Friday, February 27, 2015

Alaska State Bird: the Willow Ptarmigan

Alaska – a state usually associated with ice, snow, and cold. The winters are long and dark, with only a few hours of sunlight each day, while the summers are cool and bright, the sun barely dipping below the horizon at night. Although such a climate might seem harsh and unforgiving to some of us, there are plenty of animals that call Alaska home – including the Alaskan state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus).
 Young male Willow Ptarmigan in summer plumage (photo: the wikipedia files)

A member of the game bird order (turkey, quail, grouse, chickens), the Willow Ptarmigan is a species that thrives in cold, northern climates. In fact, its scientific name, Lagopus lagopus, literally translates to “hare-footed,” a reference to its feather-covered feet, which help to keep the bird warm in sub-zero temperatures. Alaskan weather isn’t always snowy, though. The summers in parts of Alaska can actually get quite warm, with temperatures in the 70’s (Fahrenheit). To successfully camouflage themselves in both seasons, Willow Ptarmigans have plumage that changes with the season. In the summer, their feathers will be brown with a hint of red, sporting a black tail and white underbelly. During the winter, however, their plumage becomes mainly white with the occasional black feathers.
Willow Ptarmigan in winter plumage (some become totally white) (photo: the Wikipedia files)

As the plumage of these birds is affected by the season, so is their diet. Willow Ptarmigans feed on low shrubs and, as their name suggests, willow trees. In the summer, the Ptarmigans will eat leaves, berries, flowers, and seeds. The winter months of course bring snow, which limits their diet. Heavy snowfall can cover shorter shrubs, preventing the Willow Ptarmigans from getting to the buds that comprise much of their winter diet. Fortunately in these cases, the Ptarmigans can still access the buds of the Alaska willow.
Willow Ptarmigan chicks (photo: the wikipedia files)

Willow Ptarmigans also make good parents. They are the only species of grouse in which the male helps to raise the chicks until they are independent. Most male birds of the world are monogamous, remaining with one mate for the entirety of the breeding season, and are extremely protective of territory, nest site, and mate. Despite such devoted parents, life as a chick is dangerous, and less than a third of the young will survive their first year. Not to worry, though.  The Willow Ptarmigan is a common and widespread species, in no current danger of extirpation or extinction.

At the World Bird Sanctuary we have a few of our own northern, cold-weather species. Next time you are visiting, keep an eye out for our Snowy Owl and Rough-legged Hawk. They’ll be happy to teach you a thing or two about surviving the cold of winter.

Submitted by JoHanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Box Turtle Exhibit

Thank heaven for volunteers!  At World Bird Sanctuary that phrase is repeated many times a day.  If they could, I imagine our Box Turtles would be shouting it from their new exhibit box.
Joe Dolezal and Dan Cone put the finishing touches on their poject (photo: Melissa Moore)

Earlier this month Tuesday Crew volunteers Joe Dolezal and Dan Cone put the finishing touches on the new Box Turtle exhibit. The turtles reside just below the small exhibit enclosures in front of the windows that look out onto the Nature Center weathering area deck.

Our four Box Turtles are named Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sofia (the smallest one) after the characters in the television series, The Golden Girls.  Our “Golden Girls” are Three-toed Box Turtles Terrapene carolina triunguis a subspecies of the Common (Eastern) Box Turtle. 
One of our "Golden Girls" (photo: Melissa Moore)

When constructing the new Box Turtle exhibit Joe and Dan and Don Marcinkiewicz, who designed and installed the electrical components, took into account the specific needs of this species:

            Reptiles cannot regulate their own body heat, so you have to produce an ideal temperature for them within their enclosure.  There should be a heat bulb that produces a temperature of about 85f.  This should be to one side of the enclosure so that they can move closer to or further away from the heat source as needed.

            Water and humidity is important. There must be fresh water within the enclosure constantly.  There should be a large shallow body of water that they can soak in and you must be able to use a spray bottle on the enclosure several times daily to keep the humidity level up.
The turtles are free to use their pool whenever they feel the need (photo: Melissa Moore)

            Box Turtles do not like glass, and will often try to climb through it pointlessly.  The enclosure should have walls that they cannot see through to give them better peace of mind.  Our enclosure does have one wall of Plexiglas for better viewing, but this is offset by the fact that the majority of the exhibit has numerous hiding places if they desire.

            There needs to be plenty of artificial brush and bedding that they can burrow into.
Volunteers Joe Dolezal and Dan Cone admiring the results of their handiwork (photo: Melissa Moore)

The World Bird Sanctuary’s new Box Turtle exhibit meets all these criteria and more.  Many thanks to Joe, Dan and Don, members of the World Bird Sanctuary’s Tuesday Crew….we don’t know what we’d do without you.

The new habitat more than meets the criteria for a healthy and happy turtle exhibit (photo: Gay Schroer)

For more information about this species Click here.  

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to look for our “Golden Girls” in the Nature Center.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Birdlore: Ruffed Grouse, The Drumming Bird

As the snow slowly melts away and the buds and greens of the new season spring forth, a rapid thumping resonates throughout the deep woods. 

Is that a drum you ask? Is someone chopping a log?

Nay!  The Ruffed Grouse sits atop his ‘drumming log’ beating his wings frantically in a territorial and courtship display!

A male Ruffed Grouse fanning his tail feathers and extending his neck feathers (creating a ruff) in a courtship display.
(photo: the wikipedia files)

In the northern reaches of North America, the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) lives in the thick bush of mixed hardwood trees.  When male ruffed grouse set out from their wintering areas to claim their own territory, they select a ‘drumming log’ as a stage for their display.  They do not beat their wings on the log or their breast to create this ‘thumping’ noise.  Rather, the speed at which they flap their wings in the air creates a temporary vacuum and a ‘thump’ results when air rushes in to fill the empty space.

The male will use this display year around on his ‘drumming log’ to announce his territory, but will increase in frequency during the spring mating season.  Once the males attract a prospective mate, they will initiate a brief courtship before actually mating.  The female leaves afterwards to establish her nest while the male waits for other receptive females.

The main avian predator of the Ruffed Grouse is the Northern Goshawk.   The Ruffed Grouse is a popular game bird for human hunters in the proper hunting season. The bird is often improperly referred to as a partridge, which is a smaller game bird related to grouse. 

One Native American tale tells how the thumping of the partridge made him the canoe-builder for all the birds.

“An Algonquin Tale:  How the Partridge built good canoes for all the birds and a bad one for himself.

As a partridge thumps a hollow log he sounds much like an Indian chopping and carving into a great log to create a canoe.  For in the ancient days, the Partridge was the builder of canoes for all birds of the earth.

On a chosen day, all the birds came together to receive their canoe, and what a grand sight it was to behold.  First the greatest of all the birds, the Eagle, entered his hollowed out log and pushed off into the water using the tips of his wings.  Then came the Owl, the Crane, the Bluebird, the Snipe, and the Blackbird all racing away proudly across the water in their canoes.  Even the diminutive Humming-Bird sailed in an elegant little boat with a specially made paddle provided by the good Partridge.

As the birds sailed proudly in their canoes, their attention turned back to Partridge, the canoe-builder, and asked why he did not have a canoe of his own.  Partridge remained closed mouthed and looked away.  Persistent, the other birds questioned him further and finally he relented and hinted that his canoe would be a marvel, a wonder, something only possible to conjure up in a dream.  So for many days, the birds waited for Partridge’s masterpiece.

Finally, at long last, a roar rose among the birds that Partridge’s canoe was ready.  At a designated time, all the birds gathered at the water’s shores to behold the marvel.  Partridge had pondered that if a canoe with two ends could be rowed in two different directions, surely, a boat that was completely round, like a nest, could be rowed in any direction.  His idea amazed all the birds that such a simple idea had not yet been done.

Yet, what should happen when Partridge entered the water with his marvelous canoe?

He would paddle and paddle, but no distance could he cover for he would turn in endless circles no matter his effort.  Weary and tired, he fled from the canoe to shore and hid beneath low bushes, too embarrassed to come out.  To this day the Partridge steers clear of seas and rivers and remains an inland bird.”

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Internship Opportunities at WBS

The World Bird Sanctuary provides internship opportunities for applicants over the age of 18. 

This program runs year round, and can offer unique work experience to its applicants, along with possibly receiving college credit if you are enrolled at a college.  Interns are given the chance to work full time in all different areas of the sanctuary including the animal hospital, propagation department, and education department and with our various field studies teams when they are active.

Interns are involved in all aspects of daily life at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Responsibilities include managing the resident animals at the sanctuary, husbandry and maintenance of the facilities, field study work, wildlife rehabilitation, and more!

Through working in all different areas of the sanctuary, interns are given the opportunity to discover which aspects fit their career goals best.  This can be helpful when choosing a career in which you work with animals.  Some people may find that they enjoy working in the animal hospital, helping to nurse sick and injured birds back to health.  Others may find that they prefer working in education, presenting programs for the public.  This internship opportunity gives interns the chance to find out what they are passionate about.

A WBS intern about to release this rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk back to the wild. (photo: Paige Davis)

While working side by side with WBS staff, interns are taught numerous important skills for working with birds (and other species).  For example, interns will learn how to prepare diets for all of the animals they care for.  The World Bird Sanctuary is home to over 200 animals, and each animal needs care on a daily basis.  Interns will get hands on experience working with many of these species, from eagles to snakes.  They will also get the chance to help present educational bird and other animal programs for the public!  Flying live birds over an audience is a unique experience opportunity at WBS.

Bald eagles are one of many species that interns get to work with here at the sanctuary. (photo: Paige Davis)

For receiving college credits for your internship, you must speak with your college advisor about the internship to make sure credits can be received.  If you are thinking about a career in the field of wildlife, an internship at the World Bird Sanctuary is a great way to gain experience and see what the job is really like.  Not only will you get hands on experience with numerous different species, but you will also find out what working in each area of the sanctuary is like.  It is a unique opportunity to get firsthand experience with rare species from all across the globe.

For more information or an application form, click here.

Submitted by Paige Davis, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sandhill Crane Migration-Nebraska

Do you want to see the greatest wildlife spectacle in the United States?  If so, you need to go to Kearney Nebraska in March.  The locals pronounce the city of Kearney (Car Knee).  

In March the Sandhill Cranes gather by the tens of thousands on the Platte River between Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska.
The migration can be viewed along a forty mile stretch of the Platte River (photo: Outdoor Nebraska website)
There is a 40-mile stretch of the Platte River where the Sandhill Cranes come to roost every night during March.  The birds stand in the shallow river overnight.  Some stand on sand bars, but almost all of them stand in the cold water overnight.  They roost in mass numbers in close proximity to each other.  Presumably there is safety in numbers--safety from Coyotes.  The numbers of these majestic birds along this stretch of the river are estimated to be over 400,000 Cranes.

My favorite spot to observe the Cranes in the evening in the past has been the State Park south of Kearney on an old bridge.  It is called Fort Kearney Hike and Bike Trail.  It is an old railroad bridge and is a five minute walk from where you park your car.  You can watch there for a small fee (honor system when paying).  Unfortunately, this historic wooden bridge was destroyed by a wildfire in March 2009.  Construction is underway to rebuild the bridge and widen and pave the trail, but is not expected to be complete before this spring’s migration.  Target date for completion is sometime in late 2015.  Hopefully this viewing area will be reopened in time for the 2016 spring migration.  

Just before dusk the cranes begin to arrive on the Platte R. (photo: Mike Zieloski)
However, don't let the above information deter you from a trip to view the cranes, as there are many other areas that provide excellent views of this spectacle.  For a list of viewing  areas Click Here.  Once there, you will meet people from all over the world who also came to watch the spectacle--that is if you decide to converse with the Humans.  You may just want to soak up the sights and sounds of the birds.  The birds start arriving a couple of hours before dark.  They fly in …in flocks of 3 to 3,000, and they keep coming until dark.  The waves of birds keep arriving and arriving.

Among the din you can hear the voices of individual birds.  You can hear the higher pitched younger birds calling out to locate their family.  There will also be Green-winged Teal, Pintails, Mallards and other ducks flying in with the Cranes.
The din from thousands of birds is incredible (photo: Mike Zieloski)
No matter how hard I try to describe it, the noise of the Cranes is something you have to experience for yourself.   You can hear so many Crane voices.  Then after it gets dark, you can turn on your headlamp and hike off the bridge, back to your car. You will be amazed at what you just witnessed.

In the morning, you will want to head to Rowe Sanctuary to slip into your viewing blind before daybreak.  You will need a reservation for one of the precious spots in the viewing blind.  You will be in the dark, above the river, in very close proximity to the resting birds.  The Cranes will be fairly quiet.  But as Dawn approaches, the Cranes get more and more excited…and they get louder and louder.  Then a Bald Eagle may fly over…or a Coyote may be spotted, and thousands of Cranes get air born at once. The morning lift off is so much different from the evening’s staggered arrivals.

You can make reservations for the morning blind by calling 308-468-5282 or going to  online.
It was my pleasure to share this experience with my cousin Phil (photo: Mike Zieloski)
My last trip to Nebraska was with my cousin Phil Besendorf of Louisville, Kentucky. He was amazed at the spectacle.

Previously I had been to see the Cranes with my coworker Cathy Spahn. We were the naturalists on a bus tour to experience the Cranes. I have seen this wildlife spectacle four different years now and never tire of it.  I have no idea how many more times I will go.  You should experience this, too.
WBS's resident Sandhill Cranes (photo: Gay Schroer)
If you’re unable to make the trip to Nebraska, you can see these regal birds at the World Bird Sanctuary.  We have two Sandhill Cranes who sustained injuries that make it impossible for them to migrate. 
Meet Menomenee (photo: Gay Schroer)
So Shawnee and Menomenee, our resident Sandhill Cranes, will spend the rest of their days educating the public and being catered to by WBS staff, interns and volunteers.  You can even adopt one or both of these beautiful birds through the WBS Adopt A Bird program. 

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Python regius – The Ball (Royal) Python

Ball or Royal Pythons, are indigenous to the forests of Central and Western Africa. They are semi-arboreal snakes, which means they can be found on both the ground and in trees. They are non-venomous.
Monty, WBS's Ball Python (photo: Dawn Griffard)

The name “Royal Python” derives from the fact that rulers in Africa would often wear the python as jewelry!

Ball Pythons are particularly revered by the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria.  Because it lives and travels close to the ground, it is considered to be symbolic of the Earth.  Ball pythons are given free range in Igbo villages and can wander through the streets and in and out of homes at will.  They can be carefully relocated by gently picking them up and placing them back in the forest, but if one is accidently killed, the people will build a small coffin and perform a traditional funeral for the unfortunate creature.

Ball Pythons have flat heads and a square snout.  They possess 100-150 teeth that curve inward, which allows them to catch and hold onto their prey.

Adults usually do not grow longer than 5-6 feet – females growing bigger than males.
Normal color Ball Pythons are black and brown, with black striping on the head and large irregular brown blotches on the body called “lobes”.  Many purposely-bred color mutations of Ball Pythons exist in the pet trade, some of which can be rare, and therefore very expensive.

“Pits” on the fronts of the snake’s face, formed by special scales, allow the snake to sense changes in heat in the environment as finite as 3/1000th of a degree, which allow them to hunt almost completely by feeling the body heat of their prey.  However, Ball Pythons can also see extremely well in near darkness.  Both of these features together make them formidable hunters.

