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.

FalconCam 2017

By LIZ TOTH

Did you know that the fastest animal on earth lives in downtown Dayton?  The peregrine falcon is able to fly at speeds over 200mph making it the fastest animal on earth!

The FalconCam provides an up close view, from hatching to fledging, of Dayton’s family of peregrine falcons.  From the first glimpses of the fluffy white chicks as they pip out of the egg to the drama of their first flights from the 23rd floor of the Liberty Savings Tower we get an insider’s view on the behavior of this fascinating bird.  Over the years the Boonshoft FalconCam has allowed the viewers to learn the details of family life that were previously unseen.  Watching the mother as she tears a freshly caught bird and puts it into the gaping beak of her young chick gives new meaning to the word “breakfast”.  While we enjoy watching the daily activities of the birds this information is being put to scientific use.  As soon as the eggs are laid biologists know that the pair is in good health and can get a count on the number of eggs.  2017 is the 16th year of the Boonshoft FalconCam.  The season started with wildlife biologists cleaning the nestbox in February and checking to be sure it is secure, stable and ready for the falcon pair.  One of the falcons was nearby and swooped and called loudly to show its displeasure of humans in its territory.  Because the falcon was moving so fast it could not be identified as having leg bands or not.
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Now that nesting season is underway little to no human presence is ideal near the nestbox. The door leading to the roof of the Liberty Savings Tower has a sign that is a reminder that the birds need privacy while nesting.

Peregrine falcons were added to the list of federally endangered species in 1970.  They became endangered through the use of a pesticide called DDT that thinned the shells of their eggs preventing them from hatching and a dangerous decline in the population.  Wildlife biologists have worked hard to increase the number of peregrine falcons and in Ohio the peregrine was removed from the list of state endangered species in 2015.  The recovery of the peregrine population has been a success but biologists must continue to carefully monitor the population.  The Dayton nest has been selected as one of the Ohio nests that will continue to be monitored.  Data collected from the FalconCam includes the continued presence of the pair, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs that hatch and the number of chicks that fledge.  The continued monitoring and data collection from the nest through the FalconCam will contribute to the success of this majestic species in Ohio.

To learn about the peregrines at other locations in Ohio visit the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s website.

Dayton’s own peregrine pair can be viewed on the Boonshoft FalconCam.

Questions about the FalconCam?  Email us at falcons@boonshoftmuseum.org

The Age of Mammals and Ice Comes to Life at the Boonshoft Museum

By MACKENZIE ENGLISH

The Boonshoft’s newest exhibit, The Age of Mammals and Ice, takes families back into the past to visit the animals of the last Ice Age.  Here we can see how some of the largest land-dwelling animals would have looked and moved about if they were still around today.  We also can see how the places they lived looked different than they do today.  It is not every day that you can come to a museum to see extinct animals come to life!

My favorite of these Ice Age mammals is the Doedicurus from South America.  Imagine a car-sized armadillo walking through your back yard eating all of the vegetables in your garden.This mammal did not have to worry about too many things trying to eat it because of the thick armor it wore all over its body.  It also had a large bony mass at the end of its tail that could be used as a club.

Museum Guests Enjoy The Age of Mammals and Ice Exhibition

The wooly mammoth and smilodon  (saber-toothed tiger) both lived here in Ohio.  The wooly mammoth is a cousin of the elephant that lived in the grassy tundra of the Ice Age.  They would have used their large tusks to scrape away snow and ice to look for grass to eat.  The saber-toothed tigers would look for any animals they thought would make a good meal, which included the wooly mammoth.

Ice Age Wooly Mammoth

One of the largest land mammals to ever live was the Baluchitherium.  This large mammal was closely related to the rhinoceros but lacked the horn found on the head.  Found in Eastern Europe and throughout most of Asia, they would have eaten any vegetation they could find.

Also found in the exhibit is the wooly rhinoceros.  These rhinos were slightly larger than modern-day rhinos and were covered in a wooly fur, much like the wooly mammoth.  This fur would have helped them to stay warm as they lived in the cold tundra of northern Asia and Europe.  Their closest living relative today also happens to be the smallest rhino, the Sumatran rhino.

Not only do we have on display some of the largest mammals that once roamed the planet, but we also have one of the largest birds.  The Gastornis, or Terror Crane, was a large flightless bird found in Europe.  It took a long time for scientists to determine if it ate meat or its vegetables but now it is believed to be a vegetarian.  This comes from the lack of hooked claws and a lack of a hook on the beak, which would suggest consumption of meat.  So think of it as a very large chicken.  It probably would taste like one too.

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!