Thursday, April 30, 2015
One of my favorite things to do, during migration season is to identify birds. Many aspects of bird watching combine to make this the world’s number one hobby; the hunt through the binoculars for that wind-blown leaf you thought was a bird; the sudden realization that you’re facing the wrong direction in a valley; following a song for an entire afternoon just to get a glimpse of that fellow who sings his heart out.
When I do finally see that special bird, I have to take quick mental notes on size, color, foot type (if I see a bird feeding), bill type, and behaviors. Although behavior is a really big part of identification, I enjoy using bill type as a guide for those really tough ones. This is especially true when you consider that many species depend mostly on a specific food for survival. Whether it feeds on seeds, insects, nectar, or other animals, its bill will be specially adapted for feeding.
Members of the parrot family have beaks that are designed for gripping and cracking seeds and nuts. (photo: Leigh French)
Seedeaters need to have a bill that is strong enough to crack through the thick hard hulls to get to the meaty fruit inside. Their bills are often thick and arrow shaped having hard ridges to aide in grip, like a wrench. Parrots are a great example of this. Their bills are very thick and their upper mandible has serrations on its underside, out near the tip, so that they can grip nuts and crack them. Also, cardinals have a thick, strong bill for smaller seeds.
Shorebirds are a wonderful example of diversity within a habitat. Gulls and terns have bills adapted for fishing. They dive into the water from the air or from floating on the water.
Roseate Spoonbills have a bill shaped for shoveling around in the lake bottom debris for their food. (photo: Gay Schroer)
Some Ducks and wading birds have a specialized bill for shoveling around in the water for invertebrates.
This Scarlet Ibis has a very specialized beak for probing for food in soft mud and under plants (photo: Gay Schroer)
Birds like the sandpipers, oystercatchers, godwits, turnstones, and plovers have bills that are shaped for finding invertebrates that have tunneled into the sand or mud. Their bill is sort of shaped like the prey for which they forage.
Herons and egrets use their bill as a spear.
This Great Blue Heron uses his bill as a spear and then swallows the fish whole (photo: Gay Schroer
…whereas this Yellow-crowned Night Heron snatches his preferred diet of crayfish with his long pointed bill
…and then turns it, pinchers side out, and crushes it with the powerful upper portion of his bill before swallowing it
Moving away from the shore, there are other smaller birds that flit about after tiny gnats and flies. These birds have small bills and are a bit more difficult to identify because they are usually small and fast. These are typically gnatcatchers and flycatchers.
Prothonotary Warblers have small thin bills for catching insects and snails which they pry out of their hiding places
Ruby-crowned Kinglets are such tiny little birds and they are the most difficult for me to see clearly. That’s when I listen to any calls or songs they may be making. Woodpeckers have a bill that is like a chisel. They bang away at trees looking for insects crawling under the bark and inside the wood.
Finally, I think crows and ravens are a good transition into birds of prey. They are very adept and intelligent. They hammer and poke and tear and pull their food.
Meat eaters are probably more diverse because they may feed on certain animals based on their habitat. Owls, hawks, and eagles have bills that are great for tearing meat.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl has a beak that is supremely well adapted for tearing meat (photo: Gay Schroer)
So, when you are having trouble narrowing down that bird species, perhaps you can get a good look at the bill to figure out a bit about it.
The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, pay particular attention to the different beak shapes that you will see on our display birds and the birds that visit our bird feeders. Try to guess what each bird’s preferred food would be.
Submitted by W. Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Homing Pigeons can lay eggs any month of the year. January and February can seem quite cold, but we here at the World Bird Sanctuary have had our Homing Pigeons laying eggs even in the traditionally coldest months in Missouri.
One of the birds from our Homing Pigeon flock (photo: Mike Zieloski)
We have even had one hatch in January. Can you imagine the dedication the parent birds must have to hatch an egg when some nights are below freezing? And I did mention birds (plural), because both the male and the female incubate the eggs. My Pigeon mentor, Charlie Klipsch, told me that both parents take turns at incubating and brooding (keeping the chicks warm).