Both males and females have claw-like “anal spurs” on either side of their vent at the base of their tails.  These are thought to be evolutionary remainders of hind legs.

In captivity, the Ball Python makes an excellent companion.  They are generally mellow, almost shy snakes that will often be content to be held and will often curl up on your hand or in your lap.  In fact, the name “Ball Python” comes from the way they ball up – with their heads neatly tucked safely in the middle – when they are feeling shy or threatened.
Like all reptiles, Ball Pythons are ectothermic, or cold-blooded.  This means that the animal must depend on its environment to regulate its body temperature.  For instance, if the snake feels too cold, it will seek out a warm spot where it can bask in the sun.  If it feels too warm, it will retreat to a cool burrow.  Ball Pythons require a daytime basking area of around 90 degrees, and an ambient warm temperature of 85-90 degrees.  When too warm, they will retreat to a cool area, but never cooler than 75 degrees.

Like most snakes, Ball Pythons are opportunistic feeders, and will try to eat a good meal about once a week.  In the wild, Ball Pythons will eat small mammals, other snakes, birds, frogs and lizards.  In captivity, they are usually fed rodents – as they are easily accessible.  They are constrictors; which means they wrap around their prey and squeeze it until it has suffocated.  They will then proceed to slowly swallow the prey until it reaches their stomach.

Depending on the snake’s age, size and how much it eats, he or she will shed 2-6 times a year.  Young snakes shed more often than older snakes; smaller ones more than larger.  The process of shedding takes about 7-10 days.  The shedding process happens when the snake’s body begins to grow a new layer of skin under the existing one.  That new layer begins to separate from the old and a very thin layer of fluid forms between the two layers.  When shedding is about to occur, the belly may become pink and the skin’s overall color will dull.  This is called being “opaque”.  A perfect shed will come off the snake as one complete piece.  If it does not come off as one piece, the snake’s environmental humidity is probably not ideal.  Humidity is important in creating and maintaining that fluid layer between the two layers of skin for the entire length of time the shedding process takes.

Ball Pythons are oviparous – which means they lay eggs.  Females will lay 3-11 large, leathery eggs, which she will incubate underground.  She will maintain heat for the eggs by shivering her body.  The eggs will hatch after 55-60 days.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes are not animals to be feared.  They are beautiful animals that can possess calm, sweet personalities.  They are fascinating to watch and make entertaining pets.

The World Bird Sanctuary's Ball Python, Monty, is looking for an individual or a family to adopt him as part of our Adopt A Bird program (I know—he’s not a bird—but all of our animals are available for adoption.)

Monty is a beautiful specimen of a Ball Python and is a very good snake.  In our sanctuary dominated by birds, he is often overlooked as being an important educational ambassador.  Your $50 adoption fee would help feed, house and care for Monty in the coming year!

To adopt Monty on-line Click Here.  Not comfortable doing purchases on-line?  Then call 636-225-4390 and tell the staff member who answers that you want to do an adoption.

Submitted by Dawn Griffard, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Patriot the Bald Eagle at Jefferson College Library

On October 24, 2014 Patriot the Bald Eagle and World Bird Sanctuary staff were invited to be part of a very special day and event at the Jefferson College  Library's “30th Anniversary Celebration 1984-2014.”
One of the many record books to be found in the FDLP (photo: Mike Zieloski)

Jefferson College Library is a Federal Depository Library. The Federal Depository Library system is a program of the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).  The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) safeguards one of our nation’s strongest traditions--the public right to know.  Since it was established by Congress in the mid 1800’s, the FDLP has collected, organized, and preserved information produced by all parts of the Federal Government, and assisted people in locating and using it.
Hunters' License registrations for 1929 (photo: Mike Zieloski)

Libraries designated as depositories provide local, no-fee access to information from the government in impartial environments.  Expert assistance in locating specific information is available at all locations from Federal documents specialists.  To locate your nearest depository library call 888-293-6498.

Lisa Pritchard, the Library Services Director and Government Documents Librarian, invited Patriot to be present at the end of the celebration and on display for 2 hours afterward.  Students, faculty, children and guests of the event were in awe of Patriot.  We spoke a 20-minute presentation and then lots of the library staff and guests had their photo taken next to Patriot.

Lisa Pritchard thought a Bald Eagle would be perfect for this event. The Bald Eagle has been our National Symbol since 1782.  The Bald Eagle is also the symbol of the Federal Depository Library.  Many of the Library staff held the symbol in their photos next to Patriot our Bald Eagle.

The Bald Eagle is also an example of the success of the Endangered Species Program.  Bald Eagles in Missouri and throughout the U. S. have made a dramatic comeback. There are over 150 nesting pairs just in the state of Missouri.

The 30th Anniversary Celebration featured a Flag Ceremony with Pledge of Allegiance presented by Cub Scout Pack 460.  We were welcomed by Dr. Raymond Cummiskey, President of Jefferson College.  We also heard from State Representatives and Marie Concannon, Chair of Federal Depository Council.

Lisa Pritchard included this piece of historical writing: “…Education cannot be too much applauded. A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”---James Madison in a letter to W.T. Barry.

Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education

Friday, February 13, 2015


From time to time World Bird Sanctuary staff member, Trina Whitener, creates and posts a video spotlight of one of our animals and posts it to You Tube. We thought our blog followers might enjoy seeing some of our animals in action. 

This month’s featured bird is Junior, one of our elder statesmen.  Junior was hatched in 1986 and came to us in a most unusual way.  To see and hear Junior’s story Click Here.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to look for Junior in the raptor display area just beyond the Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital. 

Video produced and submitted by Trina Whitener, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

The Bird Handler in the video is World Bird Sanctuary volunteer R. Steve Korb

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Magnificent Frigatebird

Birds have all sorts of names.  Some are descriptive, like the Blue and Gold Macaw.  Sometimes these names are much more interesting.  For example we have the Diabolical Nightjar, the Invisible Rail, and the Siamese Fireback. 
A female frigatebird displaying it's "magnificent" wingspan (photo: the wikipedia files)
One of my favorite bird names is the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens).  First of all, it just sounds really awesome.  For something to be officially called “magnificent,” it truly must be…and they are!  Second, they have a wingspan of 7-8 feet, but only weigh about four pounds!  That is almost the size of a Bald Eagle's wingspan, with only half of the weight.  Charles Darwin himself called these birds, “the condors of the ocean.”  That is due to their large size and the fact that they spend almost their entire life soaring effortlessly over water.  They can be found in the Caribbean Sea and along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Central and South America. 

The frigatebird is the only seabird where the males and females have different coloration.  The males' feathers are completely black, with some green iridescence on the head and purple on the wings.  They also have a large patch of skin on the neck that they can inflate into a large red sac to impress the females during courtship displays.  The females are more of a very dark brown than a black, lack the red sac, don't have the iridescence, and have a white patch of feathers across the chest and belly.  However, the females are a little larger than the males. 
A male frigatebird displaying for the females (photo: the wikipedia files)
You might be wondering why these birds spend almost their whole lifetime flying over water.  First, their feathers don’t shed water well, unlike many other seabirds. Because of this they can only spend a few minutes at a time in the water before they get too heavy to fly.  And secondly, they have very small feet and short legs for their size.  This makes walking or running on the ground difficult and awkward.  Because they can't spend a lot of time on the surface of the water, the Magnificent Frigatebird eats mostly flying fish, which they capture with their beaks just above the surface of the water. 

These birds build their nests mainly in mangrove trees or on coral atolls, where the females will lay one egg every other year.  They also nest in colonies with many frigatebirds living and nesting in close proximity. 

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) considers these wonderful creatures Least Concern, meaning they are abundant in their habitat.  It is however on the 2014 State of Birds Watch List, meaning that their numbers are declining, and without future conservation efforts, Magnificent Frigatebirds could eventually go extinct.  The first step to protecting these birds is education.  Just by learning about them you are starting to help them.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Only One Owl Prowl left with limited space! Book today!

There is only one Owl Prowl left in the 2014/2015 season.  This popular program, awarded the AAA’s Midwest Traveler's Travel Treasure for the Midwest, will be over at the end of February and are selling out quickly.

Wild Barred Owl.
Photo used with kind permission of Patrick Lanham Photography
Come over to the Dark Side and meet the amazing birds that exist by moonlight.  World Bird Sanctuary Owl Prowls offer an exciting opportunity to learn more about the fascinating lives of owls.

Join one of our Naturalists at our evening programs - a 30 minute presentation featuring live flying owls, followed by an easy night hike around our grounds as we try and find wild Barred Owls and Great-horned Owls who are busy setting up territories and finding mates for the winter owl breeding season!

Owl Prowls offer a unique opportunity to see owls in flight!
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
Only one date left with space for you!
We have a limited number of dates with some spaces for remaining Owl Prowls, so book today to avoid last minute disappointment. 

February 2015
Friday, February 20th

Meet beautiful owls like Tundra, the Snowy Owl, at a WBS Owl Prowl!
Photo with kind permission of Sandra's Shooting Gallery.
All Owl Prowls start at 7pm and are concluded by 9pm.
To book, call our Education Center at 636-225-4390 ext. 1.
$11 per adult; $9 per child under 12.
Friends of World Bird Sanctuary receive a 10% discount.
Groups of 10 or more pay $9 per person, regardless of age.

With only 30 people per Owl Prowl and selected dates available, call today to make your reservation!

Blog submitted by Catherine Redfern

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Protecting Nestlings

Even though the thermometer tells us that temperatures are still in the frigid zone, spring will be upon us soon. 

Spring means breeding season for our feathered friends.  That being said, predators will soon realize that nestlings may be just the easy snack that they have been longing for throughout the seemingly endless winter.  Each year I receive an overwhelming number of calls from avid bird watchers, some horrified by the thought of a snake or squirrel raiding the nest boxes, and asking how they can protect the next boxes from these marauders.

These nestlings would make a tasty snack for a predator (photo: Adam Triska)

There are many predators that commonly raid nest boxes including snakes, squirrels, raccoons, and cats.  The obvious way to avoid predators would be to not place the box in an area that has prevalent predators; but as we all know, especially us Missourians, sometimes this just isn’t a possibility.  Furthermore, there are ways that you can prevent these predators from ravaging your nest boxes and snagging an unsuspecting meal.

A good way to protect your nest boxes from snakes is to create a predator guard out of a PVC pipe.  With a PVC pipe and PVC cap you can create a barrier that will not allow snakes to climb the pole leading to your nest box to receive their tasty bounty.  First you will need to drill a hole into the cap allowing the cap to snuggly slide onto the pole.  Then secure the PVC cap to the pipe using screws or caulk.  This will create a barrier similar to the one pictured on the left above.  If you are not feeling crafty or just aren’t the crafty type in general you can always purchase one of these predator guards online.

If snakes are not the only predator you have to fend off you may want to try the conical predator guard.  This guard defends against nearly anything that may want to disturb your nesting birds.  These guards are most common for deterring raccoons.  When the raccoon climbs the pole it will try and reach around the cone and grip on to something in order to pull itself up.  This type of guard will render it nothing but slippery sheet metal to grab hold of.  After what is usually relentless unsuccessful attempts the raccoon will eventually figure out that the work is not equal to the reward and find food elsewhere.
This hardware cloth guard has stood up to the attacks of determined predators (photo: Gay Schroer)

Not all predator guards have to be that complex.  For those of you who would like to create a simple guard for an area that does not see quite as many predators a simpler predator guard may be the perfect solution.  This type of predator guard is also good for hanging nest boxes or nest boxes that are positioned on trees.  This predator guard can be made out of something as simple as hardware cloth.  The cloth is placed around the entrance of the box, as displayed in the photo above, and then secured with screws in order to keep predators from reaching into the box to gain access to its contents. Get creative and come up with your own predator guard.  Sometimes you have to think outside the box!
Nest boxes can usually be purchased for a reasonable price at the Wildlife Hospital (photo: Gay Schroer)

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary you may purchase a nest box from the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital and help feed our birds with the proceeds!  Pricing starts at only $2.00!

Submitted by Callie Plakovic, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How to Help Birds in Winter

The cold months of winter can be strenuous on local wildlife such as birds.  As temperatures drop, food becomes even harder to find, yet creatures big and small must continue to survive in these harsh conditions. 
A Fox Sparrow feeding on extra seed scattered on a walkway during a snowstorm (photo: Gay Schroer)
Birds have to expend extra energy in order to stay warm during the winter.  Naturally, birds do have cozy down feathers and a special gland that helps keep their feathers waterproof through all sorts of weather conditions.  Birds can also puff up their feathers. The act traps air within outer feathers, which helps keep warmth inside feathers closer to the body for extra insulation.  But staying warm in the winter costs more energy than in the warmer months.  There are many ways you can help out your local wildlife right at home.
Feeders come in all shapes & sizes.  This one holds several suet blocks (photo: Gay Schroer)
Providing feeders for songbirds is a fun way to help birds in your own backyard.  By supplying foods like suet or even peanut butter, it gives birds a great source of fat and protein.  This food source keeps birds’ metabolisms up and helps them maintain their average 104 degree body temperature.
Finches appreciate thistle seed feeders (photo: Gay Schroer)
 You can also put out birdfeeders with nyjer thistle seed for finches.  Nyjer thistle is high in fat, and it is sure to attract birds such as House Finches, Purple Finches, Goldfinches, and Pine Siskins.  By offering black sunflower seeds in your feeder, you will likely attract a wide variety of birds such as Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Mourning Doves, grosbeaks, and more.  These bird feeders will help local songbirds by giving them a stable food supply during winter.  Birds begin to look for good food sources as early as the beginning of fall, so getting feeders up during that time will best attract them.

A Northern Mockingbird taking advantage of a nut feeder (photo: Gay Schroer)
In the winter, fresh water is harder to come by as water sources freeze.  Birds can dehydrate more easily in the winter as drinking water becomes harder to find.  By providing a water source such as a birdbath, you can help your local birds stay hydrated and healthy.  Even better, a heated birdbath is a very popular spot for winter birds.  When choosing a birdbath, plastic or resin birdbaths are more resistant to shattering in the wintertime during ice removal and melting.  It is never a good idea to pour boiling water on a frozen birdbath however, as it might shatter your birdbath.  Instead, warm water will do just fine.
In the winter birdhouses are used for roosts (photo: Gay Schroer)
Another thing you can do for your local birds is to provide roosts for them.  A roost is a place where a bird spends the night (or day, if you are an owl).  This can be done either by putting out birdhouses or even by providing more trees such as conifers or evergreens.  A cozy birdhouse will be appreciated by your local bird friends.  There are numerous birdhouse building plans available online, as well as premade birdhouses you can buy at retail stores, such as Lowes, Walmart, Home Depot, Wild Birds Unlimited as well as numerous hardware stores, co-ops, feed stores and other stores that sell bird seed, scattered throughout your area.  You can even attract specific species of birds by choosing certain birdhouse designs.
A Northern Flicker sheltering from the wind at the base of a large tree (photo: Gay Schroer)
Through providing feeders, fresh water, and roosts, you can really help out the local birds in your area during winter.  Not only will you help the birds out, but you will also have a lot of colorful backyard visitors to watch and enjoy all season long.

Submitted by Paige Davis, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist