BLOG OF WILD AT HEART
Updates & Friday Feathered Facts
The 12 Days of Christmas and Holidays
We thank everyone for making this another very successful year for Wild At Heart. Through your efforts, interest, education and donations we have been able to rescue and rehabilitate hundreds of our desert birds.
Remember too, that as you shop this holiday season, Amazon Smile provides an opportunity to raise funds for Wild At Heart. Just sign up at AmazonSmile, shop and Amazon will donate a portion of your purchases to Wild At Heart. To learn more, visit AmazonSmile http://smile.amazon.com/gp/chpf/about/ref=smi_aas_redirect….
We start our 12 days of Christmas celebration with Roja, our female Red-tailed Hawk. Roja is often referred to as our “Empress” because she carries herself in such a regal manner. Roja loves to be out in public at our educational events.
Roja came to Wild At Heart almost 14 years ago. She was found on the ground with a severe case of trichomoniasis which is a protozoan organism that unfortunately caused permanent damage to Roja’s mouth.
Red-tailed hawks are one of the most common hawks seen in North America and can often be seen here in the desert circling overhead riding the currents of the wind. The Red-tailed Hawk cry is also one of the most familiar sounds of the raptor family. Its cry is often used in movies and television shows.
When asked what Roja might like to ask Santa for, she responded that she would like Santa to tell everyone how thankful she is for all the support given to our mission here at Wild At Heart.
On our second day of celebration, we would like to introduce you to Diega, our female Mexican Spotted Owl. Diega came to Wild At Heart as a young adult in 2009. She was found on the ground with nerve damage to her wing.
Diega is another of our educational birds, and there is no escaping her beautiful large dark eyes as she gently gazes upon you. There are three subspecies of spotted owls and the Mexican Spotted Owl is the smallest in size with the largest of white spots.
We think that Diega’s holiday list would include the hope that all our wonderful supporters enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate in celebration of the holiday season, and that we try our chocolate Mexican style with a little cinnamon and spice.
Meet Degoo our male Harris’s Hawk. You might have seen Degoo in our Father’s Day video. He is quite the involved foster parent. It was eight years ago when Degoo met Tafi and since then, they have fostered many different hawk nestlings. When volunteers clean their aviary, they have to hold on to their hats as Degoo likes to steal it and give it to Tafi his mate.
Degoo came to Wild At Heart when he was just a nestling. He had a severe case of trichomoniasis which is a protozoan organism that is commonly found in the mouth, throat, gastro-intestinal tract and upper respiratory tract of birds. He was found on the ground, very sick and unable to eat. Once at Wild At Heart, Degoo was fed through a tiny feeding tube for three months until he finally could eat on his own. Fortunately he continued to improve but the disease left him permanently effected.
The Harris’s Hawk is a medium-sized raptor with dark brown plumage, chestnut shoulders and white at the base and tip of the tail. While most raptors generally hunt alone, Harris’s Hawks will often hunt together in groups. Harris’s Hawks have been known to demonstrate the highly unusual behavior of “back stacking” when 2-3 hawk will stand upon each other’s back while perching.
For his holiday wish list, we think Degoo is looking forward to the Spring when he will take his unusually active role in raising foster hawk nestling. He is a modern father after all.
On this fourth day of celebration, let us introduce you to Scheherazade our female Great Horned Owl who is celebrating her 21st anniversary at Wild At Heart. When asked to share some information about Scheherazade, the staff at WAH said “we just love her, she is really something special.” And then they shared a story about a recent visit to the VA medical center, which as you can imagine was quite a busy place. Doctors and nurses hurrying by, gurneys and wheelchairs passing, and even a large dog approached the WAH table – and nothing phased Scheherazade. She remained calm, composed and ready to meet visitors.
Scheherazade is the main foster mother for the young Great Horned owlets that are brought to Wild At Heart each Spring. Either through injury or sometimes falling out of a nest, the rescued owlets are welcomed and raised by Scheherazade.
The Great Horned Owl is recognized by its two ear-like tufts on its head, its large yellow eyes and its deep and familiar hooting call. While the female is bigger than the male, the male’s hooting call is deeper in tone.
We think that Scheherazade’s wish for the holidays would be that whenever we hear the call of a Great Horned Owl at dusk, that we remember how lucky we are to share this planet with so many beautiful creatures.
Fifth Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart ….
On this fifth day of celebration, we would like to introduce Meeka, a Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. You may not be familiar with this tiny but fierce little owl, and that is most likely due to their dwindling numbers in the United States.
This threatened species was place on the Endangered Species list in 1997 but was unfortunately taken off the list in 2006 after developers filed a series of lawsuits. Efforts to reinstate this species on the endangered list continue as does critical research to document their status.
Meeka is 4 years old and was born here at Wild At Heart as part of our species recovery captive breeding program. Meeka was born extremely small and had some congenital challenges. She has therefore remained with Wild At Heart as an educational bird. Until the recent loss of our beloved Saw-whet Owl Tira, Meeka shared her home with Tira and immediately took to her when they were first introduced to each other.
We think that Meeka would ask Santa for a new roommate –an owl as sweet and protective as her friend Tira.
Follow all 12 days of of our Holiday Celebration on out website http://wildatheartraptors.org/news/newsletter/…
On the Sixth Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
Let us introduce you to the beautiful and exotic Zeka, our female Crested Caracara. The Crested Caracara is found throughout the American tropics but only reaches into the United States in Arizona, Texas and Florida. Sometimes called the “Mexican eagle” this striking bird is a common subject of regional folklore and legends.
Zeka came to Wild At Heart as a juvenile in 2008 and shares her space with Mojo, our turkey vulture. This is an ideal pairing since according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Crested Caracara is considered “a tropical falcon version of a vulture.”
The diet of the Crested Caracara is comprised of a wide variety of creatures, caught alive or found dead. The diet can include birds, bird eggs, rodents, skunks, rabbits, ground squirrels, frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, young alligators, fish, large insects and carrion of all types. So we are guessing that Zeka will be happy with just about anything Santa puts in her dish on Christmas day. Though a piece of fish might be particularly nice.
Seventh Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
On the Seventh Day of Christmas, we thought we would continue the theme of our more exotic raptors and introduce you to Khansha, our female Eurasian Eagle Owl. Now you might be thinking, what is a Eurasian Eagle Owl doing in the Sonoran desert? Well we thought the same thing when a volunteer from the Apache Junction area called us about a very large and extremely emaciated owl that they had rescued. But when they described the “orange eyes” we knew, it was not a Great Horned Owl, but a Eurasian Eagle Owl.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is among the very biggest owls in the world, measuring up to 30 inches in length with wing spans over 6 feet in width. Yet these powerful and large wings are silent in flight which enables them to stealthily swoop down on their night time prey. This owl is found throughout Europe, Asia and parts of Northern Africa and is well adapted to a wide variety of habitats including the treacherous mountain ranges of the Himalayas and Alps.
We think for Christmas, Khansha’s wish would be for a new squishy football toy. Yes Khansha and many of our birds love to play with toys. So we think she is looking forward to any new toys Santa might bring her.
If you would like to help support Khansha and all our animals at Wild At Heart, we would love your donations. Making a donation in the name of another is a wonderful and unique holiday gift and we are always happy to work with you to make that happen. http://wildatheartraptors.org/get-involved/donate/
Eighth Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
On our eighth day of celebration, may we present, Muri, our male Western Screech Owl. Muri came to Wild At Heart in 2006 with head trauma and an eye injury. Since that time, he has recovered and grown into wonderful educational bird. Out with the public, nothing bothers Muri. He is so adorable in his diminutive display home, that people often think he is a stuffed animal.
Unlike its name, the Western Screech Owl does not screech – it emits a pleasant and accelerating series of short whistled hoots. The Western Screech Owl can be found across most of the Western United States and has a varied carnivorous diet that includes insects, rodents, fish, amphibians and invertebrates. Western Screech Owls nest in the cavities of trees and will readily take to backyard owl boxes.
We think Muri’s wish for the holidays would be that we all consider adding an owl nest box to our backyards so we can enjoy the pleasant sound and beautiful presence of the Western Screech Owl. We will post directions in January, so be sure to check back!
Ninth Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
On this ninth day of Christmas, we would like to introduce you to Sienna our female Swainson’s Hawk. Sienna came to Wild At Heart in 2009 with an electrocution injury, which is unfortunately more common than any of us would hope.
While the Swainson’s Hawk summers on the great plains and open spaces of the western United States, it winters in Argentina. This 12,000-mile roundtrip migration is the longest for any North American raptor.
Coloration can be quite variable, and our Sienna displays the typical light belly and brown chest and upper parts. It is also typical for the female to have a brown head like Sienna and for males to have grey heads. The underwing of the Swainson’s Hawk is characterized by white wing linings contrasted by black flight feathers.
Sienna shares her space with Roja, who we profiled on the First Day of our holiday celebration. And everybody gets along well, as long as everyone follows Roja’s directives. So we are guessing that if Sienna had a holiday wish, it would be the chance to be boss for a day.
Tenth Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
On the 10th day of celebration, we would like to introduce you to one of our favorites, Marty a male Burrowing Owl. Marty has been with Wild At Heart since June of 2011. He was rescued from Cesar Chavez park in Phoenix after suffering an injury to his head. As a result, he only has one good eye. Marty is a pretty easygoing kind of guy and enjoys doing educational programs. His presence gives us a wonderful opportunity to share information about our Wild At Heart Burrowing Owl Program. http://wildatheartraptors.org/recovery-programs/
Western Burrowing Owls are native to Arizona and can be found all around the West from Canada down to South America. Burrowing Owls only get to be about 10 inches tall and weigh about 6 ounces. Their small size comes in handy for finding homes. Unlike most owls, the Burrowing Owl chooses to live in burrows underground. Yup that’s right, underground. They do not dig, but rather appropriate empty burrows left by other animals, or use drain pipes, or anything they can fit into.
The Wild At Heart Burrowing Owl Program is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the world and our events are open to the public. Thousands of children and adults throughout Arizona have already helped build over 6,000 artificial burrow habitats, providing homes for 2,500+ Burrowing Owls. And the need continues to grow each year. Please consider a donation to support these critical efforts and come join us.http://wildatheartraptors.org/get-involved/donate/
Eleventh Day of Christmas, the Desert gave to Wild At Heart …
On the 11th day of Christmas, Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukah, we would like you to meet Juniper, our American Kestrel Falcon. Juniper came to Wild At Heart in 2010 with a wing fracture. The wing healed but not well enough for Juniper to fly, but Juniper hops quite well.
The American Kestrel Falcon may be the smallest of the North American falcons but it is certainly one of the most colorful raptors. Males have slate blue heads and wings which are contrasted by a rust back and tail. Both the male and female have distinctive vertical face stripes. The American Kestrel is well adapted to a wide variety of habitats including the desert, open grasslands and alpine meadows.
We think Juniper’s wish for Christmas is to share that if you keep an eye out, you just might see a Kestrel here is Arizona perched a top roadside telephone poles.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the Desert Gave to Wild At Heart …
On this 12th day of Christmas and 2nd night of Hanukkah, we are pleased to introduce you to our beautiful, snow white faced, Amigo, a male Barn Owl. Rescued in Anthem, Amigo was brought to Wild At Heart in 2013 with a severe wing injury. He has recovered well and is one of our beloved educational birds. He is pictured here with his buddy Marty, a Burrowing Owl (featured on the 10th day of celebration).
The Barn Owl is considered a medium-sized and is found around the world with as many as 46 different races identified. The North American race is the largest weighing up to 24 ounces, nearly twice as much as the smallest form found on the Galapagos islands. Barn Owls prefer to nest and roost in quiet cavities or man-made buildings such as barns or silos. The Barn Owl requires large areas of open land for their nocturnal hunting. And because of this, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss around the world.
We think that Amigo’s wishes for the holidays would be that we all do our very best to protect this Earth that we all share together and that we all enjoy these holidays with family and friends.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all our friends,
from Amigo and Wild At Heart
Bob Fox, the Director at Wild At Heart, is holding a Burrowing Owl. This raptor arrived at Wild At Heart’s care this past week from Casa Grande. It is the 697th bird to be received this year, a 12% increase over last year (and last year was up over the previous year). Suffering from minor head trauma (likely struck by a car), this Burrowing Owl was found struggling and was taken to an animal shelter in Casa Grande, and subsequently made its way to WAH. It is doing well, and is expected to make a full recovery. It will spend a few months getting to know other burrowing owls in one of the outdoor aviaries at Wild At Heart and then join a release group in a tent over one of the MANY new artificial burrow habitats built this fall by Greg Clark and volunteers in either South Phoenix or Maricopa. This year several hundred volunteers from Wild At Heart, AZ Audubon, Estrella Mountain Community College, Sierra Club, The Boy Scouts in Gilbert, Freeport McMoran Employees in Safford, ASU Conservation and Nursing students and staff, NAU Faculty and Staff, Univ of Az Students, The City of Phoenix, Maricopa Agricultural Center, and many, many, other individual volunteers and groups have contributed to building new habitat and release tents to support our rehabilitation and relocation program for Burrowing Owls. Wild At Heart really, really, appreciates the help we have received for this program in 2015!
Please feel free to forward a link to this Post to your friends and family. With the increase in the number of birds coming in and all the exciting things happening and planned at WAH, please visit other parts of this website, www.wildatheartraptors.org, for further information to get on the e-mail list, become a volunteer and/or to make a donation. We can use ALL the friends we can muster. All the best for the holiday season.
This year we have been doing underground Burrowing Owl video recording to document the behavior of juvenile Burrowing Owls. One of the videos shows a very energetic owl in the burrow with lots of jumping trying (we think) to catch a flying insect in the burrow.
Friday Feathered Fact
The Short-eared Owl, as its name suggests, has only the tiniest hint of little tufts on the top of its head – quite dissimilar from its nearest cousin, the Long-eared Owl. Short-eared Owls are crepuscular, meaning they hunt primarily during sunrise and sunset. However, they can still often be seen hunting in the middle of the day. Their preferred habitat is open grasslands and meadows where they glide and hover low over the grass as they listen for mice scurrying below. Although these birds are found in North and South America as well as Europe and Asia, their populations are of concern. Over the last 50 years, the population of these elegant owls has fallen by nearly 70%.
Friday Feathered Fact
The most variable (and common) of the raptors in the US is the Red-tailed Hawk. Identifying this bird is even more complex when you realize each subspecies can have a dark, medium, and light “phase” or “morph” – sometimes within the same nest of young. Additionally, a young hawk can look different from the adult for up to 2 years! This hawk’s appearance ranges from extreme pale to moderate brown to solid cinnamon to all dark chocolate. Take a look at the sampling of photos. All of these are Red-tailed Hawks and, all of these were photographed within Arizona!
Friday Feathered Facts
A frequent question asked about our raptors is “How long do they live?” As a general rule in all animal life, the larger the species, the longer their life span. Tiny Elf Owls will live 5-8 years in the wild and the small screech-owl will live to be about 10. The larger Barn Owl can reach a nice old age of 15-20 in the wild while the large Great Horned Owl can easily be 20-25 years old. When Great Horned Owls are well cared for in captivity (abundant food, low stress), they can reach a very respectable age of 30-35. These older birds must truly be the wise old owls.
Friday Feathered Fact
Spring migration has nearly finished which includes not only the familiar song birds but, many of our raptors. Some, such as the Swainson’s Hawk, travel a one-way journey of 6,000 miles between wintering in Argentina and nesting in Canada. Another long distant migrant, the Peregrine Falcon, has the greatest migration of any raptor, traveling over 9,000 miles from the northern edge of the arctic to the southern parts of South America. The tiny Elf Owl, barely over five inches tall, will travel over 800 miles from its wintering grounds in central and southern Mexico to as far north as Arizona to start a new family. And, the small Flammulated Owl (barely six inches tall) will fly over 2,200 miles from central Mexico to Canada.
Friday Feathered Fact
The Owl that Wasn’t. During each spring and fall migration, rescue calls come in for a “tiny owl” lying on the ground. Quite often, the tiny owl turns out to be one of two unfamiliar look-alike birds. These are the poorwill and the nighthawk, which are not raptors at all but night time insect eaters. They are often seen “hawking” for insects at sunset and around bright lights such as at parks and sporting events. During their long migrations, they rest motionless on the ground during the day, sometimes allowing close approach as they rest. During the cold autumn, they even experience torpor (mini-hibernation) when resting and can be picked up. This often causes people to think they are injured. Here is a 4-point test to determine if the bird is a small owl or a poorwill/nighthawk. (1) It has an all dark eye versus an owl’s yellow eye; (2) It lies horizontally on the ground (not sitting upright) with long wing tips and tail pointing straight back; (3) It has a tiny beak (short & narrow) that points forward; (4) Its feathers are dark brown.
Our intrepid hikers and their mascot, Widget, are nearing their destination. They are 680 miles into their journey and should finish in a few days. Having just completed the crossing of the Grand Canyon, our team is headed towards the Vermilion Cliffs, home of the California Condor nesting project.
As one can imagine, this hiking demands a high calorie intake. Take a look at a hiking lunch in this photo!
Friday Feathered Fact
A Barn Owl family is somewhat unique by having many (up to a dozen) nestlings that range dramatically in size from a 2-inch new-hatch to a sibling 10 inches tall. This occurs because the Barn Owl immediately sits on the first egg while adding a new egg each day. A two-week size difference between the first and the last sibling can be remarkable. In sharp contrast, a female quail lays eggs over many days but does not start incubating until all have been laid. This delay tactic helps to synchronize the hatching of the chicks at the same time. The peeping of one quail chick inside the egg stimulates all chicks to begin peeping and hatching at the same time. Once hatched and dried out, the entire family leaves the nest, leaving behind the scent of freshly hatched eggshells that would attract predators. A slow-hatching chick not synchronized with the rest of the eggs is at risk of being left behind.
Friday Feathered Fact
As rare as hen’s teeth. This idiom refers to the fact that no birds have teeth. However, all baby birds (except the kiwis of New Zealand) have a handy “egg tooth”. This temporary deposit of calcium carbonate on the tip of the bird’s beak has a dual purpose. First, the chick punctures through to the air sac within the egg, which provides more oxygen for the struggling chick. Second, the egg tooth rubs and pushes through the harder egg shell, called “pipping”. These young birds also have a special “pipping muscle” on the back of the neck that provides more strength to push that little egg tooth against the shell. Lizards and snakes also have an egg tooth. Remarkably, the egg-laying mammals (platypus and echidnas) also have this same egg tooth to reach the outside world.
Friday Feathered Fact
Since it is the height of baby season, we will look at these youngsters. While most hawks and owls take 28-37 days for the eggs to incubate, the time to reach independence varies greatly. The tiny Elf Owl can be out hunting on its own within 5-6 weeks of hatching and the Barn Owl fledglings will leave the parents not long after they are able to fly, which is 9-11 weeks of age. For the larger birds like the Great Horned Owl, the young will be able to fly well at about 3 months of age but are reliant on the parents for food until the age of 6-8 months. During this time, the parents will follow their “teenagers” wherever they go to deliver dinner. In contrast (and noted in an earlier post) some young Harris’s Hawks will forego life on their own until the age of two as they remain “at home” to help raise their newly hatched siblings.
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