I’ve also noticed that at certain times almost all the hens (females) were taking their turns at incubating at almost the same time. And other times when you go into the pigeon Loft, all the cocks (males) would be on the eggs.
The eggs aren't much bigger than a quarter (photo: Mike Zieloski)
The eggs take 17 days to hatch. The females lay 2 white eggs, slightly bigger than a quarter. The babies grow so fast that they seem to double in size each of the first 5 days. Once the babies are 27 days old, they look like the parents, with fully feathered bodies.
Our Homing Pigeons are available to come to your event. The last event the birds participated in was a person’s Surprise 50th Birthday Party. Everyone enjoyed learning about Homing Pigeons and watching the birds take off into the sky.
You may call 636-225-4390 x101 if you would like to schedule the birds for your next event.
Story by Michael Zeloski, Director of Education, World Bird Sanctuary.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
Here at the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital we receive many calls regarding young birds that seem to have fallen from the nest.
A baby Great Horned Owl (photo: Sherry Seavers)
If you find a baby bird the best thing to do is leave it alone. The parents will find it and continue to take care of the baby, wherever it is. If the bird is in immediate danger of being attacked by a cat or dog, whenever possible, remove the cat or dog from the area until the bird is able to fly (1-2 weeks). Put the bird in a nearby bush, shrub or on a tree limb out of harm’s way.
Most birds have a poor sense of smell and the parents will not abandon a baby bird touched by humans. If you happen to find a baby with little or no feathers and you know where the nest is, go ahead and return the youngster to its nest.
If the nest is destroyed, cannot be found, or cannot be reached safely, make a substitute nest using a small basket or margarine tub. Punch holes in the bottom and line the container with paper towel – not with grass, as moisture in the grass can cause birds to become too cold. Secure the new “nest” with duct tape in a branch fork near the old nest.
If you are certain the bird is an orphan, prepare to transport the bird to a rehabilitation facility. Carefully place the baby bird in a small open container lined with paper towels and place both in a cardboard box. Do not attempt to feed or give water to an orphaned bird. A bird’s diet is very particular and they have a feeding schedule that must be followed if they are to survive.
If you are tempted to keep the baby bird---don’t! Migratory birds, including songbirds, are protected under federal law. Possession of a bird, its nest or its eggs without a permit is illegal.
Submitted by Joe Hoffman, World Bird Sanctuary Rehabilitation Hospital Manager
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Last year I had the pleasure of working with the World Bird Sanctuary's Animal Encounters team at Grant’s Farm. The crew there was a real joy to be with on a daily basis. They really know how to enjoy a job. That is why I am excited to once again join them on stage and offstage this year.
However, there will be a few changes this year. One of the biggest and most exciting changes is working with fellow WBS staff members JoHanna Burton and Paige Davis.
McGwire the Bald Eagle will be one of two birds in the posing area to have his photo taken with guests (photo: Gay Schroer)
Throughout the season we will be taking turns in the posing area with Bald Eagles McGwire and Sanibel. This is a photo op where a photographer will take photos of guests posing next to one of these Bald Eagles.
Marz the Red-tailed Hawk...
...and Shadow the Bateleur Eagle will be two of the birds greeting visitors in the weathering area (photos: Gay Schroer)
On display in a special area will be Shadow the Bateleur Eagle, Carmelita the Great Horned Owl, Prius the hybrid Gyrfalcon/Peregrine Falcon, and Marz the Red-tailed Hawk.
Scarlett the Red-shouldered Hawk...
...and Otis the Abdim's Stork will be two of the birds entertaining visitors on the Grant's Farm stage (photos: Gay Schroer)
We will also be working with a few new birds onstage--Scarlett the Red-shouldered Hawk, Emerson the Eurasian Eagle Owl, and Otis the Abdim’s Stork. These last two birds are fairly new to me and I look forward to learning their individual personalities and behaviors. So far it has been a great learning experience.
Please, come see our shows and say hi. We are always happy to meet you and answer your questions. Education is what we love here at World Bird Sanctuary and there is a never-ending supply of it. We are always looking up into the skies and ready to identify what we see and we absolutely enjoy spreading that knowledge to others.
Submitted by W. Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer
Saturday, April 18, 2015
It finally happened. Well, OK--it happens to everyone at one point or another…writer’s block. For some reason this month I had a lot of trouble coming up with a topic for my blog. After a brainstorming session I realized some of my best blogs were based on questions people have asked about our birds.
An assortment of food items cleaned, chopped, and ready to be delivered to the birds (photo: Leah Tyndall)
This month I decided to answer a question we hear frequently at World Bird Sanctuary shows and on site, “What are you feeding them?” An excellent question! We feed our birds an all-natural diet. If they eat it in the wild, we feed it to them in captivity…as long as it is feasible. For our meat-eating birds of prey we have a variety of options such as mice, rats, rabbits, pigeon, fish, chicken, and venison.
The omnivores such as crows, ravens, seriemas and cranes get meat as well as delicious produce and soaked dog food. It may sound a little strange, but dog food is an excellent source of protein and well balanced for omnivores; also for many of the birds it is their favorite part of the meal.
The parrots have a special dry diet that looks remarkably like cereal (but doesn’t taste like cereal), as well as freshly chopped produce. They also get nuts, over-ripe bananas and hard-boiled eggs.
One of our parrots watching intently as his bowl is filled with produce (photo: Leah Tyndall)
Raw eggs are given as enrichment to the omnivores and vultures. Each species, and sometimes each individual, has their own unique way of eating them. Crows and ravens poke the shells, vultures pick them up and drop them, seriemas slam them to the ground.
Since we process our own deer meat (donated by generous hunters –or-- road-killed deer brought to us by the State Highway Department), we often have deer leg bones that we give to the vultures. Their specialized beaks can remove the meat from the bone more cleanly and thoroughly than we humans could ever hope to achieve.
Much of our food is donated to us by various generous individuals and organizations. Without them our organization’s budget would be severely impacted. Not that we don’t spend a large part of our budget on food for the birds, but donations help tremendously when you have about 200 birds to feed. Since our birds get an all-natural, whole food diet we have to do some prep work before it can be fed to the birds.
Be warned this next section is a bit graphic! In the wild, birds of prey will catch their food and often remove the lower digestive tract or “guts” before enjoying their meal. In order to make things easier on ourselves in terms of cleaning, and for the health of the birds, we remove most of the guts before feeding meat to our birds. Yes ladies and gentlemen, we have to gut and cut up rats and rabbits and deer (oh my) every day. Keep this in mind if you ever plan to work with raptors.
Hunter, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, eating a tasty piece of rat meat after a lovely bath in his tub; room service and a bath--what more could an owl ask? (photo: Leah Tyndall)
We also must cut up produce everyday and soak dog food. Down at the behind the scenes area of World Bird Sanctuary we spend over half of our day doing food prep. It’s a dirty, messy job, but someone’s gotta do it!
“But Leah,” you may be thinking, “do you ever feed your birds live food?” Another excellent question, hypothetical audience! We do not--for a couple of reasons. The first is that we do not want our birds to associate movement with food. Many of our programs take place outdoors and we don’t want our birds taking off every time a squirrel runs by or a songbird wanders into the theater. The second reason has to do with the bird’s safety. All of our birds were raised in captivity or must remain in captivity due to injuries that prevent them from hunting properly. This means a bird either never learned to hunt or cannot do so and pitting them against live prey could result in the bird becoming injured if the prey fights back. The only time we use live prey is with birds that are being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild. We need to be sure that they have fully recovered and can hunt on their own after being fed by humans during their treatment.
A diet as similar as possible to their wild counterparts is important to the health of captive birds. Through generous donations we are able to feed our birds the best food for them. This may look a tad unappetizing if you come to visit, but please know that it is the best possible nutrition we can give our animals. It’s this knowledge that makes all of the countless hours of food prep, the scissors hand cramps, and the over familiarity with mammal and fish digestive tracts completely worth it.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
What is a Falcon Cam you may ask?
The World Bird Sanctuary, in partnership with Missouri Department of Conservation and Ameren Missouri, is pleased to be able to bring you a live video camera trained on a Peregrine Falcon nest box located at Ameren Missouri’s Portage des Sioux Energy Center. This live video feed will allow you to watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons nest and hatch their chicks from the comfort of your living room. The video feed is active from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. each day.
One of the falcons early in the year inspecting the empty next box
The Falcon Cam has been up and running for the past three years. In that time we have watched a Peregrine Falcon pair, which we named Coal and SiouxZee, lay 14 eggs and successfully fledge 12 youngsters.
This year, for whatever reason, SiouxZee did not return. However, a new female has bonded with Coal and she is now sitting on 4 eggs, which we estimate will hatch around the 4th or 5th of May.
The female (on the right) watching the four eggs
Watching this nest is somewhat like watching a soap opera. There can be action, drama, danger, tenderness and yes, even comedy.
Click Here to watch this real life drama. If you are lucky you may even see the male bring food to the female, or just change positions with her to give her a break. When you go to the video feed, be sure to click on the “Ask Jeff” link to find out all the interesting details of the past history of this falcon nest. You’ll find out what is involved in following a pair of Peregrine Falcons (the world’s fastest animal) from courtship to fledging the youngsters.
Let me warn you—viewing the Falcon Cam can be addictive!
Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Here’s another poem by World Bird Sanctuary friend and guest author Marge Biermann about Chrys, the Long Crested Eagle. Chrys was taken from his African homeland by black market smugglers, and Marge’s poem is about his traumatic journey to the United States.
Greed is often an element for sadness in life.
It has certainly caused our little Chrys a lot of strife.
Taken from his African home, the wild place of his birth,
His trip covered many frightening miles on this earth.
He was a helpless victim of the black market trade.
In this whole world who could come to his aid….
Handle him with care and true understanding,
Because this life change was so cruel and demanding.
His beautiful crest cut off to give some disguise,
Why pick on this innocent creature so small in size?
He offered no threat but was a beauty to see,
And asked only that in this life he could fly free.
But good for our Chrys….he has found the help he needs,
From folks dedicated to birds of all breeds.
A sanctuary of rest and care….A new home.
He’s no longer alone to wander aimlessly and roam.
With nurturing and love from others,
Chrys has found a way to help all of his lost brothers.
He’s now a messenger of hope to birds in distress.
In this great place he found rest and time to convalesce.
It’s the St. Louis World Sanctuary for Birds,
A blessing to winged creatures that surpasses all words.
Since Chrys was captured as an adult, his age is uncertain. He arrived at the World Bird Sanctuary in 1987, so we know that he is over 28 years old. Even though he is somewhat shy, Chrys has adapted well to life at WBS and over the years has helped to educate thousands about the evils of the black market trade.
Most days you can find Chrys sitting on his perch in the weathering area behind the World Environmental Education Center sunning himself, bathing or just people watching.
Chrys is available for adoption through our Adopt A Bird program. Your adoption donation will help to feed, house and care for Chrys during the coming year. To adopt Chrys online Click Here, or call 636-861-3225 and ask for Marion.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
This is the Question we at the World Bird Sanctuary wildlife hospital sometimes ask ourselves when times are tough.
Winter can be tough on us, as well as wild animals. Just as we are susceptible to heatstroke and frostbite, wildlife can also get sick and injured from harsh weather. Wild animals don’t have a magic shield that protects them from the extremes of our world’s climate, even though sometimes it seems they do better than us when it comes to surviving outside. Animals burrow underground, migrate south and have thick fur or feathers. All of these things help them deal with the cold.
As you can see from the photo this bird is missing most of its major flight and tail feathers (photo: Gay Schroer)
We recently admitted a Bald Eagle to the Kathryn G. Favre wildlife hospital, which would not have survived the winter, even though there are thousands of eagles in the Midwest this year.
This eagle slowly lost all its major wing feathers. Most eagles molt all the feathers on their bodies over a two-year period. This particular eagle was found starving to death because it had lost so many feathers it could not fly, hunt or keep its body insulated from the elements. After we acquired the bird, it continued to lose the remaining feathers. When new ones would start to grow in, for some reason the eagle’s body would reject the feathers before they even developed.
Without tail feathers and primary flight feathers this bird could not fly (photo: Gay Schroer)
We are not sure what caused this odd feather loss. We are running tests and treating the bird with vitamins, antibiotics and rich meats. These treatments sometimes induce a bird to molt, which we are hopeful will result in a new growth of normal feathers; only time will tell. We know that we have a long fight ahead of us.
The deteriorated feathers on his body could not provide insulation from the cold (photo: Gay Schroer)
This eagle would have surely died of frostbite if a number of individuals had not intervened to get the bird to the proper authorities. This bird does not understand that we are trying to help him. With daily treatment eagles will defend themselves when we try to restrain them to administer medication. These are the challenges we face when trying to save a Bald Eagle.
We here in the wildlife hospital are always focused on the end goal—seeing the bird returned to the wild. This is why I am here!
If you would like to sponsor a Return to the Wild Click Here—or call 636-225-4390 to be routed to the proper person for more information.
Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital Manager
Friday, April 10, 2015
Imagine you are deep in the woods of the great north, wandering through the still trees and underbrush.
The air is calm and quiet. Sound doesn’t travel far in the dense forest. A light fog lingers around you in the fading light. As you push through the ferns and young trees, a clearing opens up to a calm and serene lake. An eerie wail echoes across the flat water, sending a shiver down your back and drawing your attention to the center of the lake.
You've just entered the domain of the solitary Common Loon.
A typical Common Loon in breeding plumage (photo: the wikipedia files)
The common loon (Gavia immer) is a primitive bird species with a solid black head, red eyes, white ring around the neck, and colored with a black and white checkerboard pattern on their back (breeding plumage). These water birds are found on lakes, rivers, large ponds, or estuaries in the northern wilderness during the breeding season. They eat small fish for a living.
The loon is known for its haunting and beautiful calls which can be heard echoing across their watery habitat, especially at night. They produce a tremolo when alarmed or announcing their presence on the lake. Males give out a yodel to indicate their territory. Lastly, the loon's wail, the most familiar and haunting call, is used to help determine a male and female's location to each other. Click Here to hear the call of the Common Loon.
Common Loon swimming swiftly under the surface of a lake (photo: the wikipedia files)
The loon is also known as the Great Northern Diver in Britain, for their incredible diving and swimming ability. This water bird has several adaptations lending to its superb skill. Their legs are situated to the rear of their body. This allows for swift swimming underwater, but leaves the loon very clumsy and vulnerable on land. Also, the loon is one of the few bird species with solid bones, along with Puffins and Penguins, which helps them to sink more easily. They also compress the interlocking pattern of their feathers to force out enclosed air before diving. While under the water, loons will lower their heart rate to conserve oxygen. The loon can dive without making a splash on the surface and reach a depth of 150 to 180 ft.
A Common Loon sitting on its nest near the water (photo: the wikipedia files)
Since the loon is so adapted to water, they are faced with equal disadvantages. The rear legs of the loon are not suited to land, so they only go to shore to mate and nest. Being a heavier bird, loons need to take a running start across open water for as much as a quarter mile to get airborne, while at the same time flapping their wings. Common loons can easily become stranded if they land in bodies of water that are too small.
In the summer months, loons are spotted on the water's surface raising their feet to waggle them in the air. Scientists believe this is done to help lower their body temperature.
The common loon often represents the northern wilderness's isolation and serene beauty with its own unique characteristics, haunting calls, and it's preference to live in remote quiet places away from humans.
The Chippewa Indian tribe tells the following story of how, long ago, the whole world was covered in water. One day the Great Spirit decided to make solid land for all the animals to rest on and live in. The Great Spirit asked the animals if any of them would dive to the deep bottom to retrieve a little mud, so he could make the land. Muskrat, otter, and beaver tried and failed. Looking to the loon last, the Great Spirit asked if loon would dive as deep as he could. Time passed and finally the loon surfaced, saddened. He believed he had failed and waved his foot to the Great Spirit in farewell. As he did so, mud appeared on the bottom of his foot and was enough for the Great Spirit to make the land. Loon became a hero.
To this day, when loons raise their feet and wave them in the air, they are remembering the hero of their species, the Loon Who Made the World.
If you wish to learn more about Common Loons or other water birds around the world, please stop by the World Bird Sanctuary and speak with one of our naturalists.
Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
In collaboration with Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, BatWorld Ozarks and Missouri Bat Census Group, World Bird Sanctuary is presenting MidWest BatFest 2015.
Now in its second year, MidWest BatFest 2015 is an educational and awareness-building event hosted over two days at two different venues, with the purpose of educating the public about the importance of bats to our ecosystems, the threats they face, and what we as individuals can do to help them.
According to the USGS report released in March of 2011, insectivorous bats are estimated to save the US agricultural industry $3 billion per year in pesticide usage. MidWest BatFest partners believe that our mutual interest in preserving bat species and their habitats make for a productive working partnership to raise awareness about the importance of bats and what we can do to help rapidly declining bat populations. We will be presenting programs, featuring live bats, that demystify bats in Missouri, and update our attendees about the impact of white-nose syndrome on bat populations in the MidWest, and why this should matter to everyone who lives here.
Program of Events
Saturday, April 11th at World Bird Sanctuary: 10am – 9:30pm
Meet live Missouri bats at MidWest Batfest 2015
· Exciting Ecosystems! Presented by World Bird Sanctuary at 10:30am and 3:30pm.
Environmental education program featuring bats, barn owls, snakes.
Environmental education program featuring bats, barn owls, snakes.
· Bats of Missouri Presented by Missouri Department of Conservation and BatWorld Ozarks , with live bats at 2:30pm
· Urban Bat Preservation
Presented by Missouri Bat Census, presentation at 11:30am
· White-nose Syndrome Update
Presented by US Fish & Wildlife Service at 1:30pm
· MoBat Census bat-house building activity and children’s craft activity presented throughout the day
o Missouri Cave and Karst Conservancy
o Missouri Bat Census
o Wildlife Command Center
o Wildlife Rescue Center
o National Speological Society
o Mark Twain Cave Complex
o NSS 2015 Convention
o NSS WNS Response
o Ozark Karst Task Force
Sunday, April 12th at Onondaga Cave State Park: 10am – 4pm
Enjoy discounted cave tours at Onondaga Cave State Park during MidWest Batfest 2015.
· Discounted cave tours (Saturday and Sunday)
o Adults - $10 (normally $15)
o Seniors/Teens - $8 (normally $13)
o Children 5 - 12 years old - $6 (normally $9)
o Children 4 and under are free
· All About Bats, featuring live bats Presented by Missouri State Parks and Incredible Bats at 11am and 2pm
· Bird of Prey Display Presented by World Bird Sanctuary from 11am – 2pm
· Bat Kids Craft presented by Onondaga State Park
· White-nose Syndrome decontamination demonstration
· White-nose Syndrome Update Presented by Missouri Department of Conservation at 1:30pm
o Missouri Cave and Karst Conservancy
o Missouri Bat Census
o Wildlife Command Center
o National Speological Society
o Mark Twain Cave Complex
o NSS 2015 Convention
o NSS WNS Response
o Ozark Karst Task Force
Special Presentation: Public Bat Mist-netting at World Bird Sanctuary AND Onondaga Cave State Park
Saturday, April 11th
6:30pm – 9:30pm
Watch as bat biologists capture wild bats, record important data, and release the bats again.
Watch bat biologists as they trap bats in mist-nets, capture their data (including species, sex, age, size, etc.) and then release them. This information is used in identifying trends in bat populations, as well as identifying problems so that proactive solutions can be found to help bats.
Admission to all programs, mist-netting and demonstrations is free. Cave tours at Onondaga Cave State Park are discounted for MidWest Batfest weekend.
We encourage visitors of all ages to come and learn about the importance of bats, what amazing creatures they are, and how we can help them, at MidWest BatFest 2015!
Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Fundraising & Social Media Consultant