Saturday, August 29, 2015

Birdlore: The Hundred Eyes of the Peacock


The Peacock--almost every child growing up knows this colorful and glamorous bird by sight!  The sapphire glimmering blue body, the long green-yellow and fan-shaped tail display, and the eyed-patterned feathers that peer into your soul…yep, most everyone knows a peacock when they see one.


A Peacock with his feathers spread out in display. (Photo: wikipedia)
 We typically refer to this species as the peacock, since most specimens seen are those with the brilliant blue and green fan-shaped tail display.  In actuality, only the males are called peacocks.  The females are peahens and the chicks are referred to as peachicks.  Together, both males and females are called peafowl.

The blue peafowl (Pavo cristatus) originated in the country of India.  Over hundreds of years, the peafowl have been raised as pets among the royalty in many different cultures and countries.  Even today, peafowl are a popular bird found wandering zoos and farms in the countryside.

Perhaps the most striking feature of a peacock’s feather display is the ‘eye’ resting in the tip of the tail feathers.

The all-seeing ‘eye’ of the peacock.  (Photo: wikipedia)
One origin of the legend of the Peacock’s thousand eyes comes from a story concerning Juno, Queen of the Roman gods, (or Hera of Greek Mythology) and her servant, Argus.

Juno and the king of the gods were famed for fooling and playing tricks on one another.  So, when Juno had the fairest cow in the land, she knew the king would try to steal the cow away from her.  So, she gave the task of watching her cow to her servant, Argus.  He was a giant with a hundred eyes and never had anyone seen all the eyes sleep at the same time.

So, the king, knowing this, sent the smooth talker Mercury to retrieve the cow from the field where Argus guarded over it.  The king had chosen Mercury for this task, since he was a teller of tales and his voice could sing even a god to sleep.

When Mercury came to visit the field, Argus knew what the king was trying to do, but he had been alone with the cow for a long time and wished for the company and entertainment.  So what if a few of his eyes fell asleep.  The remaining awake eyes could still watch the cow.  Argus invited Mercury to tell his stories of the happenings of the world.

As Mercury shared his lively and sad stories, Argus’s eyes closed one by one, until only two remained opened.  Mercury decided then to play his magical reed.  While he played, those listening could hear waves brushing on the shore, the rush of the wind among the trees, lilies tilting their heads at dusk, and stars flickering in the seasonal sky.

Finally, Argus’s two remaining eyes closed in slumber and Mercury whisked away the cream-white cow to the king of the gods.

Juno became greatly angered, as the king had actually managed to play a trick on her and succeeded.  With severe words she berated her servant who could not keep guard over her cow even with a hundred eyes, “Even my peacock is far wiser, for he knows when someone is looking at him.  Every one of your eyes I shall place in the tail of the peacock.”

Today, whenever you look at the feathers of a peacock, you can count the hundred eyes that once belonged to Argus.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Raptique


Situated within the Nature Center at World Bird Sanctuary is the “Raptique” – the WBS gift shop.  The Raptique offers a variety of bird-themed gifts and keepsakes for every age group.

Every dollar earned at the gift shop stays right here at the sanctuary to help with the care of the sanctuary buildings, grounds and equipment as well as the animals themselves.

Some of our best selling items are t-shirts and sweatshirts, all of which feature the World Bird Sanctuary name.  We are currently stocking a full line of shirts featuring owls, hawks, eagles, vultures, falcons, kites and osprey.

This shirt features our very own eagles (photo: Dawn Griffard)

Two of the t-shirts in our line have attracted some national attention.  One custom shirt featuring photographs of our very own eagle species that live here at the sanctuary (bald, tawny, long-crested, golden, bateleur) has been very popular.   However, the similarly designed shirt that features our vultures (black, Egyptian, hooded, king, turkey and Andean condor) has garnered even more attention.  The national clothing company that printed our order of that shirt has requested the ability to make it a part of their regular catalog line!  Our kids are going to be famous!

This unique shirt  featuring our very own vultures is being sold nationwide (photo: Dawn Griffard)

Our newest t-shirt is “The Raptor Project” tee.  The Raptor Project is the sanctuary band which performs every Thursday night in August at 7:00 PM.  Come celebrate the close of the summer with us by singing and dancing to bird songs at the Ludwig Foundation amphitheater (near the nature center) while our birds of prey fly overhead!  Tonight is the last performance for the summer.  The Raptique will be offering special fun toys for sale during the performances to make the nights even more enjoyable.

The shop also regularly stocks popular and well-priced toys, including plush animals.  We have carefully chosen animals that you will see right here on the sanctuary grounds including: eagles, owls, hawks, turkey vultures, squirrels, chipmunks, armadillos, rabbits and fox. 

We also have collectible “Safari” brand toys.  This line features sanctuary animals, but also includes velociraptors and the storied phoenix.

Birdcalls, kaleidoscopes, arrowheads, geodes, wearable wings and mood rings are among the other best-sellers in the toy department.  The “wearable wings” are child-sized plush wings that slide onto the arms so the child can flap around as their favorite winged creature.  Wing choices include: bald eagle, condor, parrot, bat and pteranodon! 

Christmas ornaments for the raptor lover (photo: Cathy Spahn)

Many local artists have donated their work or a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their work to us.  The gift shop has beautiful photographs, note cards, drawings, hand painted glassware and even bird-themed hand cut framed snowflakes.  Our glassware artist, Kathy Arnold, will be showcased at our upcoming open house with her brand new collection of hand painted Christmas ornaments (see photo).  We are very excited to receive new pieces into our shop!  She will be a busy woman for the next few months as she will be trying to keep up with the demand for her beautiful work.

Our jewelry and book collections are also quite popular.  Each item included in the shop has been carefully chosen with our guests in mind.

Please stop by the Raptique and browse our unique inventory.  We hope you’ll find something for every member of the family.

Purchase our World Bird Sanctuary t-shirts and spread the word about our mission wherever you go!

If you have items that you would like to donate to the sanctuary to sell at the Raptique, please contact us at the Nature Center 636-225-4390. We welcome your animal themed pieces.  Remember – all proceeds benefit the sanctuary directly. Our animals need you!



Submitted by Dawn Trainor Griffard, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Birds in Concert 2015: Guest Artist Babaloo


The World Bird Sanctuary “Birds in Concert 2015” sponsored by Ameren Missouri, will launch the fourth and final performance of the year on August 27th with performances by Babaloo followed by The Raptor Project.



Get ready for kids of all ages to rock out with their favorite performer—Babaloo!  Winner of numerous songwriting awards for children’s music, Washington, MO native Babaloo has thrilled audiences by the thousands with his high-energy humor.  Every kid in the audience will have a chance to join in.  So come and jam with Babaloo!

At a Babaloo concert everybody gets into the act! (photo: Gay Schroer)


Babaloo’s performance will be followed by an intermission, where guests can visit event sponsors Whole Foods Market and Renewal by Andersen.

Be sure to sign up at their booths for the opportunity to win great prizes 





Following intermission our own Raptor Project takes to the stage to perform such favorites as Turkey Named Fred, Roadkill Shiver, and many other songs from their popular kids CDs.

The Raptor Project takes to the stage... (photo: Sandra Lowe)
Learn fun and exciting facts about the animals we share our planet with as some of those very birds take center stage or soar just over our heads!  Audience participation is encouraged!  
...while some of the animals in the songs take center stage or fly overhead. (photo: Sandra Lowe)

Join us for another talent and fun-filled performance in our 2015 concert series.

WHEN:  August 27th
TIME:              7:00pm – 8:30 pm
ADMISSION:  FREE
PARKING:  FREE

Enjoy our amphitheater seating—or bring your lawn chairs and picnics

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Imping" - The Ancient Craft of Feather Replacement


Modern veterinary practices allow the World Bird Sanctuary to do tremendous rehabilitation work and release many of the magnificent birds that come into the hospital back to the wild.  However, on occasion, the best treatment is not necessarily a product of modern veterinary science but a call back to ancient falconry techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years.

This was recently the case when staff, volunteers, and interns treated a hawk with damaged primary feathers.  The bird was rehabbing well and was becoming strong enough for release.  However, due to previous damage to primary feathers on one wing, the bird's flight capabilities were questionable.  Waiting for natural replacement thru molting would keep the bird in captivity for additional weeks or months.

The solution was the old falconry technique of "imping", a contracted term for "implanting".  Using corresponding feathers from an injured bird of the same species that did not survive attempts at rehabilitation, the damaged feathers with good shafts still in the wing were cut and replaced with new feathers that were spliced and super-glued to the healthy shafts.  The result was a strong wing with good primary feathers, capable of flight and an earlier release.

Under the direction of staff veterans Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffman, WBS staff, interns and volunteers were shown the procedure and then actively participated in imping the replacement of several feathers.

Following are a series of photos showing the procedure.  All photos by Jim Kent.

Choosing the feathers to be implanted

The bird's head is covered to keep him calm during the procedure.

Making sure that the new feather will fit

This bird is well on his way to a new usable wing

Super glue is a wonderful invention

Under close supervision the interns and volunteers got to try their hand at imping

Next stop for this bird--Freedom!
Preliminary assessment is that the imping was successful and that the hawk is well on its way to release.

This is a great example of why WBS has garnered the respect and support of both professional colleagues and our many visitors and supporters.

Perhaps this bird will be someone's "Return to the Wild" bird.  If you would be interested in supporting our wildlife hospital you might like to purchase a "Return to the Wild" event.  To learn more Click Here.

Submitted by Jim Kent, World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital Volunteer

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Busman's Holiday


In late June I traveled to the Milwaukee County Zoo for a quick trip to see the World Bird Sanctuary’s Bird Show and to see Zeus, our Golden Eagle, fly for the first time. 

This was the first time I have been back to the Milwaukee County Zoo in over 9 years.  My first 5 years with World Bird Sanctuary were spent there because the zoo sponsored WBS to present a summer and winter show back then, so in some way it was like going home after being away for a long time. 

I went to the zoo with a few friends and volunteers for a nice full day’s trip.  We arrived nice and early.  We walked around for a little while before the first show.  Right before the show we stopped by the WBS weathering area (a falconer’s term for exposing captive birds of prey to weather) to see some of the stars before the show.  At that time we learned Zeus was not yet flying in front of big groups, so we would have to wait until the end of the day to see him.

 The show started and birds started flying--Harris Hawk, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, a chicken, Augur Buzzard, a skipping Black Vulture, Parrots, a snake slamming Red-legged Seriema and 3 flying eagles make for more pictures than you know what to do with.  My personal favorites were the skipping Black Vulture, snake slamming Seriema, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Bald Eagle and Zeus. 
There's just something about a skipping Black Vulture that brings a smile to your face (photo: Cathy Spahn)

All of the birds are fun to see fly, but when a Black Vulture starts to skip across the stage you cannot help but smile. 
The snake slamming Seriema was a crowd favorite (photo: Cathy Spahn)
Then, seeing Evita the Red-legged Seriema run out, pick up her fake snake, and start slamming away was just incredible.  The real “ooh” moment was when Duncan the Wedge-tailed Eagle was seemingly launched over the perimeter fence, and you see this bird with a 7- 8 ft wingspan coming right at you.  The last bird of the show was Clark the Bald Eagle flying strong--glove to glove--over the audience!
Of course, Clark our free flying Bald Eagle, is always a favorite (photo: Cathy Spahn)
After the last show we returned to see Zeus fly.  We (all 3 of us) were the largest audience Zeus, the Golden Eagle, had ever seen while flying to that point in his training.  Zeus is a good-sized eagle and to see him come over the fence, open his wings and fly to his stump, back and forth, and then offstage, was fantastic.  It is not a difficult flight pattern, but with young birds you sometimes start with simple and always positive.  For me it was so exciting to see this bird fly, since a few summers ago I worked very hard on training him.
Zeus the young Golden Eagle flew for his first audience--the three of us  (photo: Cathy Spahn)
After the shows I also stopped behind the scenes to visit Trinidad, the Military Macaw.  He was not in the shows due to the construction in the area, which he does not like.  Trinidad’s facial skin immediately turned bright red upon seeing me and he started his excited dance.  I love that he goes to zoo shows to fly, but he is the one bird I miss when he is gone.  Trinidad was the first parrot I ever flew with WBS and we have always had a special relationship.

The Milwaukee County Zoo Bird Show runs only through Labor Day and is free with admission to the zoo, but you'll have to hurry--only 18 days left to see these amazing flying raptors.  It is a great weekend trip from the St. Louis area.  

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is That Snake Venomous?


Many people have a fear of snakes.  Some people will even go so far as to kill any snake they encounter. 

Even though they may look slithery and creepy, snakes are very beneficial to have around.  They are an important part of our ecosystems, and they even keep pests such as rodents under control.  In fact, snakes are so important that they are protected by law!  In the state of Missouri, The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes as a protected non-game species. This means that there is no open season to hunt snakes, and it is against the law to kill them.


Pictured is a harmless ring-necked snake, a beautifully marked native in Missouri. (photo: Paige Davis)

Even though snakes spark fear in many people, they are much more afraid of you than you are of them!  Snakebites are not common, and most snakes would rather slither away then confront you.  Bites tend to occur when people accidentally make contact with a snake such as stepping on one.  If you are mindful of snakes and give them their space and respect, you will be able to appreciate these creatures safely.

Whether you are afraid of snakes or you love them, it is important to recognize which snakes are venomous and which are harmless.  All venomous snakes in Missouri are members of the pit viper family, and they share some recognizable characteristics.  These include:
 
1. A pit between the eye and nose on each side
2. Vertically shaped cat-like pupils
3. A single row of scales along the underside of the tail


A copperhead, Missouri’s most common venomous snake—note the pit below the eye and the vertical pupil (photo: Paige Davis)

By comparison, non-venomous snakes lack pits, have a circular pupil, and have a zipper-like pattern of scales along the tail. 

Venomous snakes in the state of Missouri include: the copperhead, cottonmouth, Western pygmy rattlesnake, Massasauga rattlesnake, and timber rattlesnake. The copperhead is Missouri’s most common venomous snake.  It is often confused for harmless water snakes such as the northern water snake.  Many harmless snakes are killed because they are thought to be dangerous.


This non-venomous water snake is harmless, but is often mistaken for a copperhead—notice the lack of a pit below the eye and the round pupil (photo: Paige Davis)

Snakes can be beautiful to observe in the wild.  But, if you are unsure of what species a snake is, never attempt to handle it.  Just leave it alone.  It is better to be safe than sorry when enjoying these fascinating creatures.

To learn more about snakes be sure to visit the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center where we have several non-venomous snakes on display.  Our Naturalists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Submitted by Paige Davis, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, August 17, 2015

Birds in Concert 2015: Guest Artists Fowl Play


The World Bird Sanctuary “Birds in Concert 2015” presented by Ameren Missouri, will launch the third in the series on August 20th with performances by The Raptor Project followed by guest artists Fowl Play.



The World Bird Sanctuary’s in-house band, “The Raptor Project” takes to the stage to perform songs from their popular children’s environmental education CDs.  Learn fun and exciting facts about the animals we share our planet with as they share the stage with the Raptor Project!  Audience participation is encouraged! 

Be entertained by Fowl Play following the Raptor Project
Enjoy Fowl Play as they cover popular rock and pop songs from the classics to recent hits!  Started by St. Louis musician Jon Hutsler, Fowl Play is an “all-star” mash-up of local musicians that formed the band exclusively for performances at Birds in Concert.  From “Rockin’ Robin” to “Fly Like an Eagle”, there will surely be a bird-themed song for everyone at this fun-filled, danceable performance!

Raptor Project performances are followed by an intermission, where visitors can visit event sponsors Whole Foods Market and Reneway by Andeersen, and stand the chance to win great prizes.  After intermission, settle down for more exciting and fun family friendly music with Fowl Play,




Join us for another talent and fun-filled performance in our 2015 concert series.





WHEN:  August 20th
TIME:              7:00pm – 8:30 pm
ADMISSION:  FREE
PARKING:  FREE

Enjoy our amphitheater seating—or bring your lawn chairs and picnics

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







Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Pileated Woodpecker


World Bird Sanctuary staff, volunteers and guests have enjoyed some new sanctuary residents for the past few months.  A Pileated Woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus, formerly Dryocopus pileatus) pair has taken up residence in the woods near the nature center.


Pileated Woodpecker pair_note the full red crown on the male at the left, while the female has only a partial red crown (photo: wikipedia)

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, measuring 15.7–19.3 inches in length with a wingspan of 26-29.5 inches.  They are nearly the same size as an American Crow!  They have a large black body, with white stripes on their head, a long neck, and sport a beautiful sweeping, triangular red crest atop their head.  Males have an additional red stripe on the face.  The beak is long and chisel-shaped, which is perfect for pecking trees in search of insects.  Their long, barbed tongue will then probe the opened tree (or log) and pull the insects out. This tongue is so long it actually wraps up and around the back of the skull when not in use.

This woodpecker used to be far more common – especially in the eastern half of the United States.  As trees were cut down in great numbers in the 18th and 19th centuries, their numbers declined rapidly.  However, since the turn of the 20th century, they have been increasing in number again.  Because of this, the sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker often invokes pure joy, even in a seasoned birdwatcher.

These woodpeckers are monogamous and hold a very large, year-round territory.  Unless you are lucky enough to see the young fledglings flying and foraging together, it is rare to see more than two at one time in any given area.  This territory is fiercely defended with loud drumming and ringing calls.  If one woodpecker of the pair loses its mate, it will however, take another.


A female Pileated Woodpecker searching a log for ants (photo: wikipedia)

Their very favorite food is carpenter ants, but they will also eat other ants, wood-boring beetle larvae, termites, and other insects such as flies, spruce budworm, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers.  They also enjoy wild fruits and nuts; including greenbrier, hackberry, sassafras, blackberries, sumac berries, poison ivy, holly, dogwood, persimmon, and elderberry.  When looking for food they will excavate a characteristically rectangular hole in the tree.  They sometimes make such large holes that they can break a smaller tree in half.  Other birds – such as house wrens and other woodpeckers - may also come to enjoy the many insects revealed by the massive Pileated Woodpecker excavation.


A male Pileated Woodpecker excavating a tree in its search for insects (photo: wikipedia)

Their long, graceful neck comes into great use when the woodpecker is pecking the tree.  The longer neck allows the bird to pull its head further back from the tree to obtain a longer and stronger pecking action.  They will also simultaneously pull with their feet to increase the strength of the blow. 

A spongy, plate-like bone structure in the skull protects the birds' brains from injury during this aggressive process. They also have little subdural space between their brains and their skulls, so the brain does not have room to bump around as it would in humans.  In addition to this, their brains are longer top-to-bottom than front-to-back, meaning the force against the skull is spread over a larger brain area.  This unique anatomy has been the inspiration for vehicle shock absorbers in aircraft and spacecraft, for improving seat belts, and for designing better sports helmets.


A Pileated Woodpecker feeding from a suet feeder strategically placed amongst a grove of large trees (photo: Gay Schroer)

Pileated woodpeckers will live among both deciduous and coniferous trees.  For nesting sites, they choose the largest, oldest, dead tree in the forest.  These trees are not easy to come by, as the woodpeckers compete with around 85 other species of birds and about 45 species of mammals for the rights to this perfect nesting site.  The male woodpecker will shoulder the majority of the work when excavating their nesting cavity.  The female generally contributes when the hole is near completion, at about 10-24 inches in depth. These birds do not line their nests with anything except some of the leftover wood chips.

Three to five white eggs are laid in the nest and are incubated by both the male and the female.  The male generally takes the majority of the night shift and part of the day.  The nestlings are fed by regurgitation from the parents and they will leave the nest 26-28 days after hatching.  However, the youngsters may remain with the parents for an additional 2-3 months.

Pileated woodpeckers are fun to watch.  It is always a little surprising to see such an unusually large bird fly by!

 Come out to the World Bird Sanctuary and spend the afternoon walking and relaxing.  Have a picnic lunch on the grounds and do some bird watching, either strolling our grounds or sitting on our conveniently placed benches. Our surrounding hardwood forest attracts a wonderful collection of wild birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Take your time to breathe in the beautiful outdoors. Your peaceful, quiet day just might be interrupted by the raucous call and foraging drumming of the Pileated Woodpecker!

Submitted by Dawn Trainor Griffard, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rising to the Challenge


Many of us have challenges in life; some, luckily, are momentary.  Other challenges can be permanent physical disabilities.  At the World Bird Sanctuary we have always strived to be as accessible and accommodating as possible to all of our visitors. 
Visitors' Center Touch Table (photo: Robin Kuehn)
One afternoon a gentleman who has sight impairment asked me what was available at WBS for him to experience.  I gave the man a tour of the center explaining each bird and I brought him to a touch table at the visitor center. The touch table has feathers, bones and fur for everyone to touch since we do not allow anyone to touch the birds.  I realized after his visit that we could do so much more. 

We have student interns throughout the year that are asked to complete an intern project during their time with the Sanctuary.  I assigned one of them the challenge of making the Sanctuary more inviting to visitors who might have sight impairments.  She invited local blind advocacy organizations to tour our grounds to give us recommendations on what we might do to improve the safety and enjoyment of sight impaired visitors. 
Many of our signs now have braille added to them (photo: Robin Kuehn)
As a result of this intern’s project we added braille to many of the signs at the Sanctuary. We changed chain entrances to solid gates. We painted yellow safety stripes throughout the center and we created a sensory tote bag for sight-impaired visitors to use during their visits. 
We have sensory tote bags for visually impaired guests (photo: Robin Kuehn)
The sensory tote bag contains a brail map and descriptions and information about the birds along with touch items such as feathers, skulls and bones.  The bag is available to the public by request at our visitor center near the entrance to the Sanctuary. 

Our grounds are now paved for easier navigation (photo: Gay Schroer)
We want every visitor’s time at the Sanctuary to be full of enjoyable moments.  We continued to better accommodate visitors when we paved the center.  We are very proud of our asphalt.  I never imagined how hard (expensive) it could be to pave the facility.  Thanks to the wonderful donors that helped make it happen.  The pavement makes it much easier for visitors to get around our property. 

Each building has a wheelchair which may be borrowed for guests with mobility issues (photo: Joe Hoffmann)
We also have wheelchairs available at every building on our grounds.  Just speak with one of our staff to find out where.

If you have any concerns or suggestions to make our center more accessible to visitors with challenges please contact me at 636 861-1392 and ask for Joe. 

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary Rehabilitation Hospital Manager

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Birds in Concert August 13, 2015: The Raptor Project


Birds in Concert at World Bird Sanctuary, presented by Ameren Missouri

Join World Bird Sanctuary and some of St. Louis’s favorite family bands for Birds in Concert 2015, sponsored by Ameren Missouri! 



The fun starts every Thursday evening at 7 pm.  Each concert lasts about 2 hours.

This week's concert features World Bird Sanctuary's in-house band, "The Raptor Project" performing their popular original songs while birds fly just inches over your heads.  Fun songs include "Turkey Named Fred", "Roadkill Shiver", "What's the Matter", "Animal Noises" and many others.

The Raptor Project always gets the crowd rocking (photo: Sandra Lowe)

Raptor Project performances are followed by an intermission, where visitors can visit event sponsors Whole Food Market and Renewal by Anderson, and stand the chance to win great prizes.  After intermission, settle down for more exciting and fun family music with the Raptor Project.


When: Thursday, August 13th -- The Raptor Project
Time:  7:00 p.m.
Directions:  Click Here

Admission and parking is FREE.  No reservations required.

For more information go to www.worldbirdsanctuary.org or call 636-225-4390 ext. 0.