Saturday, November 29, 2014

WBS Winter Migration

As the leaves start to fall off the trees and the temperatures drop, some of the birds on the World Bird Sanctuary exhibit line will be moved to the lower site for the winter—a winter migration of sorts.

The birds that will be moved to the lower site are older individuals, birds with special needs, and species that can’t take the cold temperatures that we have here in Saint Louis.  The birds moving to the lower site will be with us until the nights are in the mid 40’s so it could be around early May before they are back on display.
Skinner is one of the birds that will be moved to a more protected location (photo: Gay Schroer)
The individual birds that will be moved for the winter are our three Turkey Vultures Skinner, Icky, and Turk.  They are all birds that are around twenty years old and need to be indoors because the three of them have arthritis and the cold temperatures are hard on their joints.   They will be in an enclosure that is blocked from the wind and covered so snow and ice can’t bother them.  Rodney the Harris’s Hawk and Timigen the Red-tailed Hawk are birds that also have arthritis and will need to come down to the lower site for the cold months ahead of us.

There are a few species that are on the display line that are found in warmer climates that will have to spend the winter at the lower site as well. The four brown pelicans and the Laughing Kookaburra will spend the winter in the ETC (WBS’s Education Training Center) so they can be in a controlled environment.
Chadder the Laughing Kookaburra will be moved to a heated building (Photo: Gay Schroer)

Lastly our special needs bird Elida the Bald Eagle who has an injured leg will need to be housed in an enclosure that can be blocked from the wind and covered to keep out the snow and ice, so her injured leg doesn’t get too cold.
Ookpik the Snowy Owl loves the cold and snow and will remain on display (Photo: Gay Schroer)

Even with the Turkey vultures, Harris’s hawk, Red-tailed hawk, Brown Pelicans, Kookaburra, and the Bald eagle Elida at the lower site, the exhibit line will have many species of birds for the public to see.  Some of my personal favorites that will be out all winter include our Golden Eagles, Andean Condor, and the Snowy Owls who have no problem in the winter.  We will of course have many Bald Eagles for you to see!

Geronimo and her friend Remington will remain in their enclosure on the exhibit line (Photo: Gay Schroer)

I encourage you all to come out and enjoy the birds on the exhibit line this winter.

Submitted by Adam Triska,  former World Bird Sanctuary Director of Lower Site Management   

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eagles of the World: The African Fish Eagle

The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), not to be confused with the Bald Eagle which looks similar in appearance, largely resides in areas of Sub Saharan Africa that are in close proximity to large bodies of water.  This is due to the fact that these large birds of prey mainly gorge on fish and rely on the abundant food supply that these bodies of water provide.
An adult African Fish Eagle (photo: the wikipedia files)

A female African Fish Eagle can weigh upwards of 7-8 pounds, making these eagles one of the larger species of raptor.  Males have an average wingspan of 6 feet, whereas females average about 8 feet.  These birds are characterized by their white head, chest, and tail.  In contrast, their wings, body, and eyes are dark in color.  They have a hook-shaped beak that is yellow with a dark tip and a bright yellow face.  Juveniles have a similar appearance with scattered brown plumage and lighter coloration in their eyes.  Vocalizations from the African Fish Eagle are aweeh-ah, hyo-hyo, or a hee-ah, heeah-heeah.

An African Fish Eagle dragging a heavy fish across the water (photo: the wikipedia files)

The African Fish Eagle mainly feeds on fresh water fish.  The pads on the bottoms of their feet and toes have rough spiracles, which allow them to grasp fish and other slippery prey.  The birds swipe prey out of the water and then carry their catch to a safe place to feed.   When catching prey that is large these eagles will drag their catch across the surface of the water to the shore.  In the event these birds are unable to drag the heaviest of prey they will drop into the water and paddle to the shore with the catch using their wings.  These raptors have also been known to feed on waterfowl, baby crocodiles, lizards, monitor lizards, frogs, hyraxes (small mammals whose closest relative is the elephant), monkeys, carrion, and occasionally domestic chickens.

African Fish Eagles are a monogamous species that are known to mate for life.  The breeding season for these raptors is during the dry season when water levels are low.  These birds usually maintain two or more nests, which they often reuse time and time again.  Because of this these nests, made up of mostly sticks and other pieces of wood, can grow to be quite large.  Some reach almost six feet across and four feet in depth.

An African Fish Eagle egg (photo: the wikipedia files)

Females lay about 1-3 white eggs with red speckles.  Eggs are usually incubated by the female for anywhere between 42-45 days before hatching.  The chicks will depend on their parents for upwards of three months after leaving the nest.  The total time spent in the nest from hatch to fledge is approximately 70-75 days.

A juvenile African Fish Eagle (photo: the wikipedia files)

Under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) , these raptors are listed as “least concern”, giving these birds a healthy reputation for thriving in their environment.  Today, their population number sits at about 300,000 throughout their range.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to take a walk down the exhibit line just past the wildlife hospital.  Even though we do not have African Fish Eagles, we do have a number of their cousins, the Bald Eagle and also a White-tailed Sea Eagle from northern Europe.

Submitted by World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator, Callie Plakovic

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Avoid The Black Friday Frenzy

With the Black Friday shopping frenzy quickly approaching we just wanted to remind our readers that the World Bird Sanctuary has many unique and environmentally friendly options for that “hard to buy for” person on your Christmas list. 
If a t-shirt is on your shopping list come and browse our large selection
 By surprising your family and friends with these one-of-a-kind gifts they will feel special because their gift will also help the World Bird Sanctuary fulfill its mission through wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.  Your gift may help to save the life of a wildlife hospital patient, feed one of our birds for the year, or present an educational program to an underprivileged child.

Shop Green on Black Friday and give a gift with meaning!
Below is a selection of special gifts available from World Bird Sanctuary this holiday season. 

Return to the Wild! Buy a gift certificate for the release of a rehabilitated bird back into the wild.
Return to the Wild gift certificates help to treat injured birds in our hospital, such as this one
Treating a wild bird of prey admitted to our wildlife hospital can cost more than $1,000.  This special gift certificate entitles the recipient to take part in the release of a rehabilitated bird back into the wild.  Invite family and friends to release a bird of prey at your home or nearby park.  The World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital is a cornerstone of the World Bird Sanctuary, and is entirely funded by donations from the public. Help us give our patients a second chance to fly. Buy a Return to the Wild! Gift Certificate today! 
Be the one to release a rehabilitated bird of prey back to the wild!

$150.00.  Click here to order your Return to the Wild! Gift Certificate, or email Callie Plakovic, or call 636-225-4390 ext. 0 and tell the person answering that you want to purchase a Return to the Wild.

Help us Pave the Way!   Buy-a-Brick and help us pave our amphitheater while leaving a lasting impression of your environmental values!
Have your inscribed brick installed in our amphitheater
Your brick will be laid in our amphitheater.  Each year our environmental education programs teach thousands of people how to make small everyday changes that will have a lasting environmentally sustainable impact for years to come.  Your purchase of one of our engraved bricks will allow us to achieve this goal, while providing you with a new and lasting way to recognize loved ones or commemorate special occasions.  Donor certificates are available to be presented in person or to be mailed to the recipient.
For just $7.50 you can present this certificate with your inscription on it to the recipient of a brick

Options range from $125 - $425  Click here to order your Engraved Brick.

Adopt-a-Bird! Make someone special the proud adoptive parent of one of over 200 animals at World Bird Sanctuary!
Minerva, just one of the animals available for adoption
Your adoption fees help us to care for your animal for one year, as they live at the Sanctuary and travel around the country, teaching thousands of people about how to protect their friends in the wild and their habitats!  Your adoption packet includes a Certificate of Adoption, photographs and natural histories of your adopted animal and special visiting privileges.
Adoption fees range from $50 for small animals such as a Screech Owl to $150 for a majestic eagle
Adoptions range from $50 - $150.  Click here to see our gallery of animals available for adoption. In addition to the animals in our photo gallery there are dozens more that have yet to be added to our web page.  Just call Marion at 636-861-3225 if you don’t see a particular animal that you wish to adopt.

Give the Gift of Friendship!  A "Friend of World Bird Sanctuary" Gift Subscription is the gift that keeps giving all year!
Give the gift of friendship by giving your friends or family a gift subscription as a World Bird Sanctuary Friend.  WBS Friends receive invitations to "Friends only" events, and a membership card gives Friends a 10% discount on program fees at World Bird Sanctuary and on any item in our gift shop.
"Friends" subscriptions help to keep our birds flying
"Friends" subscriptions range from $35 - $100.  Click here to sign a friend or family member up for the "Friends" program.

Special gifts to Help our Wildlife Hospital!  All proceeds from the sale of these products go directly to treating and caring for animals in our wildlife hospital.

”Save the Future” CD
World Bird Sanctuary's in-house band, The Raptor Project’s, first CD, Save the Future. It consists of original songs about birds, the environment, and taking care of our planet.  This fun and entertaining children's CD comes with lyric sheets and education sheets embedded in the CD.  Proceeds from the sale of this CD go directly to our wildlife rehabilitation hospital to provide care of injured wild birds of prey.

Save the Future CD - $12 plus $3 shipping and handling for online orders.
Click here to order.

The Raptor Project's CDs both entertain and educate at the same time

“All Along The Watershed” CD
World Bird Sanctuary’s in-house band, The Raptor Project’s, second CD, All Along The Watershed.
This CD tells the story of the creatures that live within a watershed and stresses the importance of clean water through fun, and sometimes hilarious songs, such as The Food Chain Blues, The Greatest Possum, Mr. Frog Blues, and many others.  All proceeds from the sale of this CD go directly to our wildlife rehabilitation hospital to provide care of the 400+ injured wild birds of prey that cross its threshold each year.

All Along the Watershed CD - $12 plus $3 shipping and handling
Click here  for online orders.

“Beak to Beak” Book by Walter C. Crawford, Jr.
This book by World Bird Sanctuary Executive Director, Walter C. Crawford, Jr., is filled with his musings on wildlife, conservation, and life in general, told through a collection of short, sometimes hilarious, true-life stories. 
A great gift for the bird lover/book reader on your list
This book is available in the WBS gift shop or online.  To order online Click Here 
$10.00 on site plus $3.00 shipping and handling for online orders.

Visit our gift shop for other unique items.
Bring your Christmas list and check out the wide array of merchandise in the gift shop
Gift shop merchandise includes a large array of bird of prey themed merchandise, such as: T-shirts, jewelry, sculptures, coffee mugs, bird I.D. books, bird themed books for the kids, coloring books, and many other items too numerous to mention.  Proceeds from all gift shop items help to feed and house our birds.

Come browse our gift shop to fill out your shopping list.  The World Bird Sanctuary is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas (barring closures for inclement weather).

The World Bird Sanctuary is a 501 (c) (3) organization and receives no federal or state funding.  All funds are raised through corporate grants and donations from individuals like you.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Hello and welcome back!  Thank you for returning to explore yet another animal from the World Bird Sanctuary. 

What type of bird comes to mind when you see or hear the combined words: scavenger, disgusting, and bald head?  If you are thinking of a vulture or condor, then you’re right!  In this blog I'm going to share some fun and educational information about a special vulture at the World Bird Sanctuary.  You will discover his species’ natural history, personal history, and a few very interesting facts, too!

The bird’s name is Kinsey and he is a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).   He was named after John Kinsey, a beloved WBS volunteer who passed away suddenly in 2009. 

Kinsey (photo: Lisbeth Hodges) 
Kinsey is 5 years old this year and came to us--literally!  He was rescued on our exhibit line after having been observed for three days walking around and not flying.  An examination revealed that due to an old injury his right wing could not be fully extended.  As a result of this injury, he could no longer fly.

Now, onto the educational info!  Turkey vultures are only found in North and South America.  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.  Old World vultures are more closely related to diurnal (day active) birds of prey like eagles, hawks and falcons.  New World vultures are more closely related to storks and cranes.  The New World refers to the Americas.  The Old World refers to the rest of the continents.  Other New World vultures include Black, King, Lesser Yellow Headed, Greater Yellow Headed, Andean Condor and California Condor. 
Our resident Turkey Vultures are often visited by their wild cousins (photo: Gay Schroer)
Vultures scavenge for their food, which means that they survive off of eating carrion (dead animals).  Kinsey is given rat, rabbit, pigeons, venison, and fish.  His favorite seems to be pigeon.   If you come to WBS between 8-9am, (when our birds on the exhibit line are usually fed) then your chances of seeing neighboring wild vultures on the exhibit line will be very good!  They often gather there hoping to scavenge scraps from our birds’ meals.  Since most of our enclosures have tops, they are not successful—but, hey, a guy can hope, can’t he?

Kinsey, as well as many of our other birds, loves to sun himself.  This basically means that he opens up his wings and directs the back of his wings and body to the sun.    Below you can see Kinsey sunning in the morning light.

 Kinsey sunning himself (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)
Turkey Vulture chicks look exactly the same as Black Vulture chicks.  Surprisingly, they have white fluffy down feathers and a black face, with a difference in beak shape.  Adult Turkey Vultures are all dark brown except for their bright red face.  It takes around two years for them to mature into the red face, with juveniles having a darker head.  Turkey Vultures are not sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female look the same.  They also have the same wingspan as small Bald Eagles, which is approximately six feet (67-70 inches).  Their weight however is much lighter--only 4.4lbs (2000g), whereas Bald Eagles range from 6-16lbs. 
Mortimer, one of our other Turkey Vultures, still sporting his white down feathers and dark head (photo: Gay Schroer)
These vultures lay a clutch (group of eggs or chicks) of 1-3 creamy white eggs with colored spots ranging from purple to brown.  Their life span ranges from 20-25 years in the wild.  In captivity they can live from 40-50 years! 
A wild Turkey Vulture in flight (photo: Gay Schroer)
Turkey Vultures are the most common vulture in the United States and they are very easy to spot.  When they soar in the sky, their wings are in a slight dihedral (V-shape), and can soar for many hours without flapping their wings.

These beautiful and bald vultures have a great sense of smell.  They can smell dead animals over 2 miles away!  They have very large nostrils, or nares that are within the cere (skin between beak and forehead).  Below you can see a close up of his cere.

 Kinsey giving us a good look at his cere (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)
Kinsey 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.

Kinsey can be seen in the weathering area just behind the Environmental Education Center (visitor’s center) at the World Bird Sanctuary, which is open daily from 8am-5pm. 

Kinsey is a very handsome bird who demonstrates the phrase “bald is beautiful.”  You should stop by and see him sometime.

Submitted by former World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist Lisbeth Hodges

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Many of us find a special tranquility when communing with nature—whether it be in our back yards, in the woods, by the shore of a lake, or in a nearby park.  Below World Bird Sanctuary friend, Marge Biermann, tells us what she hears when she seeks the peace and quiet of nature.


God speaks to me through each cricket, butterfly and bird,
Absolutely the very best sounds I’ve ever heard.
I listen with my heart….It has a good ear,
Catching every message from these creatures so dear.

The butterfly is quiet and it takes a little while.
Her words have special beauty and a gentle style.
Now that cricket loves the deep dark of night.
It’s then he chirps with all of his small might.

Then there are the birds….Beautiful, feathered creatures.
Where do I start to speak of all their outstanding features.
Each voice so different….from a peep to a hoot,
And each set of feathers a varied style of suit.

Most are early risers, but not our Owl friend.
He’s just beginning as our day starts to end.
Birds usually are first to greet a new season,
And seem always ready to sing without any reason.

They show their young by example how to fly,
And I’m sure they must get sad, but I’ve not seen one cry.
Once a pair of Robins nested in my flowers,
And I watched them tend their eggs for hours.

Three babies were hatched and guarded with care.
To approach the nest you wouldn’t dare.
No matter the danger they stood their ground.
Two better parents were not to be found.

When they all left that nest it was a sad day,
But I learned so much in such a pleasant way.
There are countless lessons out there without end,
Just stop and listen to a little wildlife friend.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, take a moment to rest on one of our benches or walk one of our trails.  Who knows what you might hear?

Submitted by World Bird Sanctuary Guest Author, Marge Biermann            

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beauford the Great!

Beauford the Bald Eagle is amazing!  Sorry, I normally have a more cohesive introduction for you, but I really just want to tell you how awesome Beauford was in Branson, Missouri, this season.  Spoiler alert: he was very awesome!

Beauford the Great (photo: Leah Tyndall)

Allow me to backtrack. This fall Beauford and I were lucky enough to represent World Bird Sanctuary at Silver Dollar City for the Harvest Festival as a part of the NEW Wild West show.  For those readers not familiar with the Branson, Missouri, entertainment industry, Silver Dollar City is an 1880s theme park that is one of the cornerstones of the Branson area.

Beauford flew perfectly during the salute to America and our troops. This may not sound terribly exciting, but let me set the scene for you.  Beauford flew from his crate at the top of the stands down to my glove on the top of the riing.  Oh yes…I forgot to mention…he basically did this in the dark!  There was a spotlight illuminating his crate and take off perch, and a second spotlight on me, but otherwise Beauford flew pretty much in the dark indoors.

The audience didn’t know that he was in the show, which led to some fantastic crowd reactions as they felt him fly overhead and then realized what had happened once he landed onstage.  For the 2 months we were there, Beauford only had one “fumble” when he grabbed his crate carpet before taking off.  Not to worry; he just brought it with him when he landed on my glove!  Being a professional myself, I posed and pretended that the green carpet represented the environment--it was a very artistic statement that Beauford and I totally meant to make.
Beauford in his weathering area between shows (photo: Leah Tyndall)

Being a Wild West show, trick riders were a requirement, and we had some of the best!  Of course trick riders mean horses and Beauford is not used to horses.  Based on his fear of cows that we discovered last year when he flew at the Milwaukee County Zoo, it was likely that he would be fearful of horses.  Since the horses came into the ring just after Beauford’s flight, and Beauford landed on the glove while I stood on the ring, I had to make sure Buford never saw the horses in the ring.  This meant coordinating with the riders and having many contingency plans.

I had five different ways to enter and exit the building to avoid horse/eagle interaction and these came in handy once the show closed and the entertainment department began putting together a new stage for a new show.  Did I mention that in building a stage they were using cherry pickers, forklifts and scissor lifts?  All the activity required use of my secret pathways, including cutting through the bathrooms, which was pretty surreal.   No one was there that early in the morning, but it was still strange to take a male bald eagle through the ladies’ room. The things we do so that our birds will fly well.
Beauford had his very own "dressing room" (photo: Leah Tyndall)

Fantastic flying wasn’t Beauford’s only job.  He also led the parade of veterans for the opening flag ceremony every morning for the last two weeks of the festival.  Being so important he had a six-person security team to escort him, and was chauffeured to and from the ceremony.  As a show star he had deluxe accommodations: his own dressing room and private outdoor perching area for relaxing away from his adoring public.
Beauford in his weathering area for one (photo: Leah Tyndall)

After the Wild West Show closed, Beauford and I did outdoor presentations to teach people all about Bald Eagles and Beauford in particular.  These were a huge success!  Even though there were benches provided in the courtyard for spectators, there were often people standing, and even peering around trees and planters, to get a better view.

Buford and I loved every minute of our time down in Silver Dollar City.  He flew fabulously, educated thousands about our national symbol, and paid respect to our veterans.  I learned several secret pathways, how to utilize space efficiently, trained a Bald Eagle to fly spotlight to spotlight and of course did my favorite part of the job--help teach people about our amazing national symbol.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Barred Owls In The Hospital

Barred Owls are the most common bird admitted to the World Bird Sanctuary’s Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital. 

Most years we may receive between 50 and 100 injured Barred Owls.  These owls are very active in the late winter while preparing for breeding season.  Then in the spring the parents are busy hunting. 

A Barred Owl with a wing injury (photo: Joe Hoffmann)

Barred Owls sometimes get into trouble from being too focused on their food and not on everything else around them.  They like to hunt near the edge of a woods.  Many grassy areas by roads and highways are perfect hunting grounds for birds of prey.  As an owl hunts near the road they don’t always notice the oncoming traffic.  That is when they are struck by a vehicle.  Sometimes they bounce off with just a bruised body; other times they have broken bones. 

Always being aware of wildlife as you drive is important.  As mentioned above, we inadvertently create good habitat for wildlife along our roads.  Staying off cell phones keeps your eyes on the road, and your eyes on the road will help you brake for wildlife when/if the need arises.

We thank you and I am confident the owls thank you, too.  In fact the owls in the hospital were hooting the entire time I was writing this blog, so I guess they agree. Thanks again for slowing down.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, Sanctuary Manager for the World Bird 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Round-up Time

Anyone who has watched an old John Wayne movie knows that you can’t have a movie about the old west without at least one cattle round-up. 

Humpback whales feeding on the fish they have rounded up (photo: Gay Schroer) 
Likewise, if you’ve watched any Nature documentaries about whales, you are probably familiar with the Humpback Whale’s bubble net feeding behavior.  This is when a pod of Humpback whales swims in circles around a school of baitfish, blowing a “net” of bubbles to round up their quarry.  When they get the baitfish herded together into a “ball” the whales explode to the surface from below the school of fish, with wide open jaws acting like a scoop--a fish round-up so to speak.

Bald Eagle soaring (photo: Gay Schroer)
A few weeks ago my husband and his buddy were fishing at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri when they were witness to another kind of round-up.  They were fishing on a part of the lake where my husband has frequently seen a pair of Bald Eagles hunting and (in the spring) courting.  We believe this is a resident pair that nests close by, although so far we have not been able to spot the nest due to the dense tree growth in this area.  

A raft of American Coots (bird in the foreground is not a Coot) (photo: Gay Schroer) 
On this particular day the lake was relatively quiet, and a raft of American Coots (often referred to as Mud Hens) were swimming and feeding nearby. Suddenly, my husband spotted one of the Bald Eagles flying toward the Coots.  However, contrary to what he expected, the eagle did not make a direct dive for the Coots.  Instead, he began to circle the hapless birds, driving them closer and closer to each other in their attempt to evade him.  After making several circles around the flock, the eagle had them herded up into such a tight group that they were literally climbing on top of each other in their effort to evade the predator.  At that point the eagle made his move, dropping like a bullet into the middle of the frenzied birds, snatching one up, and then flying off with his prize.

I don’t know if this is a common hunting technique for Bald Eagles, or if this particular raptor has developed his own particular hunting style, but John Wayne would have been proud of him. 

Remington—one of the many beautiful Bald Eagles on our display line (photo: Gay Schroer) 
Not all of us are lucky enough to witness a wild Bald Eagle in full hunting mode, but to get a good close-up look at a number of these majestic birds plan a visit to the World Bird Sanctuary sometime soon.  You won’t be disappointed. 

Later in the year plan to attend one of our Eagle Days programs held at various locations near rivers and lakes where Bald Eagles are known to congregate during winter.  As the weather gets colder the birds from up north will be migrating down river to open waters, giving us St. Louis area natives one of the most magnificent winter spectacles in the country.  You will even stand a chance of seeing a wild Bald Eagle on the hunt.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

 (photo: Sandra Lowe)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Avian Diseases - Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)

Even though we here at Word Bird Sanctuary are constantly on the lookout for any signs of disease or other problems that could affect our birds, we thought that our readers (especially bird owners) might be interested in a discussion of some of the problems that could affect avian species.

Many people may be familiar with some of the more commonly discussed diseases that affect birds.  Most of us have heard of West Nile Virus, a disease spread by mosquitoes and affecting many species of animals (including humans).  We heard a lot about avian influenza a few years ago in the news.  But, unless you are a pet bird owner, you may not have heard of Proventricular Dilatation Disease, or PDD as it is known.  That’s because it is a disease that is not transmissible to humans, and only recently have we begun to unravel the mysteries of its causes and effects.

Baby Parrots (photo: Melissa Moore)

It is believed this disease was first recognized in a macaw in 1978, and was named “Macaw Wasting Syndrome.”  Affected birds usually show neurologic symptoms (like a weakened grip in their feet), and often exhibit digestive symptoms as well.  The digestive problems often include severe weight loss (thus the “wasting” moniker) and changes in appetite.  When examined internally, there is often a lot of food in the digestive tract, but it appears as though the internal organs were not doing their job to break down the food.  The “proventriculus”, a portion of the stomach, was often full of this undigested material.

These symptoms were identified in many other species, and so the name was changed to “Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome.”  As you might imagine, this disease could create a great deal of concern for bird owners.  For many years, very little was known about this syndrome, making it even more worrisome.

Eclectus Parrot (photo: Melissa Moore)

Then, in 2008, the cause of this syndrome was identified as a virus called the Avian Bornavirus.  Bornaviruses are known to affect many other species of animals, including mammals, but this particular virus appears to be unique to birds, and perhaps only to members of the parrot family.  By 2012 blood tests had been developed for this virus, so its presence in a bird may now be identified.  More research has also been conducted into this virus’ natural occurrence, and it has been shown to exist far more often than it causes disease.  And once again the disease has gained a new name, this time called ABV.

This topic is somewhat different than topics covered previously in World Bird Sanctuary blogs.  It came to my attention recently as I am a long-time Eclectus parrot owner with a normally healthy bird who had to make a trip to the avian vet recently.  Although my bird, Toby, is doing fine now (and tested negative for the Bornavirus), I was surprised to learn how much progress had been made in the field of avian diseases. ABV and many other diseases were quite unknown only seven years ago.

Some references to check out for more information on PDD:

Submitted by Melissa Moore, World Bird Sanctuary 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Growing Up Around Goblin

Working and volunteering at the World Bird Sanctuary has many commonly mentioned benefits: such as being able to experience things not many other people can, working with a bunch of truly dedicated people who love what they do, and watching those people share their love of animals with other people.

 Goblin still wearing some of his baby down feathers at 55 days old (photo: Gay Schroer)
 One of the great things about being a long-time volunteer is that you cannot only have more of these experiences, but if timed correctly, you can watch birds grow older and mature as you spend more time around them.   In June 2008 I started volunteering at the Nature Center, which was a couple of months after an American Barn Owl had hatched at WBS and was placed on falconry equipment (anklets and jesses that us handlers use for our education raptors).   This Barn Owl's name is Goblin, and he quickly became my favorite Barn Owl.

 Goblin at 55 days old - Wing stretching (photo: Gay Schroer)
Young Barn Owls have many adorable behaviors that range from simple stretches of their wings or legs to a behavior that has been dubbed “head bobbing”.   Head bobbing helps the young owls focus on sounds and determine where they're coming from.   Just imagine a small Barn Owl, who could look something like Goblin here, facing you on his perch.   Suddenly, he turns his head so that he's looking upside-down at you and starts bobbing his head up and down while staring straight at you.  If this mental image wasn't enough, go on YouTube and search for “baby Barn Owl head bobbing”, and you'll quickly see what I mean.

Goblin just after being put on equipment_65 days old (Photo: Gay Schroer) 
During my first few years of volunteering I was considered a Junior Volunteer and was not old enough to handle the birds (a volunteer cannot actually handle the birds until they are 16).  I had to be content with standing on the weathering area deck and watching Goblin for 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

As I got older and gained more experience, I was finally able to start handling Goblin, who had become a favorite of most of the staff at the Nature Center.  He easily lived up to and exceeded the expectations of this 16 year old.  Since I hadn't yet handled the birds at the Nature Center I didn't really know what to expect.  Almost immediately, I understood why naturalists at the Nature Center loved working with Goblin — he's a wonderful flyer!

Goblin performing in an Animal Encounter (Photo: Matt Levin) 
This past summer, I happened to stop by the Nature Center in time to watch one of the Amazing Animal Encounters.  These are free weekend programs that run from Memorial Day to Labor Day and normally have 5 or 6 animals (mostly birds).  These mini programs are a really good chance to see the birds in action while being in a relatively small crowd.  So there I was, sitting in the audience, when I heard the words “Barn Owl”, and who should I see flying from trainer to trainer but my favorite Barn Owl, Goblin, who I hadn't seen in a year or two!

Goblin has come a long way in what feels like 6 very short years, and I look forward to working with him in the years to come!

Submitted by Matt Levin, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer