Education and Rehabilitation at Wild Wings Sanctuary

November 6, 2012 by  
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With the goal of promoting environmental conservation through education, Wild Wings Inc. serves as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center focusing primarily on raptors, and offers educational programs to encourage awareness of, and personal responsibility for, the natural world of which we are all a part. Operating as a not-for-profit corporation, Wild Wings is located in the Mondon Ponds Park, near the intersection of Pond Road and Clover Street, Honeoye Falls, NY. Visitors to the sanctuary will be able to view the more than twenty birds of prey which, due to their injuries, are unable to be released into the wild and have become permanent residents at Wild Wings.

The permanent residents of Wild Wings include a magnificent female Golden Eagle named Isis that broke both wings when colliding with a car in 1995. Athena is a female Bald Eagle that suffered a gunshot wound and is no longer able to fly, while the male Harris’ Hawk Sierra was unsuccessful as a falconry bird and is unable to hunt for his food. Resident owls that have suffered various injuries and are unable to fend for themselves include the male Barred Owl named Hunter; the one-eyed female Eastern Screech Owl named Wink; the male Long-eared Owl named Cody; and a Saw-Whet Owl named Blaze. The birds are housed in large enclosures along a pathway, offering visitors a close-up view. Feeding of the birds is not permitted, and visitors are asked to refrain from making sudden movements and not make too much noise as this startles the birds.

Workshops, demonstrations and other educational programs are all part of the effort Wild Wings is making to educate the public about the difference each one of us can make in preserving nature and the environment. Among the Wild Wings Classes are Owls and Creatures of the Night; Nest Boxes; Animal House; Critter Class and Owl Pellet Program. The Wild Wings Raptors on the Road is a series of programs where trained volunteers travel to various venues to perform live bird of prey demonstrations, conduct owl pellet dissection workshops, give art and photography students the opportunity to use live raptors as models, and a general ‘meet and greet’ with a variety of birds. Wild Wings also offers programs to fulfill requirements for New York State Boy Scout and Girl Scout badges.

The beautiful setting at Mendon Ponds Park offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a day in the outdoors with nature hikes and guided tours. Add to this a visit to the Wild Wings facility and you have the perfect venue for a family outing.

Visit the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

January 31, 2012 by  
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Established in 2006, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in South Africa cares for more than 180 birds representing 50 different raptor species. The sanctuary’s permanent residents have either been bred in captivity, or have sustained injuries which significantly limit their chances of survival in the wild. Located close enough to both Durban and Pietermaritzburg to allow easy access for a day trip, the sanctuary offers unique insight into South Africa’s amazing predatory birds which is both educational and entertaining.

The sanctuary’s permanent residents include vultures, eagles, falcons, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks, buzzards, hawks, kites and owls. Many of the birds have been named, with a record of their rescue story available to visitors. Eagles are rightly viewed as the mightiest of the birds of prey and the sanctuary’s Eagle Alley allows visitors a close up look at some of these majestic birds. Other sections of the sanctuary are Hoot Hollow for the owls; Honeycomb Habitats housing diurnal raptors; and the Vulture Hide with its eight indigenous vulture species, all of which are considered to be threatened.

In addition to being a popular tourism attraction, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is dedicated to ongoing research, including breeding and rehabilitation projects, with a view to conserving the birds in their natural South African environment. The Raptor Rescue operation run by the sanctuary is kept separate from the public area and is not open to visitors. If rescued birds are to be rehabilitated and released into the wild again, it is in their best interests not to be exposed to too many people. In addition to being stressful for them, too much interaction with humans could make the birds tame, thereby hampering their chances of survival in the wild. For research purposes birds are ringed before being released into a suitable habitat, if possible where they were found.

One of the most exciting features of the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is the flying display, and visitors should be sure to plan their day to include one of these demonstrations, bearing in mind that they are weather dependent. Flying display times are Monday to Friday at 10:30am, and at 10:30am and 3pm on weekends and public holidays. As a privately funded conservation initiative, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary relies on entrance fees to continue their work. So, why not support this worthy cause, and enjoy an outing you are not likely to forget.

A Bird’s Touch

March 5, 2010 by  
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Nature not only surrounds us with sheer beauty but also offers an abundance of fascinating new discoveries that continue to amaze us. Just when we think we know everything about an animal or bird, they seem to prove us wrong. More recently, birds have revealed that crests and beards are not merely used for finding a mate, but serve a greater purpose, allowing them to explore their surroundings as well. Research on birds, such as the auklet, has opened up a new door into the world of birds and their feathers.

Professor Ian Jones, St John’s Memorial University, and Dr Sampath Seneviratne, University of British Columbia, shared their insights and suspicions that certain feathers on a bird’s body could serve to heighten the sense of touch. When looking at birds, such as the auklet, which have intricate feathers on their heads, scientists found that by putting them through a simple navigational test, much was revealed in regard to the role that crests and head feathers play. Using a dark maze, as this breed tends to breed in dark crevices, it was found that when the birds navigated the test, they succeeded in completing the maze with less difficulty than when researchers flattened their head feathers. It was also noted that in general, if birds have ornamental feathering, they tend to be birds that are active at night.

Researchers then looked at bird species that do not feature elaborate feathering, including pheasants, kingfishers, parrots, penguins and owls. They suggest that even if some birds do not have crests and rectal bristles, longer wing feathers may also serve as a means of touch. Many birds use their feathers and coloring to show off their abilities and to either startle or camouflage themselves from their predators, but there is good reason to believe that feathers have various other functions that we have not been aware of until now. The new insight into facial feathers and flamboyant feathering could lead to further studies,to confirm these findings and the preliminary research. This use of their feathers for touch and orientation has revealed a more complex side to birds, and will have us gazing a little more intently whenever we look at these colorful creatures of the skies.

Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is one of two groups of owls. It belongs to the barn owl family Tytonidae and is a fairly common sight in rural areas across the globe. The Barn Owl may be found in any country except Antartica, although it may vary in appearance in certain instances such as the Tyto alba alba of western Europe which has a pure white underbelly or the Tyto alba guttata of central Europe which has an orange underbelly. These two variations are classified as subspecies and most Barn Owls have a mixture of grey and ochre on their underparts.

Barn Owls are generally pale in appearance and have long wings and fairly long legs. Their bodies measure between 33-39 cm in length and they have an average wingspan of 80-95 cm. They prefer open country, such as farmland or the edges of woods where they can easily spot their prey from the air. They generally hunt in the early twilight or at night and are fairly sedentary for the rest of the time. They often feed on voles, frogs, rats, shrews, moles, mice and insects. As they feed on so many pests, they are considered to be economically valuable birds and their presence is generally welcomed by farmers who may set up nesting sites for the birds to entice them to nest on the property. The Barn Owl is also known by several other names such as the ‘church owl’, ‘golden owl’, ‘stone owl’ and ‘rat owl’.

This beautiful, heart-faced bird has few natural predators, although they have been known to be preyed upon by bigger owls on occasion. Barn Owls themselves will prey on smaller birds if other food is scarce. They can emit a notable shrill scream which can be piercing at close range. They also hiss if nervous but do not make the ‘tu-whit to-whoo’ sound commonly associated with owls. If a Barn Owl is captured or cornered, it will flip itself on its back and use it’s sharply-taloned feet in defence. These incredible birds are also known for their soundless flight and excellent vision – especially at night.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Arctic is a harsh environment and most birds that travel to this harsh environment do so in summer to breed, and then migrate back home. The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), Ptarmigan and the snow bunting are some of the few arctic birds that will live there all year round on the snowy tundra. It is not often that the snowy owl will move away from the arctic unless there is a particularly bad winter and their food is scarce. In that case they will leave the arctic and winter in northern Greenland, northern Eurasia, Canadian islands, Wrangel Islands and in North America.

Their name comes from their coloring, which is basically pure white when they are fully grown adults but will change in the summer to a brown with dark stripes and spots. Due to the icy cold environment that they stay in, the birds’ feet have extra thick pads and are covered with feathers to keep them warm. They are one of the largest owl species standing up to 27 inches high, with a wingspan of 45 to 60 inches.

Like other species of owls the Snowy owl has amazing day and night vision, allowing them to see their prey high up in the sky, from where they will swoop down silently and capture it. When the owl catches its prey it will either swallow it whole or it will tear it into big pieces and swallow. They eat hares, voles, lemmings and shrews and will sometimes eat small birds. During spring they will add eggs from swans and waterfowl to their diet.

When the female Snowy owl makes a nest she will stay on the 8 to 10 eggs while the male owl goes out to hunt for food for the both of them as well as protecting her from any danger. Once the owlets are born both the female and male will go out to search for food and at eight weeks of age the owlets will be ready to leave home. It is important that the owlets become independent quickly because the summer months are short and if they cannot look after themselves they will not survive the long icy cold winters.

Ornithologist Pair Break Record

November 4, 2008 by  
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For many bird lovers it seems like the sort of thing dreams are made of – giving up everything to enjoy a year spotting some of the most rare birds in some of the most exotic locations around the globe. Welsh ornithologists Alan Davies and Ruth Miller have done just that. They’ve sold their home and belongings, quit their jobs and set off to break the bird-spotting world record.

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Israel Chooses National Bird

June 2, 2008 by  
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The nation of Israel has finally chosen their national bird. After months of selecting and voting, it would seem that the Hoopoe had the most votes. This pretty little bird managed to scoop a massive 35% of the votes, giving it the prestige of becoming the new symbol of Israel.

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International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minnesota

February 4, 2008 by  
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The International Festival of Owls came about as a result of the popularity of Alice, a Great Horned Owl. Alice is a well-known and much-loved resident at the Houston Nature Center in Houston, Minnesota. The Festival of Owls started out as a fun event celebrating Alice’s “hatch-day”. The festival was a huge success and soon developed into an international event. The 6th annual International Festival of Owls is set to take place on the weekend of 29 February to 2 March 2008 and has a host of activities lined up to educate and entertain each member of the family.

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The Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend

October 1, 2007 by  
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The Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend and Cape May Bird Show, is a festival of nature that should not be missed by avid bird watchers or nature lovers. It is not just your typical bird show where birds of different species are exhibited; it is an interactive and educational event that includes sea birds, wild birds and birds of prey. Birders are also able to brush up on their identification skills and get an in-depth look at raptors such as hawks, eagles and owls.

To join in on the fun, interested parties should make their way to the Annual Cape May Autumn weekend, that takes place between 26 to 28 October 2007. Of course the Cape May Bird Show is spectacular, but it is the field trips, workshops and presentations by well-known bird handlers, naturalists and authors that make this event exciting and adventurous.

The field trips that are organized by the festival include locations such as Stone Harbor Point, Cape May Point, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and Higbee Beach. On these spectacular trips, visitors will be able to view a total of two hundred different bird species and join seabird watching, hawk watching and migratory birds of prey expeditions. Botany Field Trips are also offered. And if raptors are your passion, then attending the presentation by Jonathan Wood, from the Raptor Project, is essential. He will be discussing various interesting facts and aspects of eagles, hawks and many others. Workshops and programs that are offered at the Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend include Birding for Beginners, Hawk Identification, Waterfowl Identification, Binocular Workshop, Seabird Identification, Spotting Scope Workshops, How to Sketch Birds, Birding Field Craft and How to Spot an Owl. A trip on the Cape May Lewes Ferry is another relaxing and entertaining way to enjoy the festival, and visitors might be lucky enough to view birds such as jaegers, gulls, gannets, scoters and loons.

Special evening programs, banquets and guest speakers have also been arranged. Many bird lovers will be thrilled to know that some of the authors and artists of the book, “Good Birders Don’t Wear White”, will also be at the festival for a book signing event that takes place on Saturday the 27th of October 2007. The Convention Hall is a treasure trove of interesting stalls and stores that give visitors the opportunity to purchase a few gifts, souvenirs, crafts, and other beautiful items. For a true autumn and bird life experience, the Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend is the place to be.

The Silent Flight of Owls at Night

September 7, 2007 by  
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The Owl is a fascinating nocturnal bird and one of the quietest flying bird species in the world. The Owl’s ability to keep completely silent while in action is based on the Owl’s unique feather design, which is unlike any other bird species.

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