Friday, October 30, 2015

First Time Speaker

If you work in the Education Department at the World Bird Sanctuary then you will eventually be a speaker at our education programs.  I have just recently started speaking these programs.
Barnaby the Barn Owl landing on my glove during an Amazing Animal Encounter (photo: Linda Wibbenmeyer)

How do you prepare for this you may ask?  To begin with, I have been the handler in several Amazing Animal Encounters (our weekend programs at the World Bird Sanctuary from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend).  These programs are smaller than our full- length Raptor Awareness programs, but they are a great way to learn about the birds we fly and present.  I learned several facts and tips on presenting programs by listening to several Amazing Animal Encounters speakers while presenting the birds in these shows.  There is also a basic script that I was given to read over and learn my parts.

The next step is to start small. I presented my first Birdday Party at the WBS Visitor’s Center.  You present four different animals in a small setting.  This was great practice and the kids at the Birdday Party loved it (as did the adults)!  It really helped to boost my confidence, too.
The "Royal Falconers" at K.C. Renfaire, Kelsey McCord, Matt Levin and Paige Davis (photo: B. J. Talley)

As we come into fall the Renaissance Festival in Kansas City starts, and WBS presents programs as the Royal Falconers Theater each weekend.  Cathy Spahn, a WBS naturalist with many years’ experience, told me that on the second weekend she wanted me to be the speaker for a few of the shows.  These would be my first real presentations as a speaker. These shows are only a half hour long though, so they are good “stepping stone” programs.  I was a little nervous and a little excited.

I was still a little nervous about getting the timing down right when Paige Davis suggested I speak some of the same lines from our last Amazing Animal Encounters.  She suggested being the speaker for a few birds in a show, rather than the whole show, with some flyers and some non-flyers, so that I could get a feel for it and get some feedback from the other people helping in the show.  So the next day I received a bit of coaching before the program started, and then spoke for three of our birds. 

I learned during that first show that being the speaker is more than just talking.  You still have to remember to move about the stage when flying the birds.  I made sure to get that part right for the second show.  I received some great pointers after each of the programs to improve my role as the speaker.  I also felt much more ready for the following weekend at the Renaissance Festival.

As the day of my first full show began, Paige took the first show so that I could listen to her and get a feel for this particular setting.  At the Renaissance Faire we do four shows each day, and this weekend we had three speakers.  When my turn came up for the second show I briefly went over what I should be saying with Paige and Matt Levin, past WBS employee and current volunteer.  I took a deep breath and walked out on stage.  I introduced each bird as they came out and spoke about each of their species as they flew over the audience’s heads.  After they fly, each bird is walked between the aisles.  The birds did their part wonderfully which helped me to stay focused.  I introduced our last bird in the show (a Bald Eagle), then explained how the audience could hand their cash donations to our American Crow, Aesop, and the audience applauded!  I checked the clock, and my timing was perfect!  I had survived!!

After the program I got a few more tips and pointers, and I presented two more shows the following day.
Shadow, a beautiful Bateleur Eagle, was a new bird for me to handle (photo: Paige Davis)

About a week later, Paige and I presented three full Raptor Awareness programs at a campground for fifth graders.  This time it was a full length Raptor Awareness program which runs 45 to 50 minutes.  In these 3 shows we also had a bird that I had never met, let alone spoken about.  We brought Shadow, the Bateleur Eagle, for our finale.  Paige spoke the first two programs so that I could learn all about Shadow as a bird and a species.  The final program started and I introduced our first bird.  The program went great, and the kids loved it!  I got it to 47 minutes and then another few minutes for questions.  Perfect!  It was my best program to date.

I look forward to speaking many more programs and learning about more of our birds as I continue to work for the World Bird Sanctuary.

Submitted by Kelsey McCord, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Little Angel

The American Kestrel was one of my mother’s favorite birds.  This small member of the Falcon family can be seen hovering over the grassy areas along roads and highways.  To me they look almost like an angel, still in the air, as they hunt for bugs and mice below.  

Sassy, one of the WBS resident American Kestrels (photo: Gay Schroer)

Kestrels seemed to have been more common years ago when we had more cloverleaf interchanges and the grass was cut short.  The trend today by most highway departments is to let the medians, interchanges and roadsides grow up in native plants, which are only mowed once or twice a year. The World Bird Sanctuary has placed hundreds of nest boxes along highways to accommodate Kestrels looking for homes.

Population studies have shown conflicting data and have shown yearly variations in populations.  Some population drops were regional phenomena.  Other drops seemed to coincide with the rise in the population of Coopers Hawks, which would indicate loss by predation. Luckily we have recently seen increases nationwide in kestrel numbers, but they seem to be a fragile species in some areas.

These small falcons sometimes appear to hover in mid-air when hunting (photo: Gay Schroer)

Besides national studies, which were instituted in recent years by the government and some universities, the World Bird Sanctuary has noticed reductions in the number of American Kestrels admitted to our wildlife hospital.  This has taken place over a number of years, so we thought we might investigate. 

We have many interns each season at the Sanctuary who are assigned special projects as one of the goal of their internship, and we try to give them interesting projects to do while they are here.  Kim Sage was the intern chosen to research these yearly fluctuations in kestrel admissions, not only at World Bird Sanctuary, but at centers throughout the country. 

Kim contacted fifteen centers to see if they could dig through their files and see how many kestrels were admitted in recent years.  They reported that admissions had fallen in most areas of the country, probably meaning kestrel numbers dropped in that part of the country.  In the Northeast kestrel admissions were already starting to rise by the time we published our report in our Mews News newsletter, and the other studies finished.

We still don’t seem to get the historic numbers of kestrels at the hospital that we once did, but we admit 20 to 30 each year.  Most of the kestrels we receive at the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife hospital are collision victims, most likely hit by car or truck (or sometimes even trucks that might be carrying cars).  Another large group is orphans. 

These little Falcons seem to be making a strong comeback, but you might not see them in the same areas where we were accustomed to seeing them--by the highways. 

On your next long car trip watch in fields where the grass is short and you might see a little angel hovering over the ground.

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital Manager

Monday, October 26, 2015

Aggression: Part 1

There is a very common question that we get at zoo show programs, especially when we have a bird on the arm.  “Does the bird ever bite you?”  The short answer is yes, but the better question is “why does the bird bite you?”

I hate the phrase “aggression” or “the bird was being aggressive”.  Okay, allow me to rephrase, I dislike when people, especially new trainers use those phrases as they tend to lump together any sort of negative display from the bird. 

Over the years I have found that birds may be aggressive for a number of different reasons, and unless the reason is identified, curbing the negative behavior becomes increasingly difficult. 

Questions that I like to ask both myself and people that I am training when trying to identify the cause of aggressive behavior are:  How was the bird “being aggressive”?  What exactly was it doing?  When did the negative behavior start exactly?  Was there an instigating moment?  What was the trainer doing?

Feed me human!  (photo: Leah Tyndall)

The first form of aggression is food aggression.  This is when a bird tends to react in a violent manner because it wants food.  Everyone gets a little grumpy when they are hungry and birds are no exception.  Food aggression can vary from rushing a trainer who has food, to biting at the glove when it does not contain food.  The key is to reward the birds not when they are charging or footing, but when they are exhibiting calm behavior. 

We also redirect their aggressive tendencies into a different behavior.  For instance one of our Black Vultures used to rush at people all of the time since he had accidentally been rewarded for doing so at his previous location.  We taught him to perch on a branch or stump, wait for 10-15 seconds and then he would be rewarded.  He found this to be a much faster and easier way to get his breakfast, rather than charging at people.  That often caused them to leave, taking the food with them. 

Training Zeuss (photo: Mike Cerutti)

Birds that become aggressive to the glove are no longer rewarded from the glove; instead they eat from a cup or a “food glove” which is on the opposite hand from the handling glove.  This is how we trained Zeus, our Golden Eagle.  The use of a food glove also had the added benefit of creating a disregard for our bare hand.  This allows us to check his feet and change his equipment without any issues.

Birds also become defensive if they think you are trying to take food from them.  This often leads to a behavior called mantling.  This is when a bird hunches over its food and droops its wings so that the food is not visible to other birds.  If any creature dares approach their prize there is usually a loud vocalization followed by the bird striking out with either its beak or feet. 

Yup...looks like a rat to me! (photo: Leah Tyndall)

On occasion it does not even need to be food, the bird just perceives it that way.  The other day Buford our Bald Eagle was sitting backstage on his perch and he relieved himself.  I decided to grab a paper towel to clean it up once I picked him up.  Apparently that paper towel looked exactly like a rat because Buford immediately jumped for it, feet first.  He didn’t stop until I tossed him the paper towel, he realized it was not a rat and promptly spit it out.  After that he was a prince.

Aggression is sort of a catch all term for a bird reacting in a hostile or violent way.  It can have many root causes, only one of which I have touched upon here. Come back next month as I discuss territorial aggression, perceived threat aggression, and dominance aggression.  Actually, maybe come back for several months, this might take me a bit.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Beak or Bill?

Beak or bill?  This is a question I have asked myself a number of times.  It is something that a lot of people use interchangeably.  However, there is a difference between the two. 

Beak or Bill?  They come in many different shapes and sizes (photos: Gay Schroer)

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a beak is a bird's horny projecting jaws, or other animal such as a turtle or a squid.  A bill is the beak of a bird when it is slender, flattened, weak (doesn't hurt when it bites you), or belongs to a web footed bird or a bird of the pigeon family. 

 In other words, a bill is a type of beak, but not all beaks are also bills.   This is like all macaws are parrots, but not all parrots are macaws. 

Osiris the Egyptian Vulture (photo: Mike Cerutti)

Beaks and bills can come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.  To me, the most impressive beak is that of a raptor--although, not all raptor beaks are the same.  
Some beaks can be longer and narrower, like on Osiris, our Egyptian Vulture. 

Reese the Great Horned Owl (photo: Mike Cerutti

Other raptor beaks can be short and stout like on Reese, our Great Horned Owl.  This is one of the things I love about raptor beaks, the variety in which they come. 

Nemo, an African Grey Parrot (photo: Mike Cerutti)

Parrot beaks are hooked like raptor beaks, but have a rasping edge on the inside of the top beak for filing away the shells of nuts that are too tough to crack open. 

A Northern Cardinal (photo: Carmen Volante)

Many songbirds, like Cardinals, have short stout beaks for breaking seeds open and killing insects. 

When you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, you will see a large variety of beaks and bills on our birds and even our turtles!

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fabulous Feathers

We learn at a young age that birds have feathers. Feathers help a bird to fly.  While I’m not about to refute that fact, it must be said that there is so much more to feathers that makes them truly fascinating.

First of all, there are seven different kinds of feathers.  There are wing feathers, tail feathers, contour feathers (which cover the bird’s body), semiplumes (slightly fluffy), down feathers (REALLY fluffy), filoplumes and bristles (long skinny whisker-like feathers).  Each different kind of feather serves a different kind of purpose.
Keeoo the Augur Buzzard displaying the overlapping pattern of wing feathers and the rudder-like tail feathers (photo: Gay Schroer)

Wing feathers help form the shape of the wing into an airfoil to gain lift, and tail feathers act as a rudder to help a bird steer.  Of course, this assumes that the bird in question can fly at all.  In some species, such as the ostrich, flight is not an option.  Oftentimes, when this is the case, the wing and tail feathers are not stiff and flat, but have evolved to become more ornate for use in territorial or courtship displays.
Another view of how Keeoo's wing feathers overlap (photo: Gay Schroer)

Contour feathers form an interlocking, overlapping pattern over the bird’s body.  This helps to streamline the bird…and keep it waterproof.  Thanks to the pattern of the contour feathers, only the waterproof tips are exposed, allowing water to bead up and roll right off of the bird.  This is especially important in waterfowl, which would otherwise be soaked and cold.
A Snowy Owl is a perfect example of the insulating properties of feathers--even the bottoms of their feet are feathered (photo: Gay Schroer)

Semiplumes and down feathers are located underneath the outer feathers, where their fluffy barbs act as insulation.  The delicate fluff on these soft feathers creates small pockets of air next to the bird’s body.  These pockets of air under the contour feathers help insulate and keep the bird warm as outside temperatures cool down.   Down feather coats and comforters keep us so warm the same way.
A White-faced Barbet (Photo: wikipedia)

Filoplumes and bristles hardly look like feathers at all.  They have no barbules branching out from the central part of the feather, also called the rachis, so they resemble whiskers more closely than feathers.  This is rather appropriate, since the purpose they serve is similar to that of whiskers.  Filoplumes, which have teeny-tiny barbules at the very tip of the feather, help to sense the position of the contour feathers; and bristles, which have almost no barbules at all, are often found on or around the bird’s face.  Bristles may act as whiskers but also likely serve to protect the bird’s eyes and face, much like our eyelashes.

So yes, birds have feathers.  One could leave it at that, but why on earth would you want to, when there is much more to be learned once you delve into the fascinating and fabulous world of feathers?

Submitted by World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist JoHanna Burton

Editors Note:  The World Bird Sanctuary, and the blog in particular, are sad to say farewell to Naturalist JoHanna Burton who is leaving us to move across the country  We wish her godspeed and know that with her strong work ethic she will do well in any future path she chooses.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Summer To Remember

At some point in our lives we have all been stamped with the title of being a “first timer.” Whether it is your first time attending college, working at your first real job, or being a part of a major accomplishment, there is always a first time for everything.

This year especially has resulted in a lot of “firsts” for me, including my first time as a speaker and bird trainer for the World Bird Sanctuary bird shows presented at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  I started off as an intern for the World Bird Sanctuary, or WBS, during the fall after I graduated from college.

My internship taught me a lot about handling, and caring for birds of prey, as well as all the educational aspects.  I learned a lot, but I still wanted to learn more, so I entered into my next “first” as a trainer for the Milwaukee County Zoo bird shows.

Clark the Bald Eagle ready for takeoff (photo: Sandra Lowe) 

I fell into the role of a trainer immediately when arriving at our bird show headquarters.  There, I began establishing relationships with all the birds.  Each bird had a different personality.  So, while one method may work for one bird, that same approach did not work for all of them. 

For instance, I learned that talking in a stern, dominant tone of voice worked well for Vader, our black vulture, and Skinner, our turkey vulture in order for them to obey my commands.  However, Hugnin, our white-necked raven, as well as Carmen and Trinidad, our military macaws required a more up-beat, happy tone of voice.  Along with the tone of voice, I had to have a strong, confident demeanor with all the birds. This is because birds of prey can sense any signs of tension or fear, which can ultimately result in a negative response from the bird.

Clark the Bald Eagle launching into a spectacular flight practically at eye level for the audience (photo: Sandra Lowe)

Learning all of this helped boost my confidence when it came to my next “first” as a speaker.  However, speaking in front of crowds was my number one fear, so learning to overcome this obstacle challenged my confidence once again.  With the help of my coworkers, especially my supervisor Leah Tyndall, my confidence in speaking strengthened with every practice show I did. 

I received a lot of tips that helped me along the way.  One particular tip I received was from the director of WBS, Jeff Meshach, after an extremely embarrassing and nerve wracking practice show in front of him.  I was extremely confident and full of excitement throughout the show, until I reached the part where I needed to use my glove, or Kalem, for the first time and to my dismay I did not have it with me!  I quickly asked for one of the other trainers to fetch my glove as I tried miserably to form coherent sentences.

However, once I received the glove I began to break down even more, so much so that I asked for a moment to recuperate. First, I heard Leah in the background yelling “It’s ok Candice!”  Then Jeff, sounding completely surprised, encouraged me to keep going.  I took a deep breath and then continued on.  My voice became more confident with every bird I presented.  Once the show was over, everyone gathered around Jeff to hear his thoughts and recommendations. He was extremely proud of the show I presented despite the minor hurdle I had to overcome.  The tip that Jeff gave to me was to keep speaking and remain calm no matter what happens.

I took this encouragement to heart, which helped fuel my confidence for my first show in front of an audience.  My first show was one of the many great shows that I would be presenting for the remainder of the summer.

The experience at the Milwaukee County Zoo bird shows has helped me to overcome my fear of speaking in ways that I can’t even fathom.  I would like to thank my boss and Director of the World Bird Sanctuary Jeff Meshach, Supervisor Leah Tyndall, and everyone else who has supported me for helping me overcome my fear and making this summer one to remember.

Submitted by Candice Aton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Guess Who's Coming For Breakfast!

This morning my husband and I had breakfast with a new friend.

While my husband fixed the omelettes for our breakfast (yes, he cooks—and is quite good at it, too!), I went outside to adjust some of the sprinkler heads that had been malfunctioning.  As I stood on the patio watching to see that the sprinklers were all spraying in the right direction, I noticed a small grey/brown bird perched on one of my planters, hunting for his/her breakfast.  Since I had been standing very still, I guess the bird had decided that I was just another part of the environment and he/she eventually perched on a small arbor only about two feet from me at eye level.  We stared at each other for quite a while, and then the bird went on with its hunting.

He came and perched on our patio chairs (Photo: Gay Schroer)

By now breakfast was ready and we decided to eat on the patio, as I had been telling my husband about this bold little bird.  As we ate our breakfast, the bird landed on one of the other chairs at the table.  Needless to say, we sat very still and waited to see what it would do (all the while with me cursing inwardly because I hadn’t grabbed my camera before coming outside). 

The bird flitted back and forth between the chairs and eventually landed on my husband’s head and began to “forage” in his hair (with a few “OWs!” on my husband’s part).  At that point I was really kicking myself for not grabbing the camera!  The bird then flew off to forage elsewhere, and I immediately went into the house for my camera and my Sibley Guide To Birds.

...and then he hopped onto my Sibley Guide to Birds (Photo: Gay Schroer)

Of course, I figured that with camera and bird book in hand we would see no more of this little bird.  As I began to leaf through my Sibley’s to try to identify him, to our surprise, the bird actually returned to the table.  I immediately began taking pictures, and to my further surprise, he landed on the open Sibley’s as if to say “Look—how can I make it any easier for you?” 

He decided to forage in some strange brown "grass" (Photo: Art Schroer)

As a final curtain call he landed on the back of my chair, and then flitted up onto my head.  I slyly passed the camera to my husband who took a few shots of this rare occurrence.  After a while the bird flew off to hunt elsewhere.

Then began the scramble to identify our little friend.  Cardinals, Bluejays, Robins, and other more commonly seen birds are pretty easy to identify—not so much the multitude of small brown or gray birds that many casual birdwatchers lump into the category of LBJs (little brown jobs).

At first I thought it might be an Eastern Wood-Peewee, but then realized that unlike the Peewee, this bird did not have a pronounced eye ring.  He did have the “vest” and pale yellow breast feathers, but our friend’s bill was totally black, unlike the Pewee’s yellow bill. 

The Olive-sided Flycatcher caught my interest for a while, but 7.5” seemed too large, and again, there was no trace of yellow in our friend’s bill. 

Could it be an Acadian Flycatcher?--No—they have an eye ring and a yellow bill.  How about a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher?--Again—the lack of an eye ring and  yellow bill on our little bird ruled out this species.  Willow Flycatcher?--Same problem.

He hung around for quite a while, checking out everything on the table (Photo: Gay Schroer)

Finally, my search stopped at the Eastern Phoebe—probably a juvenile because of the pale dusting of yellow on the breast.  Black bill?—Check, Black legs?—Check, Pale yellow on the breast?—Check, Dark head?—Check.  An almost indistinguishable eye ring at the lower edge of the eye only?—Check,  Dark smudge on the upper sides of the breast?—Check.  The only questionable point was the size.  Sibley’s says the bird measures 7” long.  We had been guesstimating 5.5”—but then, it’s pretty hard to measure a bird which is definitely not going to stand still for us to take a measurement.  I believe we have a winner in the Eastern Phoebe!

The moral of this story is that if you like watching the birds, and want to know what it is you’re seeing, the best investment you can make is a good bird identification book.  Almost every serious birdwatcher I know owns a Sibley’s Guide to Birds.

So, the next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, if you don’t have a really good bird I.D. book, check out our Raptique Gift Shop.  We have the Sibley Guide to Birds, plus a number of other good guidebooks for sale.  Even if you don’t need one for yourself, perhaps there is a bird lover on your Christmas list who would be thrilled to receive a good Bird I.D. book.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Open House This Weekend!

Open House is finally here!

Join us in our amphitheater as Bald Eagles soar just above your head (photo: Gay Schroer)

Every year the World Bird Sanctuary celebrates its mission with you at our annual Open House.  We share what we do to fulfill our mission and give you, our public guests, an all-access pass to behind-the-scenes areas to find out who we are and how we achieve our success.

Our Open House this year is bittersweet.  As we celebrate all that is World Bird Sanctuary—we will also be reflecting on the man who made it all possible.  Our 2015 Open House is dedicated to celebrating the legacy of our Founder, Walter Crawford, Jr., who passed away earlier this year.  We hope that you will join us for this special event.

Come join us for these fun and FREE special activities:

°            Behind-the-scenes guided tours of our breeding barn, animal behavioral training center (the ETC), and the wildlife hospital.  Open House is your only opportunity to see these special areas, as they are closed to the public for the rest of the year.

Enjoy our Red-legged Seriema's "slamming" skills (Photo: Gay Schroer)

°            Enjoy FREE shows presented in our amphitheater three times daily featuring live raptors flying just overhead, including:, Bald Eagles, Harris’ Hawks, Barn Owls, Bateleur Eagles, Red-legged Seriemas, Turkey Vultures, Eurasian Eagle Owls, as well as appearances by the other North American eagle—Kili the Golden Eagle.  Let Mischief the White-necked Raven teach you how to recycle, and meet a number of our other raptors.

°            Free concerts by our in-house band, The Raptor Project

Have your photo taken while holding a live raptor on your glove (Photo: Gay Schroer)

°            Photo opportunity – For a small fee have your photograph taken while holding a live raptor!

°            St. Louis Sprout & About Activity Center for kids, and other special kids’ programs featuring live animals! 

°            Whole Foods Market Prize Wheel! 

°            Renewal by Anderson fun photo booth and facepainting! 

°            Be sure to catch the bus to the “Lower Site” where you will meet special birds in our endangered species breeding program, and our animal behavior and training center (the ETC).  The bus picks up and drops off at our main entrance every 15 minutes.

Here’s what you need to know:

°            When – Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October, 2015
°            Time – 10:00am – 4:00 pm
°            Admission and Parking – FREE
°            Adults & kids’ activities – FREE

Open House 2015 is sponsored by:  

We hope to see you this weekend.  For directions to our site Click Here 

For the safety of our animals and the other guests, no pets please.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Birdlore: There Be Chickens!

At the World Bird Sanctuary, we share our home with eagles, hawks, falcons, cranes, pelicans, name it!

Perhaps, the fan favorite of little children and a bird most visitors might not realize we have onsite are the....CHICKENS!

At WBS the children are always fascinated by  the chickens (photo: Gay Schroer)

Why chickens?  That’s actually a pretty frequent question I get asked by visitors when I’m working on our public Display Line.  The very young children gravitate towards the chickens, because they can engage them, unlike the birds of prey.  They love feeding the corn to our chickens (hint: the Turkeys love it too!) and they can pet them when staff members take a chicken to a children’s program.

Chickens like the Bantam Cochin chickens are actually quite easy to train.  They provide a comedic element to the bird shows WBS presents at Zoos, theme parks and aquariums around the nation.  The chickens run like mad across the stage behind the show speaker.

A white Araucana chicken with tufts on either side of its face (photo: wikipedia)

The Araucana chickens are actually a pretty nifty breed.  They are characterized by three distinct traits; tufts on either side of the face, rumpless (no pygastyle, or bony structure that supports tail feathers), and they lay blue eggs.  Araucanas are a wild species that  originated from parts of Chile in South America, dating back before the arrival of the Spanish explorers.  They were bred from two distinct breeds of chicken kept by the Mapuche Indians, the Collonocas and the Queteros.

One of the WBS Araucana flock displaying the rumpless trait (photo: Gay Schroer)

The Collonocas breed carried the traits for laying blue eggs and being rumpless.  The Quetero were tufted and laid brown eggs.  Overtime, these breeds would mix bloodlines to create the Araucana breed of today.

This beautiful member of the WBS flock displays the odd tufted trait – the tufts take many forms (photo: Gay Schroer)

The Araucana tufted gene, in particular, is quite interesting.  Getting lightly into genetic terminology, when you have two alleles (a variant of a gene) of the tuft trait inherited from both parents, a lethal gene is created.  Meaning, the chick will never hatch if it gains two tufted genes from two parents.  So, living tufted Araucanas will only ever carry one tufted gene and have offspring that are both tufted and non-tufted.  Even with only the one tufted gene there is approximately 20% mortality in the developing embryo.

One short story from Greek mythology involves the secret love affair between the god and goddess, Ares and Aphrodite.  To protect their secret, a youth by the name of Alectyron, was tasked with keeping a watchful eye out.  Unfortunately, he fell asleep while on the job and Helios, the sun god, witnessed the scandalous affair and reported the event back to Aphrodite’s husband.  Angry, Ares turned the youth into a rooster to prevent him from failing ever again to signal the rising of the sun.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fruit Bats Are Important

There are many myths and legends about bats.

We have all heard the stories that bats are blood suckers, evil, and dangerous.   While these stories are very entertaining, they simply are just not true.  Most bats eat insects--not people or other mammals.  If you have any kind of water nearby, having a family of bats live near your house can be very beneficial.  They eat the mosquitoes that can be such a nuisance.

Batty & Scar climbing down from an afternoon nap to get some fruit (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

There is another type of bat that exists called the fruit bat.  Fruit bats are also known as the megabats (because most are quite large) and the Flying Fox.  Fruit bats have excellent senses; they can see and smell where their food is located from afar.  They enjoy eating fruit, nectar, pollen, and sap.  Their sharp teeth help them penetrate the skin of the fruit and get the juice out.  Some of the fruit bats have wingspans that can be up to 5 feet wide.  Wrapping these large wings around their bodies help them stay warm while they are sleeping.  Fruit bats are social animals.  They can be found in very large colonies, and with so many eyes looking out for predators, this makes them feel safer.  After birth, a mother may not wean her newborns for 3 or more months.

So why are these fruit bats so important you ask?  They pollinate many trees and plants.  This process is called chiropterophily.  Fruit bats are responsible for pollinating some of the delicious fruits we consume, such as mango plants and banana plants.  They are also responsible for pollinating cocoa plants.  When the bats consume fruit with small seeds, they do not digest the seeds.  Instead, they carry and deposit the seeds away from the tree source, which leads to beautiful new trees in the rainforest.  So, the next time you come across a bat, there is no need to be afraid.  They help humans in many different ways.

One of WBS's resident fruit bats just hanging around (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

If you want to see a fruit bat up close, visit our Nature Center at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Our straw-colored fruit bats, Batty and Scar, always welcome visitors to come see them.  You can adopt Batty or Scar for $75.00.  This will help to pay for their food and care for the coming year.

Submitted by Erica O’Donnell, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator