Sunday, March 30, 2014

Really Weird Animals - Potoo

Potoos are a group of seven species of tree-dwelling birds native to the Neotropics of Central and South America.  They are not much to look at and you’ll struggle to see them at all!  They are not brightly colored like many tropical birds or fierce like raptors, but they are masters of disguise. Their complex feather patterns of grays, browns, and black resemble tree bark perfectly.  They can stand perfectly camouflaged atop a dead tree branch.  A potoo will position itself to mimic an extension of the tree branch itself.

A Common Potoo camouflaged on a stump (wikipedia.org)

They are nocturnal and spend the day resting, out in the open on the end of a dead tree limb.  They have unusual slits in their eyelids which allow them to sense movement even when their eyes are closed.  The instant a potoo detects an intruder it slowly moves its head straight up and freezes.  With its beak pointing up to the sky, it stays perfectly still until the threat passes, looking like no more than the end of a broken branch.  They can move their heads unperceptively slow in order to watch a predator carefully.  They will squint their eyes as to not expose themselves by revealing too much of their bright yellow irises.  These birds are so amazing at camouflage that they show complete composure under pressure and only break free from their disguise if a predator is almost upon them.  


A Long-tailed Potoo (wikipedia.org)

The Rufous Potoo is the smallest of the seven species and is invisible among dead leaves and trees.  To increase their camouflage even further, they may rock back and forth while roosting to even closer resemble a dead leaf that’s waving in the breeze. 

Potoos are very selective nesters.  They will not build a nest, but will find an upright broken tree branch with just enough depression or crevice for a single egg to rest.  Both parents will take turns shielding the egg from predators and bad weather. Potoos feed on flying insects at dusk and at night.  They will regurgitate partially digested food to feed the chick.  When the chick is too large to hide under its parent’s protection, it will assume the same freeze position resembling a clump of fungus, since it has gray downy feathers.

Potoos have proportionately large heads for their body size and long wings and tails.  The large head is dominated by enormous eyes and a massive broad bill, helping them to see prey in little light and to then catch and swallow that prey whole.  Beetles and other flying insects are their main source of food. However, one Northern potoo was found with a small bird in its stomach!

Fortunately all seven species of potoos are not on the endangered or threatened species list, but like all tropical wildlife, they are still subject to rapid loss of habitat by deforestation.   

Submitted by Sara Oliver, Naturalist

Friday, March 28, 2014

Red-headed Woodpecker

At World Bird Sanctuary, we recently received a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) that is non releasable.  After keeping an eye on it (we don't know if it is a male or female) throughout a particular day, I realized that I know almost nothing about woodpeckers.  So, I decided that it was time for me to learn.  

Red-headed Woodpecker (wikipedia.org)

As adults, Red-headed Woodpeckers have bright red heads, black backs, white chests and black wings with large white patches.  This gives them the nickname of the flying checkerboard.  So naturally we named ours "Checkers".  Red-headed Woodpeckers have been around for a very long time.  In fact, in Florida, Virginia and Illinois, Red-headed woodpecker fossils have been found.  Some of them even dated to about 2 million years old!  They can be found all over the eastern United States,  ranging from Montana down to New Mexico, and from Florida up to New Hampshire.  However, the further north you go, the less common they are.  

They live in deciduous woodlands and nest in old dying trees.  Red-headed woodpeckers are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals.  Most of their diet contains different nuts and fruits (Checkers seems to enjoy grapes and peanuts the most).  They will often find insects to eat also.  Ranging from flies to grasshoppers to cicadas, they will eat practically any insect they can find.  And they are very effective at catching them in midair, too.  Rarely they will even eat smaller birds and mice.  

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of only 4 woodpecker species in the United States that will cache, or save and hide, their food.  This is in case they need the backup food supply.  Commonly they will store live grasshoppers in cracks in trees.  They will wedge the grasshoppers in so tightly that it cannot escape.  These woodpeckers have even been known to store food underneath shingles on peoples' roofs. 

The Red-headed Woodpecker's conservation status is Near Threatened.  This means that if current trends of decline continue, they will likely become endangered.  According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations have declined around 2.9% every year, starting around 1966.  In the mid 1840's Red-headed Woodpeckers were so common that some farmers and orchard owners actually paid bounties for them.  Beech forests and chestnut trees are far less common today, which is a major cause in the decline of their populations.  

One way to help out the Red-headed Woodpecker is to make sure that if you have any old dying trees on your property, don't cut them down.  Those are prime foraging and nesting real estate for these beautiful birds.

Submitted by Mike Cerrutti, Trainer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Species Spotlight: Bald Eagle ww

The Bald Eagle is recognized by most all Americans as a symbol of our amazing nation.  This particular bird of prey has been a national emblem since June 20th, 1782.  The Bald Eagle was chosen in part because it is found only on the North American continent.

Clark, Bald Eagle, flies at World Bird Sanctuary's Open House in 2013
Photo: Sandra Murray
 You’re probably wondering how it got its name ‘Bald Eagle’.  No, this bird is not really bald; its name is derived from an earlier meaning.  At the time when this eagle was coined the ‘Bald Eagle’, bald actually meant white opposed to hairless.  Therefore, its name is derived from its head plumage as an adult.  Juveniles have a brown head and tail.   Additionally, mature Bald Eagles are characterized by their bright yellow-orange beak and feet and yellow irises.  These amazing birds of prey can reach 30-37 inches in length and can weigh between 8-14 pounds depending on their sex.  Male and female Bald Eagles generally look identical, although females are larger than males and usually have a slightly longer back toe and beak.
Wild Bald Eagle
Photo: Gay Schroer
There are two subspecies of the Bald Eagle coined the “Northern” Bald Eagle, found anywhere north of 40 degrees north latitude across the entire continent, and “Southern”, found anywhere south of 40 degrees north latitude.  The northern Bald Eagles are significantly larger than their southern relations.  These birds of prey can lift up to anywhere between one third to one half of their total body weight.  Fish and small mammals make up their main source of nutrients. 

A Bald Eagle’s vocalizations have often been described as high pitched shrills or as twittering.  They use these vocalizations to reinforce the relationship between a male and female or as defense to warn other eagles that a territory is defended.  These extraordinary birds have the same size eyes as a human, but are able to see 8-9 times sharper than that of a person with perfect vision.  Their habitats are usually formed along the coasts and around lakes and rivers where their diet consists of mostly fish.  These massive birds of prey have an average lifespan of about 15-20 years in the wild.  They have been known to double and sometimes even triple that in captivity.  

Juvenile Bald Eagle in recovery after being treated at the Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital at World Bird Sanctuary.
Photo: World Bird Sanctuary
If you are interested in learning more or seeing one of these brilliant raptors up close and in person come pay us a visit at World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, MO.  We would love to have you!

Submitted by:
Callie Plakovic, Outreach Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cathy Sphan's Photo Project: Year 3 - A Birder's Commitment to Seeing Something Special!

February has been a slow month for photos.  I have had a few outings, but not too many photos really stand out.  I did manage to search through this month’s photos and locate a few nice shots.  The first photo I have included is from very early in February 2014.  

Townsend’s Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi
Photo: Cathy Spahn
This first photo is a special bird.  I had the chance to see a Townsend’s Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi.  This bird was originally found by another birder in the Young’s Conservation Area in Eureka, MO.  A few days later I had a day off, and in the freezing cold and the snow I went for a walk, hoping to see the bird.  I followed the directions from the other birder and as I got closer to the area the bird was being seen I saw a grey bird fly across the field in front of me.  I started getting very nervous that this was the bird I was looking for, and then moments later it popped up in a brushy area in front of me.  I got my binoculars on the Solitaire and got very excited.  The bird flew back in the brush.  I changed spots and could still see the bird, then quickly pulled my camera out, and after some difficulties I managed to get a shot.  The photo was good enough to use as an id photo for bird records.  The Townsend’s Solitaire is normally found much further west in more mountainous areas.  They are not always easy to see and this is only the second ever Solitaire I have ever seen.  The last one was when I was in New Mexico in mid- 1980’s and very young, so I really have no memory of it.  For this reason I consider this Townsend’s Solitaire a new bird for me.  In Missouri this is only the 5th sighting of this species.  This is a very nice find, even though the photo is not the greatest.

White Pelican
Photo: Cathy Spahn
The next two photos, of American White Pelicans, I took the week of February 17th.  I was out birding and there were lots of pelicans, ducks and geese moving around because SPRING IS COMING!  At one point I had over 500 American White Pelicans at Clarksville, Missouri, but unfortunately they were too far away for a good photo.  The two photos I have chosen were taken at Riverland’s area in West Alton, Missouri, near Lock and Dam 26 on the Mississippi River.  
White Pelican
Photo: Cathy Spahn
The pelicans were actively hunting for fish near the Lock and Dam.  It is so hard to choose only a few photos, but my favorite of these 2 is the pelican coming in for a landing on the water.  I got the bird as its feet were in the water and its wings up.  My second favorite is the other photo of a pelican in flight along the choppy waters. 

Signs of spring are coming, which means the chance for more photos increases.  I believe next month will be a better month for photos.

Submitted by:
Cathy Sphan, Naturalist, World Bird Sanctuary


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Wanderer


One day while doing our weekend Meet and Greet on the bird exhibit line at World Bird Sanctuary, I was asked a question that really stumped me.  A young girl asked me, "If you could work with any type of bird that you don't have here, what would it be?"  

It was a question that I had never heard before and one for which I didn't know the answer.  So, while feeding the birds on the exhibit line and talking to this wonderful family about our birds, I thought about what type of bird I would love to work with.

Immediately I thought of a Harpy Eagle.  Harpy Eagles are one of the largest birds of prey in the world, and one of the most powerful too, with talons almost as long as bear claws.  But as I kept thinking I finally decided on my answer; a Wandering Albatross.

They have the largest wingspan of any bird (photo from the Wikimedia files)

Wandering Albatrosses have the largest wingspan of any bird in the entire world, with the largest one ever claimed being 17 ft 5 in.  However, this report remains unverified.  Average wingspan is usually around 12 feet, still extremely impressive.  They spend a majority of their lives flying over oceans.  

It takes about ten years for a Wandering Albatross to reach its full maturity.  As a juvenile, one would be almost completely brown, with some white feathers on their head near their face.  As they age the white coloration will take over most of their body.  Eventually, as an adult, they will have brown feathers on their wingtips and at the end of the tail, with the rest being white.  They have a long hooked beak, much like a gull, but bigger.  They also have webbed feet, which makes sense.  

These amazing birds spend most of their lives over the oceans (photo from the Wikimedia files)

Since they spend most of their lives over oceans, they must be able to travel great distances over a fairly quick period of time.  One Wandering Albatross was recorded traveling just over 3,700 miles in only 12 days.  They often spend their nights sleeping afloat on the oceans' surface.  They feed mainly on squid and other cephalopods, but will also eat other aquatic life.  

Sailors consider an albatross a symbol of safe journey.  Albatrosses often are found following boats, feeding on the fish waste that many boats create.  The male and female  share time incubating the egg and raising their young.  They will mate for life and only lay one egg per breeding season.  

The Wandering Albatross is listed as Vulnerable, not endangered, but they will be endangered if their decline continues.  The main cause of the decline of Wandering Albatrosses is getting tangled in long line fishing operations in the open ocean.  They often drown trying to eat the bait on the hook, getting tangled and being pulled under the waves.  

A majority of the entire world's breeding sites for these majestic birds are protected.  Also, many fishering operations are being relocated away from their migration routes, so it is good to know that steps are being taken to help these birds.

We don’t have Wandering Albatrosses at the World Bird Sanctuary, but we do have another species that you might encounter the next time you go boating on the river or on the ocean—Pelicans.  Once the weather warms up you may see both the Brown Pelican and the White Pelican on our exhibit line.  During this cold weather the Brown Pelicans are spending their time in one of our behind the scenes heated buildings.

  
Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Our Birds Get Their Names


The staff gets asked many different questions at the summer bird programs World Bird Sanctuary presents at zoos.  What type of bird is that?  How old is the bird?  Can it fly?  By far one of the most common questions is what is the bird’s name?

Humans have an innate desire to name things.  This does not just include their pets, but also their houses and even their modes of transportation.  All boats have a name from the tiniest dinghy to the grandest yacht.  I’ve even named both the cars I’ve owned.  We humans just love to have something to call things other than what they actually are.

Vader the Black Vulture (photo by Gay Schroer)

While not all of our birds or animals can actually recognize their names (though many seem to), we need something to call them other than their species.  World Bird Sanctuary is home to over twenty Bald Eagles, which could get confusing.  Calling them by their species and then a number doesn’t work either, especially in a program setting.  “Ladies and gentleman, entering from the back of the theater is Bald Eagle number fifteen!”  That sounds a little ridiculous, particularly if you only have the one Bald Eagle in your show!  Hence, all of our animals have names, even our Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

Naming a bird can sometimes be tricky.  You need something that is clever, especially if the bird is a show bird, but also easy to say.  Remember this is a word you will need to repeat many times throughout the program.  When we obtained a black vulture we toyed with many names including “Noir” which is French for black and also an excellent film genre.  Of course once we practiced saying Noir over and over, we decided it might not be the best fit.  Likewise if you choose anything mythological or tribal you want to make sure it means what you think it means.

Osiris our Egyptian Vulture is named for an Egyptian god (photo by Gay Schroer)

Tsavo our fantastic Bateleur Eagle is named for Tsavo National Park in Africa.  Unfortunately the name “Tsavo” translates to “place of slaughter”.  Osiris an Egyptian Vulture is named for the Egyptian god of the underworld.  Osiris turned out to be a girl.

Hugnin our White-naped Raven (photo by Gay Schroer)

Our White-necked Raven Hugnin on the other hand is perfect.  In Norse mythology Odin had two ravens; Hugnin and Munnin, representing thought and memory respectively. Hugnin is an incredibly smart bird so her name actually works on two levels, like Scarlett our Red Shouldered hawk (named for Scarlett O’Hara and the color) and Jet our American Kestrel (because he kicks like Jet Li and is fast like a jet).

Scarlett the Red-shouldered Hawk (photo by Gay Schroer)

We not only scour mythology for names but also history as in the case of many of our Bald Eagles, like Lewis and Clark, or Timigen our Red Tailed Hawk named for the boyhood name of Genghis Khan.  Timigen was quite a force to be reckoned with when he was younger.

Timigen the Red-tailed Hawk (photo by Gay Schroer)

 Every single name we choose for our birds has a story or a reason, be it their personality (Mischief another White Necked Raven), literary reference (Poe our Common Raven), appearance (Reese a very orange Great Horned Owl), in memory of a wonderful volunteer(Kinsey a Turkey Vulture) or even where they were found (Sanibel a Bald Eagle found on Sanibel Island, Florida).

Every single bird has a name and every name has a story. So, next time you are at World Bird Sanctuary ask about the bird’s name, the answer may actually surprise you.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Coming Soon - MidWest BatFest 2014!

Join us as we celebrate everything about the special bats that call Missouri home.  During this two-day event at World Bird Sanctuary and Onondaga Cave State Park, you will find out all about why bats are important, what we can do to help them survive – and you will even meet live Missouri bats that are currently in rehabilitation!

This celebration is a partnership between World Bird Sanctuary, Missouri Bat Census, Missouri State Parks, Missouri Department of Conservation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service.

Attend each venue and get your BatFest Passport (available free at each venue) stamped to be entered into a prize drawing.

MidWest BatFest 2014 activities:
Saturday, April 5th
Bats at Onondaga Cave.Photo: http://mostateparks.com/park/onondaga-cave-state-park
  • Onondaga State Park:
  • Discounted cave tours with BatFest Passport
  • Live bats and education programs by Incredible Bats
  • Bat Kids Craft
  • White-nose Syndrome decontamination demonstration
  • White-nose Syndrome in Missouri presentation
  • Sunset Public Bat Mist-netting Demonstration at Onondaga State Park
  • Ozark Task Force – Cave Restoration display
  • Missouri Cave and Karst Conservancy
  • Missouri Bat Census
World Bird Sanctuary:
  • Sunset Public Bat Mist-netting at World Bird Sanctuary
Sunday, April 6th
Batty and Scar: Resident Straw-colored Fruit Bats at World Bird Sanctuary.Photo: World Bird Sanctuary
World Bird Sanctuary:
  • Kids craft activity
  • Environmental education program featuring bats, barn owls, snakes – presented by World Bird Sanctuary
  • Missouri Bat Census presentation – Urban Bat Preservation
  • Bats of Missouri presentation featuring live Missouri bats
  • White-nose Syndrome in Missouri presentation
  • Missouri Bat Census bat-house building activity – throughout the day
  • “Battle for Bats” video running throughout the day in Visitor Information Center
  • RNA Free Electronics Recycling drop-off point
  • Missouri Cave and Karst Conservancy
  • Missouri Bat Census

Onondaga State Park:
  • Discounted cave tours with BatFest Passport
For the latest news and program updates about this exciting new event, “like” our MidWest BatFest 2014 Facebook page.

Submitted by:
Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baton Rouge - Not The City


What type of animal has two legs, flies, and eats road kill?  If you were thinking of a vulture, then you are correct!  In this blog I will be discussing a very special vulture.  His name is Baton Rouge, Baton for short, and he is a very handsome King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)!

Baton came to the World Bird Sanctuary in 1998 from the BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo (hence his name). He was hatched the year before on April 11, 1997.  He has traveled to the North Carolina Zoo, Milwaukie County Zoo, and Boston’s Stone Zoo to fly in educational programs during the summer seasons. 
Anyone who says vultures are ugly has never seen a King Vulture in all it's glorious colors (photo by Lisbeth Hodges)

From his picture you can see his very colorful head.  Having a featherless head for a vulture is very important because of what they eat--carrion.  Carrion (dead animals) has the best pieces of meat inside the body cavity (heart, liver, lungs), so Baton would have to stick his head inside.  When he is done eating, he would just wipe his head on the grass to clean up, simple as that.  At WBS Baton is given a variety of meat such as rabbit, rat, fish, and venison.  He is not a picky eater, but he does seem to favor venison over the others.
How could anyone resist that face?  (photo by Lisbeth Hodges)
When Baton is done eating for the day, he loves to play with sisal rope toys.  And then in the afternoon, he absolutely loves to sun himself at his window.  When he launches himself from his perch during a show audiences are amazed by his impressive 5 foot wingspan.  
Stone Zoo show (photo by Teri Graves)
That pink bulge you see on his chest in the photo below is his crop, where his food is stored, even sometimes for a few hours, before traveling further into his body.
Baton Rouge performing in the WBS amphitheater (photo by Gay Schroer)


Here you can see that crop bulging with a good meal (photo by Lisbeth Hodges)
There are 22 species of vultures in the world, 15 Old World vultures and 7 New World vultures.  New World vultures are from the Americas, while the Old World vultures are from the rest of the world.  King Vultures are found from southern Mexico through Argentina in South America, so they are a New World vulture. 

The King Vulture presumably got its name from their size, and is named for being a messenger to the Mayan gods.  These vultures weigh from 5 to 10 pounds and stand from 27 to 32 inches tall, with females being larger than males.  King Vultures are not sexually dimorphic, meaning that both sexes look the same. 

Female King Vultures will lay one egg each year on the ground and both parents will take turns incubating it and feeding the chick as well.  Lifespan in captivity is around 30 years, but in the wild is unknown.

I hope you learned a little bit about Baton and his species.  They are one of my favorite vultures.  If you love vultures too, then I suggest coming to the World Bird Sanctuary on the first Saturday of September!  We celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day along with many other organizations throughout the world on that day.  Vultures are awesome birds and occupy an important niche in their ecosystems!  Find out why by coming to IVAD!

Baton Rouge 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.  Since during the cold winter months Baton Rouge resides in a heated building in our behind the scenes area, you will need to make an appointment to see him if you are his adoptive parent.

The World Bird Sanctuary is open daily from 8am-5pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist



Friday, March 14, 2014

Celebrate with World Bird Sanctuary’s unique “BirdDay Parties!”

World Bird Sanctuary “Birdday Parties” offer a unique way to celebrate birthdays!

Our “BirdDay Parties” are suitable for birthday stars of all ages and supporters of the mission of World Bird Sanctuary.  The fun get-together, on our peaceful grounds includes a 20 – 30 minute live animal encounter, 'birdday' cake with individualized message, beverages and a special gift for the 'birdday' star.


You choose which animals your BirdDay star would like featured at their party!

The animal encounters feature close-up views of four different animals, such as owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, reptiles, rabbits and more.  Eagles are available for an additional fee. 

