The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Salutes International Migratory Bird Day

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

On Saturday, May 13, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). IMBD was established in 2000 to raise awareness about migratory birds and to encourage people to help protect their habitats. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated across the Western Hemisphere since many birds move between North and South America.Migration is the seasonal movement of animals from one area to another, and birds migrate to find better resources. Migration occurs on a large scale; all or most of the birds living in the area move as a flock. Of the more than 650 species of birds that breed in North America, more than half are migratory.

Birds migrate to find better food and nesting sites. Birds that live and breed in the Northern Hemisphere move south for the winter. Winters in the Northern Hemisphere are cold and there are not many sources of food available; like seeds, fruits, and insects.

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Bird-watching at the Boonshoft

Birds migrate south to escape the cold and find better food resources, and then return to the north to breed. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of growing insect populations, budding plants, and an abundance of nesting locations. Also, because of the earth’s tilt, days are longer in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere during the summer. Longer daylight hours mean that the birds can spend more time searching for food and feeding their chicks.

Not all birds migrate. For example, you probably see cardinals in your backyard in the summer and during the winter. Some birds migrate short distances, like moving across states. Around 350 bird species that live in North America migrate from the United States and Canada to wintering grounds in Central and South America.

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Migratory Birds In Winter

The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, which means they fly about 40,000 miles every year. The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. The average Arctic tern lives about thirty years, and will travel 1.5 million miles during its lifetime, the equivalent of a round trip from Earth to the moon over three times!

For more information on International Migratory Bird Day, check out http://www.birdday.org/.

Falcon Cam Update – April 21, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

The falcon eggs hatched!

On Saturday, April 15, egg shells could be seen on the ledge, but the female spent almost all her time on the nest preventing a view of what was beneath her. By Wednesday, we were able to get a good view of the chicks and all four eggs have successfully hatched!

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Falcon Shells to the Side

The chicks seem to be doing well, and both parents have been very attentive, feeding and keeping the chicks warm.  When they are not able to be seen they are safely tucked under the female.  She broods the chicks, keeping them warm with her body until they are about a week old and they can maintain the correct body temperature on their own

She has special featherless brooding patches that allow the warm skin of her body to press right up against the chicks and keep them warm.  This behavior is easy to see from above.  It looks like she is wiggling quickly back and forth, but she is snuggling her brooding patches down on the chicks.

Falcon Cam Update – March 30, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

Surprise! The female falcon laid her eggs out of view on a ledge located on the southeast side of the building.  The falcons had been visiting the nest box during the first two weeks of March and even built a scrape, a loosely constructed nest, but ultimately chose a different location to lay their eggs.  Four eggs were noticed on this ledge on March 24.

The earliest date eggs have been laid in the past was March 17 so all eyes were on the nest box starting on this date.  During this time the falcons were mysteriously absent in the box but still present around the Liberty Savings Tower.

Upon further inspection of the building, the eggs were found on a ledge on the side of the building that can only be reached by rappelling down from the roof.  The eggs seem to be in good condition and the falcons are tending to the eggs.  The falcons have laid eggs on this type of ledge before but unfortunately, a lack of protection from the weather caused the eggs to fail on the ledge in 2011.

A drain is present on the ledge to remove rainwater but there is no protection from the weather from the top like there is in the nest box.  We are in the process of attempting to point a camera down on the nest so the eggs can be monitored with little disturbance to the nest.  Check back for updates on the falcons and their eggs.

Animal Enrichment Program Gives Discovery Zoo Dwellers a More Natural Life Experience

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

 

Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls,

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Splasher and Diver, North American River Otters in Their Firehose Hammock

why are the animals playing with trash?

 

Well, what’s one person’s trash is another animal’s treasure! Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls…why are the animals playing with trash?

In addition to making sure the animals in the zoo have food, water, and clean habitats, zookeepers also provide enrichment for the animals under their care.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA represents more than 200 institutions which meet the highest standards in animal

Malcolm and King Eastern Box Turtles with Browse

care, provide a fun and educational family experience and dedicate millions of dollars to scientific research, conservation, and education programs. This means that even though the Discovery Zoo is not nearly as big as the Cincinnati or Columbus Zoo, the animals receive the same quality of care that they would at a larger institution.

The AZA defines enrichment as: “a process for improving or enhancing zoo animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioral biology and natural history. It is a dynamic process in which changes to structures and husbandry practices are made with the goal of increasing behavioral choices available to animals and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors and abilities, thus enhancing their welfare. As the term implies, enrichment involves the identification and addition within the zoo environment a specific stimulus that the occupant wants or needs but which was not previously present.”

This is basically a long and complicated way of saying that zookeepers provide our animals with activities to promote their natural behaviors, and to keep them mentally and physically active. Life in the wild is really tough, and animals spend all their time fighting to survive. Most animals spend around 80% of their time foraging for food! Finding food isn’t easy, predators often spend hours stalking their prey, and sometimes they aren’t successful. Many herbivores eat plants that are low in nutrition, so they have to spend most of their day grazing.

Animals in the zoo don’t have to worry about predators, disease, finding food, drought,  or natural disasters. Since life in the zoo is a little easier, zoo animals usually have more free time than they would in the wild, and zookeepers try to fill up this free time by providing their animals with enrichment. Enrichment can be almost anything; mulch, rearranging logs and rocks, scents, snake skins, puzzle feeders, and paper bags are just a few examples of enrichment done at the Discovery Zoo. When providing animals with enrichment, zookeepers take into account the natural history of that animal, or how it lives in the wild. For example, bat-eared foxes have great hearing to listen for insects digging under the ground, so keepers will put crickets and mealworms in paper bags full of hay. The foxes use their huge ears to listen for the bugs and then tear into the bags for their reward.

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Patience Sloth with Browse and Diet on a Skewer

When building exhibits, enrichment will often be built in. In our meerkat exhibit, one of the big termite mounds actually has a network of tubes inside that we can put crickets into. The tubes are like a maze and make it so the crickets take a long time to get out, so they’ll drop out randomly throughout the day. This is a great way to keep our meerkats active since they’ll investigate the termite mound many times during the day to see if any more crickets have fallen out. Wild meerkats spend their days foraging for insects, rodents, and other animals, so feeding them in this way helps them to express that natural behavior.

A good enrichment program tries to stimulate all of the animal’s senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and sound. At the Boonshoft Museum, we provide our animals with a variety of different scents; spices, fruit extracts, and even scents from other animals. We play bird calls and other nature sounds for a lot of our animals, and our screech owl Houdini even called to a recording of a screech owl. Something we do for a lot of our animals is put their food in a puzzle feeder or a toilet paper tube. The animal will use its sight and smell to investigate the object, and then use touch to get the food out.

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Luther Agouti Investigating a Snake Skin

Enrichment isn’t limited to animals in zoos, you can also enrich your pets at home. Commercially available puzzle feeders are a great way to slow down a fast eater or to keep your dog busy when you’re away. Catnip is a great example of scent enrichment that can be used for cats at home, and your cat may even like other spices that are in your kitchen. Whenever giving an animal enrichment, it’s important to research and make sure that it is safe for the animal.

Join us at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery on Saturday, February 18 for our first-ever Enrichment Day from 10am-4pm. See our Discovery Zoo residents get some awesome enrichment, learn more about enrichment at activity tables, and meet some of our ambassador animals! Do you love an animal in the Discovery Zoo? We will have enrichment “Valentines” with presents you can get for your favorite animal!

 

I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

Sky’s The Limit For Spruce, Cypress, Willow & Sequoia!

All four falcon chicks have fledged!  Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have taken their first flights without any reports of trouble.  Daniel is working hard to bring food to the juveniles wherever they are perched.  At this age they are not skilled hunters and still depend on their parents to provide meals and will vocalize loudly if they need food or assistance from their parents. Go this website to hear what the vocalizations of a peregrine falcon sounds like:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/sounds

Within the next few weeks they will be able to capture food on their own.  The young peregrines are difficult to tell apart from their parents but can be seen perching on the Liberty Savings Tower or nearby buildings in downtown Dayton.  This is the first time Dayton and Daniel have raised four chicks.  At this time Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have passed many hurdles and this nesting season can be considered a success.  With the state delisting of the peregrine as a threatened species in 2015 the young peregrines are now part of the success story of the recovery of the peregrine falcon population in Ohio.  The Dayton nest is part of a sample monitoring program in Ohio and data from the FalconCam will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife including the continued presence of the pair at the Dayton nest, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs hatched, and the number of offspring that fledge.  As long as none of the young peregrines need human assistance they will stay in the area until the end of summer.  When the youngsters have enough skills they will leave Daniel and Dayton to find their own territories and hopefully one day raise young of their own.

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The FalconCam stream will be turned off soon but if any significant events occur they will be posted.

A special “thank you” to our sponsor for their support with the 2016 Falcon Cam season.

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Up Up and Away!

The juvenile falcons are starting to take their first flights!  The two older chicks were the first to take to the roof behind the nest box.  Last week they spent time on the roof behind the next box stretching their wings.  The two juveniles that hatched a few days later than their siblings left the nest box soon after and began practice hops and stretching their wings on the roof behind the next box.  Names were selected for the chicks through a contest on the Boonshoft Museum Facebook page and the winning names are Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia.  On Tuesday one of the juveniles made it to the ledge near the 17th floor of the Liberty Tower.

FalconLedge

Dayton and Daniel still remain close by and provide food for the juvenile birds and protect them.  Once all the young falcons have taken their first flights they will be in flight training.  Dayton and Daniel will assist them as their flight instinct is developed.  Practice flights with parents nearby to keep the area clear of predators allow the youngsters to develop their skills.  The young birds will practice hunting with their parents passing pre-caught prey to them to help them to refine their skills.  Visits to the nest box will be infrequent and the birds will only rarely be seen in the nest box.  This is a good time to visit the nest site downtown as the birds can be seen in their practice flights over the Liberty Savings Tower in downtown Dayton.   The young peregrines are about six weeks old and are beginning to practice the skills they need to survive independently in the future.  They have passed their first hurdles but are still inexperienced.  The fledglings are as large as their parents and are hard to differentiate from Daniel and Dayton by their appearance while in flight downtown.  Dayton, Daniel and their four young falcons are all doing well and we continue to have no reports of any problems.  If the young falcons have gotten into any trouble they have been able to solve it themselves and are one step closer to being independent of their parents.