Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snowy Owls

We have a lot of birds at the World Bird Sanctuary, and most of them I know at least a little about, but we have two Snowy Owls (Crystal and Ookpik) on our display line with whom I’ve had little contact.  So in order to learn more, I decided to research and write about them.
Crystal, our female Snowy Owl
The Snowy Owl is the largest owl, by weight, in North America.  They show up in the northern U.S. in the winter, occasionally as far south as Missouri, such as the Snowy Owl irruption experienced during the 2011-2012 winter.  They spend their summers north of the Arctic circle.  Snowy Owls are large and have a round smooth head, with no visible feather tufts.  They are white with varying amounts of black or brown.  Generally the females have more dark speckling and the males are more pale and become even more white as they age.

Often Snowy Owls can be seen perched on or near the ground, in wide open spaces, on things like crests of dunes, fence posts, telephone poles and hay bales. And when they do fly they usually stay close to the ground.

During the winter they spend their time around the shorelines of lakes and oceans, but can also be found around agricultural fields and airports.  Snowy Owls breed in the arctic tundra where it is treeless, making their nests on the ground. 

Some other names for the Snowy Owl are Snow Owl, Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, Scandinavian Nightbird, and White Terror of the North.
Ookpik, our male Snowy Owl
Most of their hunting is done "sit and wait" style.  These owls are diurnal, which means they are awake and hunt during the day, but they will sometimes hunt at night.  Snowy owls will capture their prey on the ground, in the air or snatched off the surface of the water.  Snowy Owls will prey on a very wide variety of small mammals, but they are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat just about anything.  They will prey on hares, muskrats, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, rats, moles, and entrapped furbearers, ptarmigan, ducks, geese, shorebirds, ring-necked pheasants, grouse, American Coots, grebes, gulls, songbirds and Short-eared Owls.  Snowy Owls will also eat fish and carrion.

In the wild, Snowy Owls can live about 9 years; but in captivity they can live about 35 years. They have very few natural enemies. Arctic Foxes and wolves prey on Snowy Owls, their eggs and chicks while the birds are on their breeding grounds, and Skuas and Jaegers, which are gulls that prey on more than just fish,  may take eggs or chicks.

If you’ve never seen one of these beautiful birds be sure to look for Ookpik and Crystal on our display line the next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary.

Submitted by Jaimie Sansoucie, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

World Bird Sanctuary - A Unique St. Louis Attraction

World Bird Sanctuary is located on 305 acres in St. Louis County and features outdoor animal exhibits, static collections indoors, a wildlife hospital, reading room and activity center, and hiking trails and picnic pavilions.

Open to the public year round, the WBS center has:
·      Over 50 outdoor exhibits featuring live hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, pelicans and a condor.  Be sure to stop by and play hide and seek with Dorothy – an Andean Condor with a 12 foot wingspan that manages to hide behind a 1ft high tree stump in her enclosure!
Meet Dorothy, the Andean Condor

·      Feed the chickens and turkeys on display.
Young guests love to feed the chickens and turkeys

·      A visitor's information center with interpretive exhibits and live eagles, owls and hawks on display.
Hear the stories of how some of our birds came to reside at WBS

·      A state of the art wildlife hospital with a patient-viewing window where you can see some of the 400 patients that the wildlife hospital treats within a single year. 
·      A nature center with indoor and outdoor exhibits, including mammals, reptiles, raptors and parrots.
Meet some of the residents of our Nature Center

·      A 300 seat outdoor amphitheater with many free public environmental education programs throughout the year.  Check the online calendar to see what's coming up. 
Enjoy the entertaining presentations in our amphitheater

·      With over 9 miles of hiking trails, rated from easy to difficult, you can go for a short hike and visit our bird feeding stations; meet some of the pelicans, bald eagles, ravens, falcons, vultures, hawks, owls and parrots that call World Bird Sanctuary home.
·      Picnic pavilions situated near bird feeders where you can enjoy watching squirrels, chipmunks and songbirds going about their day.
Take advatage of our "Bird Brain" Reading Room

·      Enjoy the free "Bird Brain" Reading Room and Activity Center situated among the outdoor exhibits.  Open on Sundays from 11am to 3pm, you can pick up free books about birds, nature and conservation, or even a free poster of a bald eagle or great-horned owl.
Join us for our newest weekend event--our free Keeper Talks

·      Learn about the birds at World Bird Sanctuary at free Keeper Talks every Saturday and Sunday at 9am – follow the keepers as they feed the birds and explain how they came to be at World Bird Sanctuary.

·      Hours: 8am – 5pm, Monday through Sunday.
·      Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and closed at noon on Christmas Eve.
·      Admission and Parking is FREE!  Donations are gladly accepted – donation boxes are situated throughout the site.
Our newly paved trails make for easy walking
·      Handicapped accessibility trails and paved exhibit trails
·      No pets allowed. 
·      Public restrooms.
·      Water fountains.
·      Soda, water and snack sales.
·      Gift shop.

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I am very excited to tell you about this next animal!  She is such a beautiful bird and joy to work with!  I know you will fall in love with her just as I did.  She is the sweetest owl with whom I have ever had the privilege to work.
Meet Mia
Her name is Mia and she is a Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata).  Mia was hatched at the North Carolina Zoo in 1993 and was raised by hand to become an education ambassador.  In December of 1993 she became a celebrity after being featured on the Today Show.
These are medium-sized owls that stand at 16 to 19 inches tall and weigh from 16 to 32 ounces, depending if it is a male or female.  Females are generally larger than males in birds of prey.  Their wingspan ranges from two and half to three feet!  Spectacled Owl plumage (feather color) consists of two colors.  They have dark brown on most of their body and buffy brown on their belly.  They have a light-colored outline around their eyes, which gives the appearance that they are wearing glasses.
Can you see how this species got its name?
Spectacled Owls can be found in Mexico, Central America, and the northeast half of South America.  They reside in dense, tropical rainforests, dry forests, savannah habitat, and open places with few trees in the area.  These owls mostly eat mice and insects, but will also go after bats, small birds, frogs, spiders, and even crabs!

Spectacled owls are monogamous (meaning  they have one mate) and nest in hollow trees.  They lay from one to two eggs per clutch (a group of eggs or chicks).  The incubation period usually lasts around five weeks.  Then at five to six weeks old the chicks will start to fledge (leave the nest).  At this age however, they cannot fly well yet and will depend on their parents for up to a year until fully independent. 

A Spectacled Owl’s lifespan ranges from 25 to 35 years.  It takes three to five years to change from their juvenile to their adult plumage, depending if in the wild or captivity.  They will molt faster in the wild than in captivity.  The chick’s plumage is very different from the adult’s; actually the two colors are switched!   
The baby's white down is completely the reverse of the adult dark feathers
Another name for this owl is the Knocking Owl.  They have the ability to make a vocalization that actually sounds like someone is knocking on a wooden door!  I have heard stories where Mia has done this and “tricked” people into making them think someone is at the door!  Mia has traveled with WBS all over the country to places such as Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, the Milwaukee County Zoo, Boston’s Stone Zoo, and  Grant’s Farm here in St. Louis.

Mia is a trained flyer that is astounding to watch.  In 2011, she flew from perch to perch in the bird show at Grant’s Farm with me.  She was the first bird I taught to fly a pattern by myself.  I was very proud of myself and her.  Mia is a much faster learner than some of the other birds I have worked with.  Below is a picture of Mia sleeping between shows at Grant’s Farm.  I think it is pretty rare to get a picture of a sleeping bird, especially an owl!  They have incredible hearing!
I caught Mia sleeping
Mia 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.  Adoptive parents will need to make a reservation to see her since she resides at our behind-the-scenes area during her vacation months. The rest of World Bird Sanctuary is open daily from 8am-5pm.

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, January 25, 2013

World Bird Sanctuary BirdDay Parties!

World Bird Sanctuary "BirdDay" Parties offer a fun, unique way to celebrate a birthday.

Suitable for birthday stars of all ages and supporters of the mission of WBS, the party includes a 20 – 30 minute live animal encounter, 'birdday' cake, beverages and a special gift for the 'birdday' star.

The animal encounters feature close-up views of four different animals such as owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, reptiles, mammals and more.  Eagles are available for an additional fee.  "BirdDay" Parties run for a total of 90 minutes

Our Standard Package is $225 and includes a live animal encounter, birthday cake, beverages and a special gift for the birthday star.

Our Deluxe Package is $325 and includes all Standard Package items, plus custom invitations, custom thank you cards and gift bags for each guest.

The party accommodates a maximum of 15 guests.  There is an additional cost per added guest over the first 15 guests.  All parties are held at WBS, so you can leave the set-up and clean-up to us.
50% Non-refundable deposit required upon reservation.

Reserve your Birdday Party by calling 636-225-4390 ext. 0

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Trumpeter Swan Released

On December 21st, 2012, the Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital received a call from the Missouri Department of Conservation to see if we could take an injured Trumpeter Swan. 

The swan is a juvenile – about a year old – juveniles have some dark streaks in their feathering.  Adult Trumpeter Swans are snow white.  The swan was found at Columbia Bottoms Conservation area with another swan that was already dead.  Both swans had been shot.
 Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann and the young Trumpeter Swan
The Trumpeter Swan is listed as a rare species of conservation concern, with current estimated populations of about 5,000 throughout the mid-west.  They are not a hunted waterfowl species and are protected by law.  It is illegal to shoot Trumpeter Swans. 

The area where the birds were found is a waterfowl hunting area, but it is considered easy to distinguish a Trumpeter Swan from ducks and snow geese – they are much bigger and have very distinctive coloring.  The Trumpeter Swan is considered the DC10 of birds because of their large size!
 This young bird weighed 22 lbs.
This young swan weighed about 22lbs – nice and plump.  The heaviest flying bird in the world is found in Africa – the Kori Bustard – weighing in at up to 42lbs! 

MDC conservation agents brought the swan to the World Bird Sanctuary, where we stabilized it with medication and fluids.  The swan had lost a lot of blood and also had internal bleeding.  Two large pellets had lodged in its skull – one in the nasal cavity and one in the brain.  Every three hours, for two days, the swan was given fluids and large doses of antibiotics and steroids to aid in recovery.  The internal bleeding stopped after the second day and, exceeding all expectations, the youngster started eating on its own and drinking out of a large bucket of water.

 We were initially concerned about brain damage but its behavior was normal and it seemed to like looking out of the window near it's inside rehab cage.  The x-rays showed that the swan's legs and wings were untouched by the shotgun pellets, so we moved towards a quick release.
 Joe Hoffmann releasing this young Swan back into the wild
On the early morning of January 3rd, 2013, we released this juvenile Trumpeter Swan back to the wild at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near West Alton, Missouri. 
 The young Trumpeter Swan back where he belongs
There were about 300 other Trumpeter Swans nearby and they honked at each other before the release.  It seemed non-dramatic as the swan paddled away to meet its friends, but this was the first Trumpeter Swan that I have released in 23 years at World Bird Sanctuary!  Walter Crawford, our Founder and Executive Director, remembers one other time when we were able to successfully return a Trumpeter Swan to the wild.

Special thanks are due to our vets, Dr. Stacey Schaeffer and Dr. Eric Siebel-Spath at St. Louis Hills Veterinary Clinic, for acting quickly to save this beautiful swan.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager for the World Bird Sanctuary

Monday, January 21, 2013

Introducing This Year's Newest Event

Event Title: Keeper Talks

Event Date: Saturdays & Sundays, year-round.

Event Times: 9am

Event Description:
Have you ever wondered:
·      What do the birds eat?
·      Where does the food come from?
·      Where did these birds come from?  Why are they at World Bird Sanctuary?
 Learn about the birds that inhabit our exhibit line
Join one of our keepers as they do the morning feeding of our birds in outside exhibits, and learn about what we feed the birds, where they come from, and a little bit about the individual birds that you will meet!
 Learn about the ins and outs of caring for our animals
Saturday and Sunday at 9am - meet opposite the wildlife hospital or catch up with the walk on your own.  It is a slow walk on a paved, level trail and is suitable for all ages.  Stay for the entire feeding, or stay for just a few – it's up to you, and a great way to start your visit to World Bird Sanctuary!

Admission: Admission and parking is FREE.  No reservations required.

For more information go to or call 636-225-4390 ext. 0.

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Saturday, January 19, 2013

‘Tis the Season

At this time of year, the holidays are behind us, the weather has turned cold and nasty, and we’re all looking for something to do besides watching TV and holding down our recliners.

For those of us who live along the Mississippi flyway the colder temperatures herald the arrival of some of the most admired and magnificent creatures of them all.  No--not reindeer.  This is the season for eagle watching!
 See wild Bald Eagles perched on an ice floe on the river...
The nearby rivers make for great eagle watching, particularly near Locks and Dams.  Bald Eagles migrate south along the Mississippi River, looking for good fishing in water that hasn’t frozen solid.
 ...or perched in the trees at the riverbanks
If you can bear braving the cold and the wind along the river, chances are that you will see wild Bald Eagles in action, hunting their prey, perching in a tree, or soaring up above.  Eagle watching is an annual tradition for many of us, even those of us that are lucky enough to see and work with them every day.
 Meet them up close when our Naturalists give their presentations
If you want to see a live bald eagle up close and in person, you can visit the World Bird Sanctuary, or catch one of the displays or presentations below:

Traveling Talons Calendar
January 20, 27
February 3, 10
Audubon Center at Riverlands
West Alton, IL
Eagle Meet and Greet

January 19, 26
Alton Visitor’s Bureau
Alton, IL
Eagle Meet & Greet and Traveling Talons Gift Shop

January 19
Fort Bellefontaine Park
St. Louis, MO
Display with eagle and other birds of prey

January 19 and 20
Keokuk Eagle Days
Keokuk, IA
Raptor Awareness Program with eagle

January 26 and 27
Clarksville Eagle Days
Clarksville, MO
All About Eagles Programs

January 26 and 27
Starved Rock Lodge
Utica, IL
Raptor Awareness Program with eagle

February 2
Kaskaskia Eagle Day
Modoc, IL
All About Eagles Programs

February 16 – 18
National Great Rivers Museum
East Alton, IL
Masters of the Sky program and eagle display

February 23
Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower
Hartford, IL
Eagle Meet & Greet

Our annual celebration to mark the end of Eagle Season will be held on March 24, 2013 at World Bird Sanctuary.  It’s called World Eagle Day and celebrates eagles from around the world with educational shows and more.  Mark your calendars!

If you would like to stay up to date on where you can catch WBS on the road, sign up to receive our email newsletter by entering your email address in the box on the right hand side of this page.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Now Is The Time!

Now is the time to place your order for an engraved brick.
Available spaces on the entry stairs are almost filled
If you’ve been meaning to order one of our inscribed bricks to be installed in the WBS amphitheater—don’t delay any longer.  The deadline for ordering this batch of bricks is February 4th so that we will receive them in time to be installed before World Eagle Day,  which takes place on the fourth Sunday in March.
Your brick could still be installed on the stairs leading down to the amphitheater
Admittedly, the large majority of the bricks already installed are “in memoriam” bricks for friends or loved ones who have passed on.  However, as one walks down the stairs to our amphitheater it is interesting to read the bricks and to see the other occasions celebrated by our supporters….Valentine messages, anniversaries, birthdays, a memorial for a beloved pet,  birth of a new baby, to honor someone you love or admire, to celebrate a wedding, a scout troop celebrating completion of a badge or project, parents celebrating a milestone in their child’s life, or (and this is a very broad category) “just because”.
Soon we will be starting on the amphitheater landings and seating areas
So—if you would like to have your brick included in this next installation, be sure to place your order before February 4th. 

To order your brick Click Here

If you prefer to order and pay by check, call 636-225-4390, XT. 0 and tell the Naturalist who answers that you would like to buy a brick.  Inscriptions are limited to 21 characters per line (including spaces and punctuation) and 3 lines of text for a 4” X 8” brick, or 21 characters per line and 6 lines of text for an 8” X 8” brick.
Sample of a donor certificate to be mailed to the brick recipient or their family
In addition to the text, other options that may be included for an additional fee are symbols which may be chosen from a large list of stock symbols, and/or a Donor Certificate which can be mailed to the honoree or their family.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Once upon a time there was a kingdom filled with rats.  Luckily the villagers were able to hire a pied piper to lead the rats away from the kingdom, and all was saved.

Of course they could have saved themselves money and having their children kidnapped if they had encouraged birds of prey to live there instead.  Rats and raptors go hand in hand like cats and cream.  Most birds of prey eat rodents like rats or mice.  
Rat meat is one of the most nutritious of all the foods that we feed our birds and it is definitely their favorite.
Rats are very important at World Bird Sanctuary, but not all rats are food.  We have five rats at World Bird Sanctuary that help to educate the public about their species and the importance of raptors in the food chain.

Nimh, Templeton, Triscuit, Skittles and Jellybean all reside at World Bird Sanctuary.  Triscuit can be found in the Nature Center and in various educational programs, like Creatures of Myth and Legend.

Nimh, Templeton, Skittles and Jellybean live in our behind the scenes area and travel with us for the educational programs we present at zoos, theme parks and aquariums.  There they run on grape vines before each show as a kind of comic relief.  Training them to run on these grape vines only takes a few weeks.  Most people do not realize that rats are fairly intelligent and can be trained easily to follow a target, run a maze, and in some cases to use a litter box.
Rats are a very important part of our Education Programs
All of our rats are very sweet and love being handled, especially Nimh and Templeton who love to climb up onto our shoulders and sometimes hide in our hair.  Rats make excellent pets, though they usually only live about 3-5 years.  They are easy to care for, needing only a cage, water bowl, a place to hide and a few toys to play with, and of course an exercise wheel.  Nobody wants a fat rat! Most importantly though, they need things to chew; all rodents, from the South American Capybara, the world’s largest rodent, to mice, need to chew because their incisors (front four teeth) are constantly growing.  Chewing hard objects, like the shells of almonds, helps to keep the incisors at a healthy length.  Their incisors are also used to shred up objects for nesting material.
All of our rats enjoy being handled
Rats are amazing!  Those tiny teeth of theirs are not only constantly growing, but they can also cause quite a nasty nip.  Rats have 24,000 pounds per square inch of biting power and they can even chew through a solid steel drainpipe…with their teeth!  Rats are excellent swimmers and can tread water for up to three days.
Have you ever wondered how mice get into your house?  They have collapsible skeletons and rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter—mice can squeeze through a miniscule hole! 

Rodents are unable to throw up (the body’s way of purging toxins), so rats must take tiny bites of all of their food to make sure it is safe to eat.  They are one of the only other animals besides humans that are able to digest chocolate.
Rats are prolific breeders!  A pair of rats, their offspring, and so on, and so on, without any controls on their population, is capable of producing over 1,500 more rats in only one year if they all survived.  Imagine 1500 rats running around in your home or yard; sounds kind of scary doesn’t it?  This is why birds of prey are so important; many different species of birds of prey eat a steady diet of rats and mice, which helps to keep these populations in check.

As Nimh, Templeton, Skittles and Jellybean run across the grapevine, they not only make people giggle (or scream), but they teach them important lessons about how we need birds of prey around, not only for ourselves, but also for the good of the environment.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary ETC Naturalist/Trainer 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

During the holiday seasons, the sounds that are typically heard are those of ringing bells, large groups of people shouting “Happy New Year!”, the soft soothing tones of “Auld Lang Sine” sung throughout the streets, and sometimes even the sweet whistling of a song bird resting in a tree.

Baron, an African Grey Parrot, often contributes to the cacaphony in the ETC
At the behind the scenes area, or lower site of the World Bird Sanctuary, however, the air is filled with some slightly less than festive tones, in fact ones that can damage human hearing!

When thinking about bird noises, the variety of ranges and sounds that they possess is not often thought about.  The lower site at World Bird Sanctuary is home to many different kinds of birds that are in training, on “vacation”, or even housed for breeding purposes.  All have a different way of getting their points across.

In the ETC (Education Training Center), which is one of the three buildings at the lower site, there is a wide range of birds that are on “vacation” from the summer bird shows WBS presents at zoos, theme parks and aquariums.  Many of these birds have less than comforting noises; especially the South American Birds known as Red-legged Seriemas (which are sometimes referred to as chickens on stilts).
 Sara and Gomez, two of our Seriemas, calling in unison
There are three of  these unusual birds housed in the ETC over the winter.  Although they are very mild mannered birds, they have the loudest, most ear piercing territorial call that I have ever encountered.  Multiply that ear piercing call by three and put it in an enclosed building where the sound can’t escape into the outdoors so it then echoes, and you have a sound that can easily be heard more than 100 yards away if you are standing outside the building.   Imagine that sound outside and not being contained in a building; it can be heard several kilometers away!

These territorial calls are mostly bearable with the earmuffs that we use to dampen the sound. In addition we can mostly muffle the noise by shutting the door to the animal food prep kitchen, where we spend a good portion of our day preparing the birds’ meals.

However, at ETC we have a little “trouble-maker,” who seems to quite enjoy “egging the Seriemas on.”  His name is Nemo, and he’s an African Gray Parrot.  In reality he’s just mimicking the sounds he hears, but sometimes it sure seems he has other intentions on his mind.  The Red-Legged Seriemas use their call as if to say to other Seriemas, “I am louder and higher pitched than you are, therefore I am far superior!”  When any sound is louder or even as loud as them, they feel challenged and are “set off” again.
 Nemo--our little troublemaker
 Nemo can accurately mimic the Seriemas, and he sets them off all the time.  He can also mimic most of the birds in the ETC, many of its current and previous staff members, as well as various bells, whistles and beeps. Amongst these sounds are those of a phone ringing, followed by an answering machine, a truck’s reverse beep, a water droplet, a laser being fired (pew, pew), an evil laugh (mwah ha ha), and many different tunes that he can whistle and often times will mix and match.
 Staff members have also been known to contribute to the noise level in the ETC building
Along with the singing and whistling from the parrot room, there can also be singing heard coming from the animal food prep kitchen of the lower site.  This singing is a little different from the rest of the sounds in the ETC.  It is done by humans instead of all the birds.  Throughout the day it is quite enjoyable to sing along to the classic rock station, or some country tunes, or even the cheery holiday music (before it is over-played). So, even though many of the noises of the World Bird Sanctuary are highly unlikely to be heard out in the streets of St. Louis, we still like to add some normal sounds to the mixture.

So, all in all, when entering the ETC building at WBS, visitors should be prepared to be greeted with a smorgasbord of unusual sounds. 

Submitted by Teresa Aldrich, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Friday, January 11, 2013

Really Weird Birds Part 11

Australia has some amazing species of birds; one such example is the Superb Lyrebird.  The name “Lyrebird” comes from the resemblance of the male’s tail to a Greek lyre, especially when he is on full display (a Lyre is a type of a harp often seen in ancient Greek frescoes or pottery such as the photo below).

The only other species of Lyrebird, called Albert’s Lyrebird, has a more subdued version of the Superb Lyrebird’s tail.  They of course use their tails in courtship displays.  The rest of their body is quite drab, a brownish gray coloration. 
Male Superb Lyrebird in full display
During mating season, males will defend their territory against other males.  They are polygamous, meaning they will mate with more than one female, and display to as many females as possible.  The ladies will check out several different males before choosing to mate.  During courtship, the male will stand on a platform made of soil.  He will sing and dance and display his beautiful tail.  He inverts his tail over his head, fanning out his feathers to form a silvery white canopy.

The vocalizations of the Lyrebird are very impressive.  It has species-specific noises but most of its song consists of mimicry of other birds, animals, and other sounds.  The Lyrebird's syrinx (vocal organ) is the most complexly muscled of the songbirds, giving it amazing skill, unrivaled in song and mimicry.  The Lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound.  They have been recorded mimicking human caused sounds such as camera shutters, car alarms, and chainsaws, as seen in this video.  They have also been heard to mimic rifle shots, dogs barking, crying babies, music, and even the human voice.

Lyrebirds are among the largest of the passerines or songbirds (order Passeriformes, which includes warblers, sparrows, and even crows).  They are fairly long-lived birds and can live up to thirty years old.  They also start breeding later in life than other passerine birds.  Females are sexually mature at five to six years and males not until six to eight years of age.  Females typically lay a single egg in a ground nest and are the sole caretakers of the chick.

Lyrebirds find their food on the ground by scratching their feet through the leaf litter.  They eat a wide range of invertebrates such as cockroaches, beetle larvae, earwigs, fly larvae, moths, centipedes, spiders, earthworms, lizards, frogs and occasionally, seeds.
Male Superb Lyrebird foraging

The Superb Lyrebird, once seriously threatened by habitat destruction, is now classified as common.  Albert's Lyrebird has a very restricted habitat and had been listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), but due to careful management of the species and its habitat the species was downgraded to Near Threatened in 2009.

Even so, lyrebirds are vulnerable to feral cats (house cats that were allowed to wander outside and went wild), house cats allowed to wander outside, and foxes.  It remains to be seen if habitat protection schemes will stand up to increased human population pressure.

Never let your pet cats wander outside.  In addition to the fact that cats kill millions of birds, rodents and other wildlife every year, allowing them to wander outdoors shortens their life spans by exposing them to disease, attacks by other animals, and the danger of being injured or killed by collision with vehicles.  

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist