with staff and visitors—especially the youngsters.  She was extremely tolerant of the many small hands that loved to stroke our “Velveteen Rabbit”.  Some rabbits are very skittish at being stroked and handled—not so Hazel, who seemed to truly enjoy the human contact.

Hazel will be sorely missed by our staff and the thousands of youngsters who make the bunny enclosure one of their first stops when visiting the Nature Center.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Really Weird Birds Part 10



Here’s an unusual bird for you: the Cock-of-the-rock!  There are two species native to South American rainforests and mountainous areas, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock and the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock.
 A male Guianan Cock-of-the-rock.  They are found in the Guianan Shield in humid forests near rocky areas.
  
The males of these species have beautiful orange coloration and feather crests on their heads used to help them attract a mate.  The females are much duller in color in comparison to the males. 
A male Andean Cock-of-the-rock.  They are found in the tropical forests of the Andes.

These birds are polygamous, a trait that started a unique courtship ritual.  At the beginning of breeding season, males will gather at a lek, or a communal area where they perform exuberant mating dances and displays to compete for females.  Each male has its own territory within the lek where they dance.  They jump up and down, strut about, bob their heads, ruffle their tail feathers, spread their wings, and utter unique calls.  The females walk through the lek analyzing all the displays.  Often two males will pair up and challenge each other to a dual!  They won’t get physical but they will face each other and have a dance off!  When a female approaches, the flapping and squawking gets even more intense.  When she chooses, she taps the male from behind and mating quickly occurs.

The males have nothing to do with nesting or raising the chicks.  The females will build a nest made of mud and plant material and attach it with her saliva to the side of a cliff, in a rock crevice or in a cave, always close to a water source and in a shaded area.  They lay 1 to 2 eggs that hatch in about 28 days. The chicks are fed fruits, small snakes, lizards, and insects.    
 Female Andean Cock-of-the-rock.

Cock-of-the-rocks are mostly fruit eaters and they serve an important role in the rainforests by contributing to the spread of local plant diversity.  The seeds from the fruit they consume pass unharmed through their digestive system and allow trees to grow greater distances away from their parent trees.

Fortunately the populations of the Guianan and Andean Cock-of-the-rock are doing well in their range.  They are not considered to be a threatened species and are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.     

 Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can You See Me?


Those who know me are well aware that I can’t go anywhere without my camera.  This is especially true when I’m on duty as a volunteer at the World Bird Sanctuary.

I’ve catalogued 100’s of photos of the animal residents, both those on public display and those behind the scenes.  I never tire of their personalities, antics, and posturing behaviors.

One of the most intriguing of these behaviors is that of “pancaking” or sunbathing.  The bird will flatten itself out on the ground with its wings spread out to collect some serious rays.   Even those that are nocturnal still love the sunshine.  I recently caught Xena, a female Eurasian Eagle Owl, pancaking in the weathering area behind the Environmental Education Center.
Can you see Xena in this photo?
Eurasian Eagle Owls, in their natural habitat, nest on rock ledges or in caves so they must be able to blend in with their surroundings.  The first time I showed this picture to a friend, they said, “what bird?”  At first glance, they didn’t even see her.  Her natural coloring and markings make her almost disappear from view.  If you’re not looking for her, you’d never see her.  This got me to thinking about camouflage.

Many animals have developed natural camouflage that helps hide them from predators, thus greatly increasing their chances for survival.  Have you seen a Walking Stick in the park or a Praying Mantis at the zoo that looks like a leaf?  Have you seen a frog that looks like mud and butterflies that look like flower petals?  Chances are your eyes have passed over these and other creatures without registering that you’ve seen anything other than a tree or a rock or the ground.  These are all examples of how that natural camouflage can hide an animal from not only a predator’s eyes but ours as well.
If Timber were sitting on a branch next to the tree trunk you probably would not see him.
Timber is an Eastern Screech Owl.  A fierce predator in their own right, Screech Owls often find themselves as prey for larger raptors.  Being camouflaged is really important for their safety and survival.  Cavity dwellers, these amazing little owls blend in with the rest of the tree. 

Here’s Jake, a most excellent Great Horned Owl, at a recent Camera Day event at World Bird Sanctuary.  We made a perch in a tree on our display line and stationed Jake there. 
Here's Jake--if you cover his eyes he would be almost impossible to see
His natural color and markings are so like the tree trunk that if he closed his eyes, and we didn’t know he was there, he would be virtually invisible.

The next time you go walking in the woods thinking you are going to find some owls or turtles or snakes, think again about where and how you look.  I guarantee that they are looking at you long before you see them – that is if you can see them at all.

Submitted by Sandra Lowe Murray, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer Naturalist

Friday, December 14, 2012

365 Project Reviewed


As 2012 is slowly coming to an end I have started looking back on the hundreds of photos I have taken this year during this amazing process. 
This became a very familiar pose during the past year
I have enjoyed the 365 Project as it forces you out and about to try to get those interesting photos and experience new things.  I am considering continuing to do this project, since it is a lot of fun.

As I browse through the hundreds of photos I have taken this year I am reminded of the happy moments, sad moments, amazing colors, lack of color and also just what a fun year of photography it was.  Here are a few of my favorite photos that did not make it into previous blogs, but are just fun.
Everything looks like a perch to Minerva
The first photo was not taken by me but by Billie Baumann, WBS Outreach Coordinator.  This is a photo of Minerva, the young Barn Owl, and me.  Minerva, as a baby, was allowed to wander around as part of her socialization process.  She hopped onto my foot for a moment and then we had a quick photo op.  Moments later she was put back on the floor, but it was just fun and her sideways head (turned sideways by her, to listen better) is classic Minerva.
Jersey - sun bathing
The second photo is of Jersey, the Barred Owl.  One winter day I walked out into the weathering area to see her with her face looking straight into the sky with her eyes closed.  Barred Owls are known to do this, as a form of sunning themselves to get the warmth and help her body produce vitamins.
Simon makes his own portholes
My last photo for this blog is of Simon, my African Grey Parrot.  Simon is given a lot of time out of his cage when I am home, but when I am gone he stays safely in his cage.  I have an old blanket that goes over part of the cage to give him a place to hide during the day, for nighttime safety, and to protect him from drafts.  However, over the last few years someone (Simon) has put some holes in the blanket.  One day I made a tent over the top of his cage.  Simon came over and stuck his head through one of the holes and needless to say lots of laughing was involved.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this year-long project as much as I have.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Missouri Squirrels


Squirrels--they sometimes drive us crazy with their habit of getting into things, making messes, and destroying things….but they’re so darn cute!  They’re like adorable furry little monsters.
 The Fox Squirrel
We have three types of squirrels here in Missouri--the Fox Squirrel, the Grey Squirrel and the Southern Flying Squirrel.  The Fox and Grey Squirrel are the most commonly seen, but the Southern Flying Squirrel does live throughout the state.

The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is most common in urban areas and are the largest of the three species ranging from about 19 to 29 inches long, nose to tail, and weighs about 1 to 3 pounds.  The fox squirrel was given its name because of the red-orange color of the fur, but also can be found with black, white, or shades of grey or brown fur.  These squirrels are often found foraging on the ground, but they do need trees for escape, cover and dens.  Generally, the fox squirrel spends its entire year in a 10 to 40 acre range, depending on the availability of food sources.
 The Grey Squirrel
The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)is somewhat smaller than the fox squirrel; it’s only about 14 to 21 inches long and weighs about 1 to 2 pounds.  These squirrels are grey, with their undersides and tail tips being white.  This squirrel generally prefers areas with more forest cover then fox squirrels.  The grey squirrel also prefers to spend more time in trees and forages on the ground when all the acorns and other nuts have fallen from their respective trees.  They spend most of their lives around one or two den trees, hardly ever traveling more than 200 yards from home.

The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is only about 8-10 inches long--the smallest of the three.  Because of this species’ nocturnal habit, it is seldom seen even though it lives throughout the state.  This squirrel generally lives in deciduous woodlands, with plenty of dead trees or rotten snags.
 The Southern Flying Squirrel is seldom seen due to it's nocturnal habits
The Southern Flying Squirrel doesn’t actually fly; it glides with two loose flaps of skin along both sides of its body, extended from front legs to back, and they use their flat tail as a rudder.  Their home range is usually no more than an acre.  The flying squirrel is strictly nocturnal and very shy.  They use their keen since of smell and large eyes to forage at night.  Unlike the other tree squirrels, the flying squirrel doesn’t cause as many problems, but they may move into attics or walls and cause damage.  During the winter, this squirrel gathers into communal dens and may use hollow tree cavities.

The woodland habitats for squirrels must provide adequate cover for protection and a nearby food source.  A pair of squirrels will use two to three leaf nests or dens at any given time of the year.  Often tree cavities are in short supply and are not often found in trees that are less than 30 to 40 years old.  Squirrels will often build and use leaf nests in the summertime, but they are not as desired because they are not as safe as cavity dens.

If you don’t have an abundance of squirrels where you live, pack your picnic lunch and come visit us at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Our woods are teeming with these entertaining little creatures.  If you sit quietly at one of our picnic benches you are almost guaranteed a squirrel sighting.  If at first you don’t see them, listen for a rustling sound in the leaf litter in our woods.  It’s almost assuredly a squirrel.

Submitted by Jaime Sansouci, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist        



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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Monkey Eating Eagle


The Philippines Eagle or monkey-eating eagle is one of the most impressive eagles in the sky.  Found only on a handful of islands in the Philippines this eagle is one of the rarest animals in the world.
 The Phillipines Eagle--one of the largest eagles in the world
The low population is largely due to human encroachment on their habitat and a unique breeding cycle.  Despite all the pressures, there is hope for the bird through intensive captive breeding and conservation efforts.

 Females are considerably larger than the males standing almost three feet tall with nearly a seven-foot wingspan and weighing in at around 15 pounds.  The Philippines Eagle is recognized as one of the largest species of eagle in the world.  They are the tallest and have the widest wings (front edge to back edge) of all the eagles.  Males and females have a large bill almost blue in color, pale grey eyes, and long individual feathers on the crest and nape streaked with brown, giving it one of the most unique looks of all the eagles.  The wings are broad and the tail is long to help with maneuverability within the forests where it hunts its prey.  
At three feet, the Phillipines Eagle is the tallest species of eagle in the world 
Each pair has a range of about 80 square miles and prefers areas with old growth forests and large changes in elevation.  Although the name suggests that their diet consists of monkeys, the Philippines eagle is an opportunistic hunter and feeds on numerous creatures, from snakes to gliding lemurs, and hornbills.  Usually this eagle hunts alone, but is known to hunt as a pair during the breeding season, where one distracts the prey while the other attacks from behind.

The monkey-eating eagle is the national bird of the Philippines and is limited to only four islands.  Mindanao Island is where the bulk of the population is found, but the islands of Leyte, Luzon, and Samar have small populations as well.  The IUCN reports that the Philippines eagle is listed as Critically Endangered with an estimated population of 500 wild individuals.  The life span of the Philippines Eagle is around 30 years. 
This baby will stay in the nest for six months
Breeding pairs nest in the largest trees in their territory and usually raise only one baby every two years.  The baby will leave the nest when it’s about six months old and will stay in its parents’ territory for an additional year or so.   This slow reproduction cycle is a major factor in the recovery of the species.

There are many threats that are causing the disappearance of this amazing species. Cultivation, logging, and mining are the major culprits.  Nearly all the threats that are recognized are due to humans encroaching on the eagles’ habitat.  Still there is hope for this species.

The Philippine Eagle Foundation has over 32 eagles that were captive bred and is working to have a full reintroduction program.  More still needs to be done to secure the existence of this special bird.  Conservation, education, and reintroduction plans must be practiced to ensure future populations.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Challenged by Mother Nature


This summer was an incredible experience working with a great variety of birds of prey from the World Bird Sanctuary at Grant’s Farm near St. Louis.
 Our new exhibit area at Grant's Farm
I was fortunate to be able to display the birds in a new exhibit area in view of the public, with their own personalized signs. It’s been a real joy to work with Stetson the Harris’ Hawk and Riley the Barn Owl, the two birds that free flew in the shows.  As one of the performers I felt the excitement of the audiences and their reactions of joy and excitement upon seeing a Bald Eagle up close, and hear their exclamations of wonder at the beauty of a Barn Owl.   I felt honored and privileged that I was able to be a part of that.
 Stetson the Harris' Hawk
Although, I should mention that presenting an outdoor show with animals is bound to have some obstacles from time to time. This summer we were put to the test by Mother Nature.  She threw us some curves, which included 100+ degree heat for a good portion of the summer and some early freezing cold in the fall. 

In addition to the temperatures, some shows had to be “modified” due to rain, which never seemed predictable. I remember a show where I had just finished Stetson’s flights and was signaling him back to the glove when a wall of rain came pouring over the stage. In one show we had a rain “interval”. It started raining after the two speakers had already started the show and as they ran off stage they said that was the end. Of course, shortly after that the rain stopped. The people in the theater benches were still waiting as they had cover from a roof over the audience seating area. So, in the “show must go on” fashion, after an almost 10 minute pause, we finished the show. 

I would also have to say that the resident North American grackle was an annoyance during the spring nesting season, as they seemed to delight in pestering Mars, the Red-tailed Hawk on display.  A memorable occurrence was having Mars on my glove during a display for the public when a grackle came diving right at my head!
 Even though they are beautiful, Peafowl were not a welcome addition to the Raptor exhibit
Another hazard was the groups of wandering Peafowl at Grant’s Farm, that would occasionally decide to cross through the exhibit area.  I diligently shooed them away and hoped they didn’t come right back.

But despite all that, being able to work at Grant’s Farm with these amazing birds made it all worthwhile. I was able to get to know these birds and educate the public about the importance of protecting them in the wild.

The World Bird Sanctuary taught me the importance of remembering the effects we have on these animals and how we can all make a difference in protecting these beautiful birds.

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