My Favorite Interesting Facts About Turkey Vultures

by Anne, the Volunteer

Vultures are one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated birds in the avian world. Many of the opinions formed by people are based on the way vultures are portrayed in movies and cartoons. A lot of you probably believe that when vultures are circling overhead, they are waiting for an animal to die. Vultures certainly circle, and can soar for up to 6 hours with out flapping, but they are simply using the thermals to move from place to place. Another belief that some people have is that they are dirty, disgusting birds, when in fact, if there is a water source available, most vultures will enjoy a bath after a meal. Yes, they eat dead animals, and often don’t find them until the animal has been dead for a day or two, but they do have standards. Even vultures like their meat fairly fresh, and often by the fourth day, they will not feed on carrion because the meat is too rotten. Some people find vultures ugly because of their almost bald head, but does that make them ugly? There are certainly a lot of bald men walking around, and some are bald by choice, does that make them ugly? Just try to picture a bird with a feathered head, reaching down inside a carcass. Now that would be ugly! Not only do vultures not pick up many food scraps on their head, what they do pick up will easily wash off, or bake off in the sun. Below are 6 of my favorite interesting facts about vultures, which I hope will help to convince you that vultures are truly fascinating and wonderful birds.

Suli helping to teach people how wonderful vultures are.

Suli helping to teach people how wonderful vultures are.

1) If you know anything at all about vultures, then you probably know that they eat, almost exclusively, carrion (dead animals they find). I like to think of them as one of nature’s clean-up crews. But did you know that they can also prevent diseases? Their stomach acids are so strong that they can feed on animals that have died from such things as botulism, anthrax, salmonella, and cholera without causing the vulture to become ill. In fact, their stomach acids actually kill the bacteria and toxins!

If a group of vultures consume an infected carcass the harmful bacteria or toxin is destroyed so that it can no longer spread to other animals or humans.

Suli enjoying a delicious bone.

Suli enjoying a delicious bone.

2) Turkey vultures have a great sense of smell. They can smell the gasses coming off dead animals from, possibly, as far away as 5 miles. This ability allows them to find carrion even beneath a forest’s canopy. As you look at Suli, our turkey vulture, you will see a structure that most people think is one large nostril. This is not a nostril, however. It is a bony structure that protects her nostrils from getting food in them as the vulture feeds. They actually have two nostrils, located just above this opening. If a vulture puts its head down inside a carcass, and gets bits of meat or fat scraps in this opening, the vulture can easily pick it out with a talon.

Suli showing off the boney structure protecting her nostirls.

Suli showing off the boney structure protecting her nostirls.

3) Have you ever heard the sounds a turkey vulture makes? More than likely the answer is no. Turkey vultures do not sing, cackle, scream, or call out in any way. This is because they do not have a voice box. So do they make any sounds at all? With no voice box they are very limited, but they do grunt and hiss. I have heard Suli hiss a number of times. She does it when she is alarmed, usually when she sees strollers, as she is somewhat afraid of objects with wheels. So turkey vultures don’t have a lovely voice to serenade you with, but they do make quiet neighbors.
Check out this link to hear a few turkey vulture hisses:
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/sounds

4) Turkey vultures love to sun themselves. When Suli is perched upon my glove, she spreads her wings the instant I walk into the sunlight. This is called a horaltic pose. It is believed that the vulture does this for a variety of reasons. If you observe vultures first thing in the morning, you will see they are standing in this horaltic pose. A vulture’s body temperature drops overnight, and this pose will help the birds to warm up. This pose is also used after bathing to dry their feathers. It may also help to bake off bacteria the vulture has picked up while feeding on carrion.

Suli in her horaltic pose, enjoying the sun in our weathering yard.

Suli in her horaltic pose, enjoying the sun in our weathering yard.

5) OK, here is a grose out fact that has good use. Kids love this one! Turkey vultures urinate down their legs. This is called urohydrosis and it helps to cool the vultures off during hot weather. When the fluids in the waste evaporate it cools the blood vessels in the feet, therefore lowering the overall temperature of the bird. It is also believed, that because of the high acidity of their urine, the bacteria on their legs will be destroyed.

6) Another grose out that kids, as well as adults, love is that turkey vultures use vomit as a way to protect themselves from predators. Depending on the sources you rea, some people believe that they projectile vomit while others simply state that they cough up semi-digested food. In either case, if a vulture feels threatened, they vomit. You can imagine that the food they eat is often smelly. It’s even worse, however, when coming up. This will often stop predators in their tracks. Sometimes the threatening animal will decide that the nice warm vomit will make a good meal. Ewww! According to the book, Raptors of New Mexico edited by Jean-Luc E. Cartron, “Both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles have been observed chasing after Turkey Vultures, causing them to regurgitate food that is then consumed by the eagles.” Also, since birds in the wild can not always eat on a daily basis, they may gorge when food is available. Sometimes this increases their weight to the point that it is difficult for them to gain flight. Vomiting, therefore, lightens their weight allowing the bird to take off faster giving them a better chance to escape. This is also true of large birds such as eagles. So if you spy vulture or eagle on road kill . . . slow down – the bird may not be able to fly from the carcass quickly.

Suli in her mew (the room that is her home).

Suli in her mew (the room that is her home).

Question from Visitors:
Are turkey vultures related to buzzards?
Turkey vultures are sometimes referred to as buzzards, although they are not really buzzards. Buzzards are really hawks of the genus Buteo that live mainly in the British Isles. In some areas of our country, however, vultures are commonly called buzzards. This term was probably used by early settlers who arrived in this country, saw our vultures, and thought they were buzzards. New World vultures are not even related to hawks. DNA shows that they are more closely related to storks. Storks, in fact, use urohydrosis to cool off, just as turkey vultures do.

Common Buzzard (photo from a free use website)

Common Buzzard (photo from a free use website)

Fresh Meat

I realize it’s been a long time since I, personally, added a post to our blog but there is a good reason . . . I’ve been swamped training 5 new volunteers for the program! I can’t thank Anne, the Volunteer, enough for stepping in the last couple weeks but I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce our “newbies” to you all.

I was contacted several months ago (probably at the beginning of the summer) by a couple ladies that were interested in volunteering with the raptor program here at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Unfortunately, summer is INSANELY busy for me so I had to tell them I wouldn’t be able to start new folks until after the summer, hopefully mid-September. Finally at the end of September I was ready to start and Sue & Laurie were both still chomping at the bit to join our team!

Almost every one of our volunteers comes with no previous experience working with raptors. Sue was no exception but she has an incredible love of animals and is truly ecstatic to be working so closely with our amazing ambassadors. She does admit, however, it is hard for her to resist touching & hugging Teasdale :)

Sue holding Teasdale for the first time. She was beyond excited!!!

Sue holding Teasdale for the first time. She was beyond excited!!!

Laurie recently moved to Cody but several years ago she worked at a Nature Center in North Carolina called Grandfather Mountain. It’s exciting to have another “nature educator” on the team and although she only got a little bit of experience working with screech owls, she did get to manage the habitats for animals like mountain lions, otters, & bald eagles – even if she didn’t get to work with the animals directly.

Laurie & Teasdale enjoying a nice day outside.

Laurie & Teasdale enjoying a nice day outside.

On the first day of her training, Sue said she would bring along her son, Sam. Having never met Sue I wasn’t sure what to expect in her son, and although she mentioned he had done some research in South America I didn’t know if she would be bringing a college student or what. Fortunately, Sam is an incredibly enthusiastic & knowledgable adult who loves to learn about everything! He just moved to the area and has lots of time to spend training with the birds and is hoping to help out in the Draper Natural History Museum with the lab projects & golden eagle research as well.

Sam & Teasdale on their first day working together. Clearly Teasdale is trying to understand the beard.

Sam & Teasdale on their first day working together. Clearly Teasdale is trying to understand the beard.

The next newbie to join our ranks was Violet. Talk about dedication . . . she works at the Dinosaur Museum in Thermopolis, Wyoming & is coming up on her weekends to work with the birds. That’s an hour & a half one way just to be a part of the program!!!!!

Violet & Teasdale

Violet & Teasdale

And finally, our last new volunteer is Kassy. When I was describing what we do I mentioned that the volunteers never have to give a full program by themselves if they don’t want to but they do need to talk to the public and be comfortable in front of a crowd. That’s when she told me she was not only a Registered Nurse in critical care and surgery, but that she has presented educational lectures at conferences and seminars and has done quite a bit of training. Perhaps I finally have another victim to start presenting programs???? :)

Kassy & Teasdale getting acquainted.

Kassy & Teasdale getting acquainted.

Each and every one of our volunteers, new or experienced, is an incredibly valuable member of the team & I can’t express how much I appreciate what they do for the birds, the program, & me. I am truly lucky to have them!

And let’s not forget the birds! What amazing birds we have! Each of them, honestly, is the best representative of their species that I have worked with – & I’ve worked with around 70 raptors over the years! I’d like to say a super big thank you to Teasdale. You probably noticed he is really the one training all the new folks & he does a great job at it! Way to go, Teas!

My Favorite Interesting Facts About Peregrine Falcons

By Anne, the Volunteer

By the middle of the 20th century, the peregrine falcon was placed on the Endangered Species list, due to a sharp decline in their population. This decline was caused by DDT pesticide contamination, which caused their eggshells to be so thin that they would break when the adults tried to incubate them. In 1999, due in part to bans on the usage of DDT and breeding and reintroduction programs designed by falconers and raptor biologists, the peregrine was removed from the endangered species list. Despite this, most people have never seen one in the wild. I myself, have only seen them twice. When I first saw one, I was stunned by the beauty of this streamlined, black and blue-gray bird that was lying on a cliff across the Yellowstone Canyon, incubating her eggs. In this blog I am sharing 6 of my favorite facts about peregrine falcons.

The black and blue-gray feathers on Hayabusa’s back.

The Black and blue-gray feathers on Hayabusa’s back.

1) Often the first comments I get from visitors when they see Hayabusa, our peregrine falcon, is that she is so stunningly beautiful, and her eyes are so large. According to the book, Peregrine Falcon by Patrick Stirling-Aird, if our eyes were the same proportion to our bodies as a peregrine’s, our eyes would be 3” across, and weigh 4 lbs each.

Hayabusa

Hayabusa

2) The peregrine’s large eyes are incredible tools which help them survive in the wild. They can see at least 1 mile away and keep track of three moving objects at one time. Within the eye, peregrines have a fovea center (focal point on the retina) at the back of each eye, which is similar to a telephoto lens. These are used independently of each other for viewing two different distance objects, one with each eye, as they turn their head from side to side. Shallower focal points in each eye work together to give the peregrine binocular vision, similar to ours, allowing them to see one central image. Therefore they can visually keep track of one central binocular image like we do, and two magnified images, one for each eye.

Hayabusa showing her streamlined body shape.

Hayabusa showing her streamlined body shape.

3) When you see a peregrine falcon, you are looking at what is typically considered the fastest animal on the planet. Depending on what reference you read, peregrines can fly at speeds of 65 to 70 miles per hour. Cheetahs, the fastest land animal, can run at speeds of 70 to 75 mph for short distances. So what makes the peregrine the fastest animal on the planet? It is their dive, called a stoop. With their teardrop body shape and their compact feathers these stream-lined birds slip through the air with little resistance once they fold in their wings. Researchers have discovered that the peregrine can dive at speeds over 200 mph. One group of researchers clocked their research falcon diving at an incredible 242 mph. Not many other animals can compete with that!
Below is an excellent video highlighting these amazing stoops.

4) A potential flight hazard to a bird that can dive over 200 miles per hour would be that, while breathing, pressure could build up inside their lungs. Some sources believe that this pressure could possibly cause the lungs to burst. The peregrine falcon, however, has evolved with a nostril structure called a tubercle that deals with this problem. The tubercle is a bony conical structure that acts like a baffle, causing the air to curve in a spiral manner rather than rushing straight into the lungs. This slows down the air as it enters the peregrine’s nostrils, therefore allowing the peregrine to breathe normally and safely at high speeds.

Check out the 2nd photo in this blog for another view of the tubercle.

Check out the 2nd photo in this blog for another view of the tubercle.

5) 77 to 99% of a peregrine falcon’s diet is other birds and their favorite way to make their kills is to use their speedy dives to strike their prey while it is in flight. When the peregrine spots its prey it will often begin its dive in a circular manner, which allows them to keep track of the prey without the drag of an additional head movement. The peregrine then closes up its wings and plummets toward the earth. As they approach their prey, they will turn up slightly in preparation for the kill. As they do this, peregrines are able to withstand the force of 25 Gs. (Humans will pass out at 9 or 10 Gs.) At this point, the peregrine will usually ball up its feet and, while flying past the prey, attempt to strike the prey in its head. If the hit is successful, it will often kill the targeted bird outright. If the prey survived the strike, the hit will stun it, causing it to fall to the ground, which will usually kill the bird. In the event that the fall does not do the job, the peregrine uses its tomial tooth, a sharp structure on its upper beak, to snap the vertebrae of the prey. Peregrine falcons have been seen attacking birds as large as geese, pelicans, and even blue herons.

But how successful are they? Unfortunately they do not have a high success rate. According to a BBC Documentary film, only 20% of their high speed dives end in a successful kill.

6) And here is the latest on peregrine falcons that really blows my mind! Falcons are genetically more closely related to parrots than hawks! In early 2012, their scientific order was moved next to the order of parrots. Although you can’t see Haybusa’s DNA as she stands upon my glove, there is a visual similarity you can see. Parrots and falcons both have the sharp tomial tooth on their beaks, which hawks and eagles lack. My parrot, Chiquita’s, tomial tooth looks just like Hayabusa’s.

Chiquita’s tomial tooth.

Chiquita’s tomial tooth.

Question from Visitors:
Why does she shake like that?

Hayabusa often raises her feathers, and shakes. This is called a rouse, and is done to shake the feathers into place, as well as to remove dust and debris. A captive bird will only rouse on a glove if they are comfortable with the situation.

Hayabusa getting ready to shake out her feathers.

Hayabusa getting ready to shake out her feathers.

My Favorite Facts About Great Horned Owls

By Anne the Volunteer

It’s a common belief that great horned owls are nocturnal, although they are actually crepuscular, which means they prefer to hunt dusk and dawn. They will, however, also hunt in the middle of the night, and aren’t against coming out of their tree to grab up a meal in the middle of the day. Great horns prefer to spend their days camouflaged in trees, making it is hard to spot them. This is one of the reasons our great horned owl, Teasdale, is popular with our guests, who have rarely, if ever seen one. In this blog, I am sharing six of my favorite facts about great horned owls.

This great horned owl blended right in with our Russian olive tree.

This great horned owl blended right in with our Russian olive tree.

1) Great horned owls are one of only a few species of animals that regularly eat skunks. Since owls only have enough sense of smell to enable them to taste food, great-horned owls don’t have a clue as to how awful the skunk smells, they only know they taste good. Of course we don’t want to smell skunk, so no skunk for Teasdale.

Teasdale, Our Handsome Great Horned Owl.

Teasdale, Our Handsome Great Horned Owl.

2) I am sure that you have all noticed that great horned owls appear to have ears similar to mammals. These are not really ears, but are just tuffs of feathers, called plumicorns. 1/3 of the owl species in the U.S. have plumicorns. So where are their ears? They are hidden under the curved lines of dark feathers that forms a facial disc on either side of their face. The great horned owl can actually raise these short facial disk feathers to amplify sound, similar to you putting your hands behind your ears. They can hear a mouse moving under of foot of snow, and probably hear a mouse moving on the forest floor from a football field away. What is even more interesting is that their ears are actually offset with the right ear being a little higher than the left. This causes sound to reach one ear at a fraction of a second before it reaches the other. When the owl tilts its head until the sound equalizes, it will be staring right at his prey.

This great photo was taken from Teasdale's FaceBook Page.

This great photo was taken from Teasdale’s FaceBook Page.

3) Teasdale’s feet are large and strong, making them deadly weapons. When a great horn reaches with its feet fully extended, it can cover an area of 31 square inches! Combined with their ability to squeeze up to 500 lbs. per square inch, this deadly, crushing grip will often kill prey instantly. Notice the short feathers that cover Teasdale’s legs and feet right down to his talons. These feathers are touch sensitive. If a great horn grasps something and it moves, these feathers help it to know that it has caught prey, and doesn’t just have a foot full of leaves and sticks.

Teasdale’s forward facing eyes make his gaze seem more like humans, as well as more intense.

Teasdale’s forward facing eyes make his gaze seem more like humans, as well as more intense.

4) Great horned owls have excellent eyesight, and can see well in bright light, as well as almost total darkness, though they have no color vision. Since they prefer to hunt at dusk and dawn, color vision is not needed. Their sight is, however, triggered by movement. The owl may be looking right at a mouse that is not moving, and not see it. However, the instant the mouse even twitches a whisker, the owl will spot it. A great horned owl is capable of spotting a mouse a football field away, even in low light conditions. In fact, if you put a great horned owl in a football stadium, lit by only one candle, there would be enough light for the great horn to hunt.

Another great photo from Teasdale’s FB page! Each of our birds have their own page, come on over and “like” them!

Another great photo from Teasdale’s FB page! Each of our birds have their own page, come on over and “like” them!

5) If you have ever had an owl pass closely overhead, you may have noticed its silent flight. This is due to the soft, fringe like structures on the edges of its wing feathers. The photo clearly shows this feather structure. This structure allows the air to easily slip through the feathers, making them totally silent. As an owl drops down from its perch, or moves low above the ground, the silent flight enables the owl to continue to hear the movement of its prey, as well as preventing its prey from being alerted to the owl due to sound.
6) Great horned owls are sometimes called hoot owls, as they have a distinctive hoo-hoo-hoooo hoo-hoo sound. But did you know that they make a lot of other sounds as well? They also growl, scream, bark, shriek, and hiss. If you are lucky enough to hear a mated pair calling back and fourth, you can tell which is the male and which is the female, as the male has a deeper voice. Along with these different vocalizations, they also use their beaks to make snapping sounds.
These two links contain just a few of the great horned owl’s sounds:
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_horned_owl/sounds
http://www.owlpages.com/sounds.php?genus=Bubo&species=virginianus

Teasdale gives you another look at his facial disk line.

Teasdale gives you another look at his facial disk line.

Question from visitor:
Can owls turn their heads completely around?
Teasdale, like us, can easily look to his side, but from there, he can continue to look directly behind himself, then continue to look over to the opposite side, all in one turn. He can not, however, continue turning his head all the way around. Great horns can turn their heads 270 degrees (¾ of the way around), while most other birds can only turn their heads 180 degrees. This is partly due to the fact that they have 14 vertebrae in their necks, twice as many as we do. There is a lot more to it than that, however, so if you are interested in learning even more about what makes it possible for an owl to turn its head 270 degrees, here is an excellent video.

My Favorite Facts About the Red-tailed Hawk

by Anne the Volunteer

When visitors first see Isham, our red-tailed hawk, often the first thing I hear is, “We have lots of these back home.” That is probably true, as red-tailed hawks are the most common soaring hawk in all of North America, from Alaska right down through Mexico and Central America, as well as in Jamaica. But do you know these interesting facts about red-tailed hawks? Below are five of my favorite facts.

Isham, the red-tailed hawk, and Melissa Hill.

Isham, the red-tailed hawk, and Melissa Hill.

1) The scream of a red-tailed hawk is majestic and thrilling to hear. So majestic, in fact, that movie makers years ago decided that their scream was much more befitting an eagle than the actual eagle call. Compared to a red-tail, eagle calls can sound a bit wimpy. So when you see that eagle, soaring through the sky, and hear that magnificent scream, you are actually hearing a sound-track of a red-tailed hawk. This is not only an interesting fact, but one that really irritates me, as I have even heard the red-tailed hawk scream accompanying an eagle on documentaries! How well are we being educated, if we think an eagle has a red-tail hawk scream? To hear the differences go to the following links and click “listen.”
Bald Eagle: http://goo.gl/EETybr
Golden Eagle: http://goo.gl/RgiSI7
Red-tailed hawk: http://goo.gl/PJrtbD

Isham's lovely red tail.

Isham’s lovely red tail.

3) It is easy to identify a red-tailed hawk, since they have that beautiful rusty or brick colored, red tail. Or is it? Did you know that the red-tailed hawk doesn’t get its red tail until sometime in their 2nd year of life? And to complicate things further, some never get red-tails. Along with the fact that these birds may vary in coloration from albino to almost black, identifying a perched red-tailed hawk can be more difficult than one would think. If the red tail isn’t visible, however, there is another way to identify it, provided you see the red-tailed hawk in flight. On the underside of the outstretched wings, you will usually see a distinctive dash-comma pattern on the leading edge.

In this photo you can see both the beautiful red tail, and the comma dash pattern on the leading edge of the wings.

In this photo you can see both the beautiful red tail, and the comma dash pattern on the leading edge of the wings.

3) I was surprised to learn that rattlesnake remains regularly show up in red-tailed hawks nests. The red-tailed hawk has developed a method to deal with this dangerous prey. It will land near the snake, and open both wings, sometimes fluttering one or both. This move will distract the attention of the snake to the open wings. If the snake should make a strike, it is more likely that the rattlesnake will go for the open wing feathers, rather than the body of the hawk. According to Dr. Charles Preston’s book, Red-tailed Hawk, the hawk typically uses it’s talons to grab the snake in the middle of its body, then makes a quick bite to the head.

Check out this National Geographic Wild video of a red-tailed hawk and a rattlesnake.

4) I often see red-tailed hawks sitting on the top of power poles, where they perch, looking out across the landscape for prey. Like eagles, falcons, and other hawks, red-tailed hawks see in magnification, and with saturated color perception that is far superior to ours. Red-tails are capable of spotting a small mouse a mile away. A human may not notice a small brown mouse on a brownish rock, but to a red-tail who sees that mouse 2 to 3 times larger than we do, and whose color saturation gives him the ability to distinctly see the difference in the brown of the mouse and the brown of the rock, spotting the mouse is much easier.

The banded tail and the fact that the folded wing tips fall short of the end of the tail indicate that this is a juvenile.

The banded tail and the fact that the folded wing tips fall short of the end of the tail indicate that this is a juvenile.

5) Red-tailed hawks have spectacular courtship displays. These will begin in late winter, with both birds soaring in wide circles high above the ground. The male then begins a series of spectacular dives in view of the female. Eventually the male zooms to a position just above the female, and touches her with his legs extended. These behaviors may include repeated vocalizations. Courtship may also include the male capturing prey and offering it to the female. This courtship feeding is often done during the aerial displays with the female rolling over and extending her talons to accept the prey. In addition to these displays, both birds may also interlock talons, and spiral at great speeds toward the ground.

Question From Visitors:
I am sometimes asked this question as I hold Isham, our red-tailed hawk on my glove. Isham is missing his right eye, which had to be removed, due to a severe injury after being struck by a car.

Can birds survive in the wild with only one eye?
On rare occasions one eyed birds have been found in the wild, and in some cases rehabilitators may return a one-eyed bird to the wild. However, a bird that is blind on one side, would only be returned to the wild if it was found injured, as an adult, and the veterinarian could determine from examining the bird that it had been living successfully in the wild with one eye before the injury had occurred. Normally, the survival rate of a one eyed bird in the wild, is very low. Raptors depend heavily on their sight when hunting, and a one eyed bird would have no depth perception, reducing their ability to successfully make a kill. Also, being blind on one side gives predators that may be approaching the hawk from the blind side an advantage, as the bird may not see the predator unless it turned its head, and that may be too late.

Isham is a Handsome Fellow, Even With Only One Eye.

Isham is a Handsome Fellow, Even With Only One Eye.

From beyond the mews . . .

It seems I’m still struggling to keep up with the blog, even though our summer schedule has officially ended. I apologize. This week is still pretty crazy so rather than make everyone continue sitting on the edge of their seat, drenched with sweat from anticipation for the next blog . . . No? Not so much? Yeah, I know. Anyway, here’s another installment from Brandon’s adventures with the birds. He may have left us, but we can still use him, or at least his stories :)

On one of the occasions in the spring when we are still doing indoor programs in the downstairs portion of the Draper Natural History Museum, I got to hold Teasdale. In order to bring the birds inside from the Mews to our program area, we have to walk through the museum and often through large crowds. By holding Teasdale (an owl that moves very little from his perch) I served as his tree. Great Horned Owls are camouflaged to blend in with the trees that they are perched in. If they are concerned or nervous about something that poses a threat to them, they sometimes lean in towards the trunk.

Teasdale leaning in closer to Brandon while surrounded by other birds and people.

Teasdale leaning in closer to Brandon while surrounded by other birds and people.

As we walked through the museum to do our program, Teasdale must have felt unsecure of the crowds because as we walked, he began to grip tighter and lean in towards my body. I felt touched that he felt safer with me than with other people. That is, until he got hot enough to start panting. When the birds get warm, they can’t sweat. As a result of this, the only way for them to cool down is to pant just like a dog.

Teasdale "panting" to cool off.

Teasdale “panting” to cool off.

Feeling insecure, Teasdale had settled himself fairly close to me on my arm. This brought him near my face, which is pretty intimidating! Unfortunately for me, the instant I turned to look at him, he started panting- right in my face. Now very few people know this, but owl breath is one of the foulest things in the universe. The closest that I can come to describing it is to have you imagine the breath of someone that eats rats and mice all the time. Then add that sour edge of a dill pickle scent to it. (Don’t get me wrong! I like dill pickles, but they do have an edge to their scent.) The combination of the close proximity of Teasdale’s face to mine and the awful smell nearly knocked me off my feet. Fortunately for him, I withstood his wheezing onslaught and finished the program.

Brandon and Teasdale

Brandon and Teasdale

September Already?!?!

Holy cow! It’s September!!!! I can hardly believe the summer is gone. Today is the last day of our summer schedule and our daily “formal” programs with the birds. Unfortunately, I’m still swamped for a bit longer, but luckily, Brandon decided to take a stab at blogging. Whew! He decided to share some personal stories about his work with the birds. Thanks, Brandon!!!

Brandon put on his "serious" face to write up some blogs.

Brandon put on his “serious” face to write up some blogs.

Howdy all! I’m going to write a blog for you for the heck of it. Thought it would be fun to share some personal stories involving some of the birds here at the Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience.

One day during one of our programs, I was holding Haya.

Haya & Brandon Show (3)

We usually feed her in front of the crowd because they just love to see the feathers fly. (She must like it too, because she always goes crazy when people start cheering her on…) Well we must have been short of handlers that day because I had to hold her on the glove while I spoke. As I talked to the crowd and explained the peregrine falcon’s eating habits, Haya got to plucking the quail I had just given her to eat. Feathers were flying everywhere. Then she got to the meat.

Hunters Program (62) Contest

When Hayabusa gets particularly excited, she shakes her meal in her beak, which is exactly what she did. Meanwhile, I’m innocently carrying on educating the public, when what do you think came whizzing through the air into my mouth? That’s right folks, as Haya vigorously shook her quail, a piece came off and went whizzing into my mouth. The crowd witnessed a short pause of speech, followed by an audible “Hurk,” and a few coughs and splutters. They were shocked at first then laughed at my misfortune.

Haya CCC Shoot (86) Meat!

Needless to say, whenever anyone asks if the birds get good food, I can reply “Yes.” I can’t say I like it raw though…

The End of Summer?? No Way!

Wow, this summer has flown by so, so fast! I can’t believe this is my last week, and sadly that also means my last blog for the summer :/

This has been such an incredibly valuable experience and the best summer job ever! I have learned so much, met so many awesome people, and worked with some amazing birds!

Our awesome birds!

Our awesome birds!

I learned that each bird has a separate personality and all of our girls are divas :) I also learned that 2 pounds is way heavier than it sounds! I discovered that with practice my public speaking is not too bad, and that there is always something new and cool to learn. I learned to “Smile, because you’re always on camera,” and the people I work with make this job even better than I could have imagined!

I will do one final update on the birds for everyone :) Poor Isham was attacked by a bunch of robins this morning during the relaxing session, and we had to take him inside-Darn robins! Teasdale is being fractionally less grumpy as the summer cools off :) Haya is her diva self and a fast eater as usual, though she was smoked in the race today! Suli seems to be getting over her fear of things with wheels, which is a plus, but she’s still pretty weird… :)

And wonderful Kateri seems to have recovered from our incident last Thursday, thank goodness! What incident, you may ask? Well, it was my second time holding her in public and we were out for the last half of the afternoon relaxing period. Nicole had held her with no problems for the first half hour, and for about 15 minutes with me, no big deal. Then she suddenly bated, tried to leave my glove (this was my first ever bate!) and we got back up with relative ease-not a terrible first bate. And then she bated a few more times, and Melissa said that we should take her in. First mistake on my part, I forgot to bring the cane with me, because I was not expecting her to bate with the hood on so I thought it would be a quick put away-I was quite mistaken! We made it to the gate area, and then she spooked and bated at least 3 times, got through the gate, and then she bated again! This time though, she lost her hood, and then every time I bent down to grab it, she bated. Brandon came out of the Mews to hand me a cane, and then heads back inside. I finally grabbed the hood, got it on, and then we rested for a minute. Then she started again, and we were having a hard time! Brandon came out again and helped give some direction, and after a few more bates, we managed to get her into her mew and Brandon came with me to help take her equipment off. He managed to take off one clip, and then she went again, losing her hood. At this point, we are both hot and tired and my arm is about to fall off, and she can’t get back up with only the one jess on her ankle, so its Melissa to the rescue! With poor Kateri flailing around, Melissa grabs the one attached jess and scoops her up and I get out of the mew. I was so tired and full of adrenaline at the same time that I was shaking! As the awesome volunteer LaDaun put it, I am now seasoned when it comes to handling Kateri’s bates!

Needless to say, for the rest of the weekend, Kateri only had to come out for the 11:30 program, and Melissa held her so she could try to see if anything was wrong. By Monday, she seemed to be doing just fine, and LaDaun was able to handle her with few problems. Phew, we are glad she’s back to somewhat-normal!

On another note, today, being one of my final days here, we are doing a photo shoot with me and each of the birds! We did everyone but Kateri this morning, and Melissa took some great photos! :)

Me and Isham :)

Me and Isham :)

Suli and Silly Me :)

Suli and Silly Me :)

Princess Haya and I :)

Princess Haya and I :)

Squire Teasdale and Me :)

Squire Teasdale and Me :)

The volunteers who spend so much of their time here taking care of and showing off these awesome birds deserve a big thanks for all they do! They do so amazingly well, and they made my summer so fun! Thank you all from me, and I wish you all lots of happiness! :)

Melissa, Brandon and Nicole were also a part of making this summer so great :) they all helped me so much, and put up with my scary clumsy self. I don’t know about them, but I had a great time hanging out almost every day, eating dinner at Melissa’s, going out to dinner with everyone, and just being goofy and funny around each other. Such amazing people that I was so lucky to work with! Best of luck in everything!

Also, Melissa will be taking over the blog once more, but she will still be busy for a while, so if she can’t do it all the time, hang in there!

One last reminder to follow our awesome birds on Facebook! Melissa obviously does some great photography, and she usually posts new pictures at least once a week, it is really worth the like! :)

And last but not least, thanks to all of those who are reading! The whole blog thing is new to me, and it has been fun :) I hope everyone has a great end of the summer! If there are any questions that you would like me to answer about this awesome program and the great people and the wicked cool birds, I will answer them!

All the best,
Katie :)

Catch-up Time!

Hello!

Ok, now I’m really late; I got back Friday morning from Yellowstone, and it has been a crazy schedule ever since. I spent this Wednesday and Thursday up at Lake Lodge for work; both nights, I gave 2 presentations about different types of raptors in Yellowstone (or that was the plan anyway)… but I will start from the beginning :)

On Wednesday, I came to work on time and gathered all of my supplies up (I brought several props because I couldn’t bring an actual bird), and I loaded everything into Melissa’s car, which she graciously let us borrow :) Then, I added a few finishing touches to the program I had written, printed it, and I was off on my adventure! The drive to Yellowstone was so beautiful-the only annoyances were the people who were in a hurry, which seemed to be everyone. I was going right around the speed limit, and almost every car I was in front of rode very close behind me and then passed at ridiculous speeds. I don’t understand the rush; the drive was so nice, they should have taken their time to enjoy the views! But anyway, silly people aside, I had a great drive and finally made it to Lake Lodge at about noon. It is a gorgeous lodge and what a view! I had to wait to check in till around 3:30 pm, so I mostly lounged around the lobby and relaxed- I was so sleepy! My room was very nice, and I quickly settled in, and then I took a short nap. I had to give my programs at 5:30 and 7:30, so I woke up at 4:15, and went to have a quick dinner at 4:30. Then it was time for set up! I had a table to use, so I set everything out, and from 5:30 until 7:15, I had 2 or 3 people at a time that came up and asked a few questions, and then left. Not the formal program I was expecting, but I like informal anyway :) When 7:30 rolled around, I had enough people who wanted a program, and it was kind of rocky but it went well enough :)

The View from The Lake Lodge Deck :)

The View from The Lake Lodge Deck :)

The next day, I got to explore! I went hiking, saw some geyser pools, and took tons of photos of dragonflies, flowers, and butterflies :) It was a very nice day, not too warm or stormy, just about perfect :) Too soon it seemed, I headed back to the lodge to eat dinner and prepare for the programs. This night, I gave two formal programs at the usual times and answered questions between the programs, and it went pretty well. Then I packed up for the final time and packed up all my stuff so I could be ready early in the morning. Overall, it was a fun and great experience :)

Pretty Flowers!

Pretty Flowers!

Dragonfly!

Dragonfly!

As I was driving back, I had to stop and take some photos of the sun coming up over the Yellowstone River; it was so awesome!

Sun over the river!

Sun over the river!

Driving back through the beautiful park and into Cody was as good as the drive in, and then I got to work, and it was almost a normal day :)

The birds are doing well, and the temperatures are cooling off slowly but surely; summer is almost over!
The cooler weather is great for Teasdale and Kateri especially, though Teasdale remains his grumpy self __ He does seem to be getting better overall :)

Kateri is her awesome self, and Nicole has progressed with her, and got to take her into the weathering yard for a short time! We just love working with her!

Suli has been getting more and more scared of everything lately. Last week, we tried to do an informal photo shoot with her to get a grown-up photo for her new bookmarks, and she was a total goof! We took her to a different part of the weathering yard, and she was trembling on my glove and she even vomited…. She has not been herself lately, but maybe she will perk up towards the end of summer.

Isham seems to be calming down a little bit, and is not as bate-y as usual. He is being pretty vocal, and Melissa was able to catch that on video-make sure to check out Isham’s facebook page!

Hayabusa is being her piggy self and enjoying every minute of it. Today, she had a big chicken leg all to herself, and her crop was so full! She was so happy! :)

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave questions! :)

Katie :)

Rain Check!

Hey Everyone!

Sorry, I am not posting a blog today or Wednesday! I am going into Yellowstone to give some awesome programs at the Lake Lodge, so I will post when I get back Friday or Saturday and tell you all about it! :) Thanks for following and reading! :)

Katie! :)