“BirdDay Parties” run for a total of 90 minutes, with set-up and clean up done by our staff – so you get to enjoy your special day!

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

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

Animal encounters will make your BirdDay Party one to remember!

The party accommodates a maximum of 15 guests, with an additiaonl cost per added guest over the first 15 guests.  50% non-refundable deposit required upon reservation.


Reserve your BirdDay Party today by calling 636-225-4390 ext. 0!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mother Nature's Garbage Men


Let me introduce you to Kinsey, a five-year-old turkey vulture that resides here at the World Bird Sanctuary. 
 Kinsey playing with his leash (photo by Christina McAlpin)

Kinsey was brought in to our Katherine G. Favre Wildlife Hospital by concerned citizens.  They observed that he couldn’t fly away.  He had apparently injured his right wing at some time in the past and it didn’t heal correctly.  Due to the injury he could only fly a couple feet off the ground.  When Kinsey was found he was super thin and barely alive. 

After being nursed back to health by our hospital staff it was determined that he would never be able to fly well enough to survive in the wild.  Consequently he was transferred to the care of our Education Department and trained by our staff to become an education bird.  When Kinsey isn’t at an education program educating the public about his species he is at our visitor’s center teaching the visiting public about Turkey Vultures. 

Kinsey has a great “personality.”  He loves to sun himself, and play with his blue tug of war toy.  He is shy and nervous when he first meets a new trainer, but once he gets to know you he is very sweet.

By most people’s standards the Turkey Vulture is an extremely gross bird, along with other vultures in its family.  When a vulture feels threatened they will vomit all over whatever it is that is threatening them.  It smells horrible and will make predators run away.
When visiting you may see wild Turkey Vultures sunning or looking for a free meal (photo by Gay Schroer)

Turkey Vultures primarily eat carrion (dead animals).  The turkey vulture can smell its food a mile away, unlike many other birds (eg. Hawks, owls, sparrows), which have little to no sense of smell.  These new world (meaning from North and South America) vultures will pee down their legs in the summertime to keep cool.  Through evaporation this works the same way for them as when people get out of a swimming pool or lake and the wind blows on their wet bodies, producing goose bumps.  Peeing down their legs allows them to cool off when the wind blows during those blistering summer days. 

Though these birds eat week old dead animals, vomit when threatened, and pee down their legs, they are extremely important to our environment.  Not many people would want to go pick up all the dead animals on the side of roads.  If we did pick them up we would risk getting sick from the bacteria and diseases harbored by that carcass.  New world vultures have very strong stomach acid.  It is a ph of one, which is the same as battery acid.  Any disease known to humans dies as soon as it hits their stomach.  We like to refer to the vultures as “mother natures’ garbage men”. 

So the next time you see a turkey vulture flying in the sky think of how they are saving you from getting sick, instead of all the gross things they do.
Turk, one of our senior citizen vultures (photo by Gay Schroer)

If you visit WBS to see Kinsey and some of his other brethren, be sure to walk down the exhibit line beyond the hospital where we have an entire exhibit populated with these “garbage men”.  Chances are at least one of them will come right up to the fence and shadow your movements as you walk up or down the path

Submitted by Christina McAlpin, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, March 10, 2014

This Weekend - World Eagle Day 2014!

This Weekend –World Eagle Day 2014!

During the month of March the Bald Eagles wintering in our area start to fly back to the north, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see eagles until next winter.  Join us this Sunday, March 16th, 2014 as World Bird Sanctuary celebrates eagles from around the world!

You’ll meet eagles from North America, Africa, Australia and Europe.  Kids will enjoy fun, free crafts and activities.  Learn all about eagles through naturalist talks and free-flight shows featuring live flying eagles.  Get up close and personal and have your photo taken with a real Bald Eagle!

Bald Eagle in flight at World Bird Sanctuary.
Photo: (c) Sandra Lowe

New in 2014!  
We welcome special guests Bill Volker and Troy from Sia – The Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornotholigical Initiative.  They will be conducting presentations about the unique importance of eagles to Comanche culture.

Mariah, Golden Eagle at World Bird Sanctuary.
Learn about the importance of Golden Eagles in Comanche Culture at World Eagle Day 2014
Photo: Gay Schroer

All this, and more, is made possible by Ameren Missouri, who are sponsoring our “Fun in Flight” 2014 series.

  •      Meet vultures from North America, South America and Africa!
  •      Meet Dorothy, a live Andean Condor!
  •      Free-flight shows featuring live flying vultures!
  •      Free fun kids activity center.
  •      Gifts and souvenirs on sale.

 Date: Sunday, March 16th, 2013
Time: 10am – 4pm
Admission & Parking: FREE!

Sponsored by Ameren Missouri.




Join us as we wave winter goodbye, and welcome the Spring, at World Bird Sanctuary’s World Eagle Day 2014!

Submitted by:
Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Return to the Wild" program celebrates wildlife hospital successes!

Sick and injured birds of prey that enter our wildlife hospital at World Bird Sanctuary will often need an area to be released back to the wild, so we have designed a program to make this a unique experience for the general public to enjoy.  The “Return to the Wild” program gives World Bird Sanctuary supporters the opportunity to take part in the release of a bird of prey back to the wild!

Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffmann of World Bird Sanctuary, examine and treat a Bald Eagle with an injured wing.Photo: Sherry Seavers 

 The Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital at World Bird Sanctuary specializes in the rehabilitation of birds of prey, and also the reintroduction of these birds back to the wild, after their treatment is complete.  The actual return to the wild is where the public can be of great help to our organization and provide a memorable experience for those who witness and take part in the release. 

On the day of the release, a World Bird Sanctuary staff member will bring the bird to the release location, from where donors have the option to release the bird out of their own hands, or by simply opening the travel crate to let the bird fly away in its own time.


A Red-shouldered Hawk is returned to the wild after being successfullytreated in the wildlife hospital.  Photos: World Bird Sanctuary.

This is a memorable way to celebrate a special occasion – birthday, anniversary, wedding, tribute, graduation or memorial, or even just enjoying giving the special bird its second chance at life!


To find out more about our “Return to the Wild” program, you can contact our wildlife hospital staff at 636-861-1392, or click here for more information.

World Bird Sanctuary would like to the thank the skilled veterinarians of St. Louis Hills Veterinary Clinic for volunteering their time and resources to treat the sick and injured birds admitted to our wildlife hospital.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Really Weird Animals: Tongue-eating Lice


Tongue-eating and lice.  Those words by themselves do not bring pleasant thoughts.  This creature is a parasitic crustacean found off the coast of California and as far south as Ecuador, and has been sampled in water six to seven feet deep and down to 200 feet deep.

As juveniles, several tongue-eating lice will latch onto a fish and enter it through its gills.  The first crazy thing about these parasites is that they are “protandric hermaphrodites.”  Meaning: as the lice mature, they first become male (about 7.5-15 mm long).  Then usually one of them will turn into a female once it reaches 10 mm in length.  They can grow up to 29 mm in length


Tongue-eating louse (photo from the Wikimedia files) 
Females will crawl from the inside of the gills to the fish’s mouth and grab hold of the tongue.  They extract and consume the tongue’s blood through their front claws!  The tongue eventually dies and disintegrates from so much loss of blood and the louse becomes its new tongue, holding on to whatever nub is left.   So despite its name--the tongue-eating louse--it does not actually eat the tongue, but sucks its blood.  Although the process of losing its tongue is quite uncomfortable for the fish, the fish doesn’t die.  The parasite wants its host to live as long as possible, so it will then only occasionally consume its blood and mostly feed on the fish’s mucous.


Tongue-eating louse inside its host (photo from the Wikimedia files)
 Not much is known about this creature’s mating cycle.  They could possibly mate before the female ventures to become a fish’s tongue, or perhaps a male comes up to visit the female, or the female could just release her eggs in the direction of the males and they fertilize them.

Tongue-eating lice are not harmful to humans.  They are sometimes found in fish bought at supermarkets, but are usually dead along with the fish.

At the World Bird Sanctuary  you won’t find any tongue-eating lice, but we do have a healthy colony of Hissing Cockroaches.  When you visit be sure to check them out as they are very interesting.

Just as all creatures have a purpose in this world, even a tongue-eating louse can be food for other ocean dwelling life that finds these crustaceans floating around without a host!

Be sure to chew them well!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist