Category Archives: Conservation

Disney AK Flights of Wonder audience participation

Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom | photo by Arthur de Wolf

Flights of Wonder is a live free-flight bird show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. I enjoy seeing this show each time I visit Animal Kingdom (AK), especially since many of the elements of the show are different each performance. The birds rotate so you never know which species or individuals will be in a particular show.

There are usually three or four parts in each show where members from the audience can participate, but recently I saw an additional opportunity which came up before the regular show even began.

Spoiler alert! This post contains spoilers for parts of the Flights of Wonder live show. I will be discussing audience volunteer participation opportunities — read no further if you don’t want to know this ahead of time!

Warm Up Recycling with Ike

Ike the Kea
I think this woman has the best job in the world

Flights of Wonder is preceded by a warm-up act which entertains the crowd waiting to enter the theater before showtime. The announcer is usually joined by a bird or two. On a recent visit I saw that there was a chance for children to participate in part of the warm-up act. A beautiful Kea named Ike (Ike Kea, groan) flew a few free-flight passes between the announcer and an assistant across the walkway. Then three children from the crowd were asked to hand Ike a plastic bottle for recycling. Ike took the bottles and flew with them to recycling bins, where he deposited the bottles into the bins.

Ike takes the bottle…

… and puts it where it belongs

Miles and the Flying Grapes

Once the show begins inside the theater, there are usually three or four chances for audience members to join in the fun. The first chance comes up early in the show, when a Trumpeter Hornbill named Miles demonstrates his amazing flying agility as he catches grapes tossed into the air by the show emcee.

I think this is a Hornbill-- most likely a Trumpeter Hornbill
Miles about to go after a grape | Photo by Flickr user Donna62 CC BY-NC-ND

Then a child volunteer from the audience is asked to come up and toss a grape for Miles. Although many parts of the show are different from performance to performance, I think each time I have seen the show, Miles does his thing. He must never tire of flying after grapes!

Math Problems with a Parrot

Another part of the show involves a parrot demonstrating amazing skills of mimicry. Often the parrot will sing, as in the case of Groucho the Yellow-naped Amazon, who knows the words to seven different songs. Sometimes the parrot will answer a series of math problems, in competition with a child participant from the audience. No matter how quickly the child answers, the parrot always replies with the correct answer first. They may also do a funny routine with a trained Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo named Pogo. Pogo is 45 years old!

Flights of Wonder: Pogo
Silly Pogo gets some laughs

Money Grabbing

In this audience participation opportunity, the emcee asks for an adult volunteer who has a dollar bill handy to help out. TIP: Have a dollar ready and don’t sit too far to the sides of the auditorium for your best chance to be picked for this! I have seen this part of the show performed by a parrot (see video below) and by a Pied Crow named Harley (see photo below); they have also used a Galah. The audience member holds a folded dollar bill with their arm outstretched. The bird flies to the volunteer and snatches the cash. The bird then returns a moment later to refund the money. I have done this and it was a lot of fun!

Blogger participation!

Arthur’s mom also did this — we slipped her the $1 and told her to stand up — and she got picked!

Flights of Wonder

Duck Before Impact!

The last chance for audience members to participate usually involves two separate adult volunteers. The show emcee asks for volunteers with video or still cameras to come on stage and take photos of a bird as it flies across the auditorium towards them. TIP: Have your camera ready and hold it up when they are looking for volunteers. You’re more likely to be picked if they can see that you are ready to go! In this part of the show, the bird should land on a perch directly behind the volunteers, who are advised to duck down “right before impact” — because the bird “almost never misses”.

Tuesday the GHOW incoming!
Tuesday incoming!

I have seen Tuesday the Great Horned Owl (as in the above photo) and Styro the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill perform this feat. I volunteered and was picked for this as well, with a Barn Owl named Alfalfa. My co-volunteer didn’t speak English very well so after we got our instructions, we sat down on the stage and he whispered to me, “We take photo of bird, right?” Yep, that’s what we do! I was giggling the whole time because I knew all of the jokes the host was going to tell before he said them. I was really excited to be there! Here we are on stage:

Flights of Wonder
Giggling like a little kid!

I snapped a few photos of Alfalfa in flight but none of them came out very well. This is my best: Alfalfa incoming! I also took a photo of the audience from the stage. And here we are on stage after Alfalfa nailed his landing:

Flights of Wonder
Phew, he didn’t miss his perch!

Flights of Wonder is a really nice show that we try to catch each time we visit Animal Kingdom. The human performers discuss the natural behaviors of the birds as well as wider conservation issues. I’ve seen it a bunch of times and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.

Flights of Wonder
Waiting for the show to begin | photo by Ineke de Wolf

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2013 BirdLife success stories

BirdLife International Logo

BirdLife International had some great conservation success stories in 2013. They are asking supporters, birders and conservation-minded fans to vote on their favorite success story of the year.

Last year was an important year for the BirdLife Partnership. Our network grew to cover nearly two thirds of the world’s countries and territories – totalling 120 organisations and growing. Together, we’ve done some amazing things towards creating a world where nature and people live in greater harmony, more equitably and sustainably.

The highlighted success stories are: Stopping the slaughter of falcons in India; Northern Bald Ibis fledge 148 chicks in the wild; Protecting 60,000 ha of Hooded Grebe habitat in Patagonia; Removing a killer power line in Sudan; Saving Panama Bay from destruction; and Helping one of the rarest birds on the planet. Wow, what a bunch of great news for birds and habitat in so many different places! It is hard to pick a ‘favorite’ story because they are all so uplifting. I voted on the successful breeding season for the Northern Bald Ibis — I think birds that are not traditionally considered to be beautiful or majestic sometimes get looked over. I was happy to give my vote to these bald beauties. 🙂

Visit BirdLife International’s website to learn about the highlights and vote on your favorite: Highlights from the world’s biggest conservation partnership. Voting ends February 14th.

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Down with Red Tape, Up with Barn Owl Boxes!

I’m so proud of Lake-Cook Audubon for getting Barn Owl boxes installed at Illinois Beach State Park! I know it took a long time to get there, but the boxes have been installed thanks to the hard work of club members. Here are a few photos of the installation. All photos by Sonny Cohen, posted with permission.

Barn Owl Box at IBSP Lake County
Roomy box!

Barn Owl Box at IBSP Lake County
Adding wood shavings to box #1

Barn Owl Box at IBSP Lake County
That’s the idea!

Barn Owl Box at IBSP Lake County
Box #2 going up

Barn Owl Box at IBSP Lake County
Box #2 installed

Sonny also posted a video of the box installation, which you can view here: Barn Owl Nest Box Raising. Barn Owls are an Illinois state-endangered species. A nearby county has a reintroduction program and it is hopeful that Barn Owls will find and use these boxes, which have been placed in ideal Barn Owl habitat. Yay!

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Give beach-nesting birds a chance

The Dutch branch of BirdLife International, Vogelbescherming, came up with this great animated clip that shows the stresses and dangers beach-nesting species face. The original Dutch animation was recently translated into English:

Not everyone understands the gravity of the many stresses facing birds who nest on the beach. Share this video – spreading knowledge will help our feathered friends.

If you leave near beach habitat, you may be able to help even more. There are bird stewards monitoring nests at Ft. De Soto Park in Florida, volunteers are monitoring Piping Plover nests in Michigan and Connecticut, and monitors check habitat for both sea turtle and shorebird nesting on Anna Maria Island, Florida. Search online for “nest monitoring” or “bird stewards” in your area and you may find there are volunteer projects you can join to can help birds that nest locally.

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Posted in Aside, Citizen Science, Conservation, Video | Leave a comment

Birds at the Central Florida Zoo

For a while I was considering the docent program at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The zoo, in Sanford, is just about 10 minutes away from where we live. Arthur and I paid our first visit to the zoo earlier this month, to see what the park is like and to see some of the raptors and other birds in the zoo’s programming.

Every Saturday and Sunday there are two scheduled bird programs.

At 11:30AM we saw the “Bird Show” on the Magpie Jay Stage. Here we learned about several different species which were either brought out on the glove or flown. Both Florida native species and birds found elsewhere were included in this program.

Two birds flew. A Harris’s Hawk flew between perches around the audience, and a Red-shouldered Hawk flew between handlers across the spectators.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Other birds in this program were the Guira Cuckoo, found throughout South America, and the Black-throated Magpie-jay, found in Mexico.

Black-throated Magpie-jay
Black-throated Magpie-jay

Black-throated Magpie-jay
The incredibly long tail feathers of the Black-throated Magpie-jay

Guira Cuckoo
Guira Cuckoo

Three birds native to Florida were presented: an Eastern Screech Owl; a Red-tailed Hawk, and the previously-mentioned Red-shouldered Hawk. These three were all permanently non-releasable birds with injuries; the Red-tailed Hawk was originally found in our new hometown of DeBary. I was interested to learn that in our part of Florida, grey phase Eastern Screech Owls are more common than red phase, which is the type in their program. This bird was originally found in the eastern part of Volusia County.

Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl

At 1:00PM we went to the “Raptor Encounter” program, which was a short informal program featuring Ray, a Florida Bald Eagle with a permanent wing injury. The handler was joined by a fellow zookeeper who told us about Bald Eagles in general and about Ray specifically.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle & handler
Bald Eagle and handler

The zoo has a number of other birds on display, though I’ll admit my focus during this visit was mainly on the birds in the educational programs.

Two Bald Eagles were on display in a completely open exhibit; both are non-flighted but we watched them move around with ease among their open-air perching.

Bald Eagles

We also saw three macaws in a different open-air display, including a snoozing Green-winged Macaw.

Green-winged Macaw

The Central Florida Zoo is involved in 11 Species Survival Plans, working on captive breeding critically endangered species, an impressive number for a small institution. Though the zoo is relatively small, we enjoyed our visit. The docent program looks like a good one; unfortunately the timing of the training this winter/spring doesn’t really work out for me / us right now. The training usually takes place twice a year; we may think about it again in the fall!

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THANK YOU! (was: URGENT Call For Help!)

November 23, 2011 – I’m updating this post to sincerely THANK ALL OF MY FRIENDS AND READERS who voted for FCWR in the recent Chase Community Giving Campaign on Facebook which ended Tuesday, November 22nd. The vote was close at the end and FCWR got a huge push of support when they really needed it! In the final ranking they ended up at #77 and will receive much-needed funding of $25,000. Thank you, thank you, thank you! – Amy

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is participating in the Chase Community Giving Campaign on Facebook which ends in just under two hours. Charities in the top 100 at the end of voting will receive $25,000 of funding, but FCWR has slipped out of the top 100. Please take just a moment to help the animals and vote for Flint Creek in this campaign. When you vote, the button says “VOTE AND SHARE” but you are NOT required to share anything on your Facebook wall. Please vote, please share, please help the animals.

This post originally appeared on Birdorable

If you’re on Facebook or you know someone who is, please consider supporting our favorite wildlife rehabber, Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, with a vote in the Chase Community Giving Campaign. Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is a private, not-for-profit organization in the Chicago area treating over 3,400 animals annually! The vote is completely free and gives Flint Creek the chance to get funding from $25,000 to $250,000, depending on where they end up in the final vote.

Voting just takes a moment!
Visit the Chase Community Giving application and vote for FCWR!

Vote Now

Flint Creek recently released a pair of orphaned Bald Eagles back to the wild after raising them to independence so be sure to check out their Facebook page and look for photos of that fantastic event.

Some of you may know that we (Arthur and Amy) volunteered with FCWR and that this all-volunteer wildlife rescue organization means a lot to both of us. Your support would be greatly appreciated and remember, it doesn’t cost anything! Please vote if you’re on Facebook and share the word with your family and friends, too. Voting ends November 22nd.

For more information about Flint Creek check out their website or Facebook page.

Thank you!

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Posted in Charity, Conservation, FCWR | 2 Comments

60 million cats can’t be wrong: birds are delicious

My Cat Catches a Bird
My Cat Catches a Bird by EvanLovely, Creative Commons on Flickr

Outdoor cats, whether feral or part of a household, are a big problem for our wild birds. Scientists estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year.

La buena o la mala vida
La buena o la mala vida by Akassia, Creative Commons on Flickr

There are an estimated 60 to 100 million feral cats in the United States, according to Stray Pet Advocacy.

thekiller by lincoln-log, Creative Commons on Flickr

The average lifespan of a feral cat living on her own is less than two years.

Cat & Bird
Cat & Bird by feverblue, Creative Commons on Flickr

While a cat who is being cared for has a longer life expectancy, pet cats who are allowed to roam outdoors face many of the same dangers as short-lived feral cats: predation by dogs, coyotes, and other animals; traffic collisions; contracting FIV or other diseases; becoming lost; and other dangers.

Presents by Andrew Currie, Creative Commons on Flickr

Cats have been domesticated for at least 9500 years. They are thought to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt.

Bird Bib Fail
Bird Bib Fail by feverblue, Creative Commons on Flickr

House cats are not native to North America. A cat taking any prey here is not nature in action.

20100924_101_7878 by Uli H., Creative Commons on Flickr

Keep your cats indoors, please.

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Posted in Conservation, Invasive / Non-native, North America | 8 Comments

The birds need us! Helping is EASY!

There are so many worthwhile projects, organizations and initiatives set up to help birds. Non-profits working with wildlife are always in need of funding. Here are two really easy – and totally free – ways that you can help a couple of important bird conservation initiatives.

OM class of 2010
Operation Migration’s class of 2010 Whooping Cranes fly over Winnebago County, Illinois

Help Operation Migration: vote daily

You can help Operation Migration receive a $25,000 grant from Pepsi by voting for OM every day until the end of the year. The grant will be awarded to the two top projects; as of this writing OM was in 10th place (up from 72nd at the start of voting). Voting is easy! Visit the Operation Migration project page, and click on Vote for this idea. The first time you do this, you’ll have to register, which takes about 30 seconds. Then, return to the Operation Migration project page every day until December 31st to place your daily vote. You’ll have to enter your email address and password in each day, but it only takes a few seconds and your vote could be the one that pushes OM over the top! I have the page in my startup Firefox folder so I don’t forget to vote every day.

Help Spoon-billed Sandpipers: vote weeky

You can help save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper by voting in the Saving Spoony’s Chinese Wetlands campaign. BirdLife International is working to save the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which may be down to just 400 birds. The project is set to receive $25,000 from Disney’s Friends for Change initiative, which is fantastic. But the project has the chance to receive up to $100,000 from the Disney initiative, if they get the votes. Voting is easy! Visit the Spoony Needs Your Vote page on the BirdLife International blog to find your country’s link to the Disney voting page. You will have to create a Disney account if you don’t have one already (which was kind of annoying, I admit, but only took about 90 seconds to complete. You’ve got the time, do it!), and log in. Then place your vote for BirdLife International. It’s that easy! You can vote every week; voting started on November 29th but it’s not clear when the poll closes. Better just go back and vote each week as long as you can! I know I will.

Calling Spoon-billed Sandpiper (uploaded to YouTube by user phonescoper)

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