Animal Educators Blog
Understand more about our Animal Educators and our fight against Nature Deficit Disorder among today's youth!
|Posted on February 24, 2020 at 12:45 PM||comments (0)|
Have you ever heard of a Chicken-Hawk? If you live in the south, you probably have heard this reference before.
Rest assured there is actually no such thing as a chicken hawk. The Coopers Hawk or “Chicken Hawk” is probably the raptor which gave the Red-tail such a bad reputation, they will take chickens and other small birds whenever they have the opportunity. You see, a Coopers Hawk is an accipiter, these are bird-eating raptors and are quite fast. There are only 2 commonly seen Accipiter’s in the Carolinas, the Coopers Hawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. They have long tails and short, rounded wings, making it easier to maneuver in and out of trees in the woods while on the chase for prey. The Coopers Hawk’s outer tail feathers are shorter, giving them a nice rounded tail appearance.
The adult Coopers Hawks may have red or orange eyes, the juveniles (less than 1 year old) may have yellow eyes. These eyes will lock-on to their prey, which can get them into trouble if they aren’t careful. They can easily get trapped inside buildings and not be able to find their way out without help. The Coopers Hawk may have a rusty red color on the chest and steely blue/gray on the wings.
If you have a bird feeder in your back yard, beware you may see a Coopers Hawk nearby. A Cooper's Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
For more information about types of raptors and the differences between them, visit us on your next field trip and meet our Animal Educators!
Information and Picture from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/.
|Posted on February 17, 2020 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
Did you know, the American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America! Only weighing 100 to 150 grams, this falcon loves open county, farmland, cities, and wood edges. These miniature flying jets hunt smaller birds but may also prefer to eat large insects or small mammals!
When hunting they are known for hovering in the air until they find their prey. Their size is roughly that of a Mourning Dove, but a tad bit bigger. They are one of the few bird of prey species in which you can tell a difference in the male and female. The male is very brightly colored with dark colored wings, light orange colored breast, a rust tone tail with a broad black band near the end. The female is has reddish/brown coloring over most of the body including the wings, with dark specks and streaks. Both sexes have pairs of black vertical slashes on the sides of their face often known as a mustache mark.
Their diet is mostly large insects, but may also eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Grasshoppers are among the favored prey, but many other large insects such as beetles, dragonflies, moths, caterpillars, and more. Voles, mice, bats, lizards, frogs, spiders, crayfish, and others are also considered part of the diet for kestrels.
What can you do to help the American Kestrel? Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. The best time to install your kestrel boxes would be October –January. You can work on Kestrel and Screech Owl boxes during our raptor box workshop in October, more information to come!
Visit us soon to learn more about Birds of Prey!
Next weeks Blog is about.....Coopers Hawks! Did you know that Coopers Hawks are Accipiters! Tune in next week to find out what that means!
-The Allison Woods OLC Team
Photo Credit: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
|Posted on February 11, 2020 at 1:30 AM||comments (0)|
Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you? Have you ever heard this hoot during dawn or dusk coming from the woods or a tree near your home? If so, chances are you’ve heard a Barred Owl! At Allison Woods, we hear this often from Jack, one of our Animal Educators!
Jack, like our other birds of prey, was deemed non-releasable due to being hit by a car resulting in severe damage to his right eye. This is a common injury in local birds of prey, as people throw trash and other materials out that attract small rodents, the owls are prone to be looking for food beside the highway.
Barred Owls have a distinct facial disk with brown eyes and a yellow beak. They tend to have light brown coloring with darker bands on their chest giving them the “barred” look. They also have feathers under their necks that appear like a built in scarf. Barred Owls are known to have many feathers, upwards of almost 9,000! An Eagle is known to have only about 7,000 feathers!
Like other birds of prey, Barred Owls eat small rodents, including squirrels, chipmonks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. They will sit on top of trees, power poles, or other high perches and watch the ground below. Owls are silent hunters, meaning they fly silently due to their wing structure! This gives them the ability to sneak up on their prey!
To learn more about the barred owl, come see us for your next field trip or visit with us for World Falconry day in November!
|Posted on February 4, 2020 at 1:10 AM||comments (0)|
Have you ever been riding down the road and notice a rather large bird sitting on a powerline or in the top of an old tree? Chances are you've seen either a Red-tailed or Red-shouldered Hawk! Here at Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center, one of our Animal Educators, Gracie-Rose is a Red-tailed Hawk! Gracie-Rose assists us in teaching students about ecosystems, food chains, and more!
Did you know, Red-tail and Red-shoulder Hawks are very similar! The biggest way to tell a difference is in their color patterns! A Red-tail Hawk like Gracie-Rose will have a "belly band" towards the bottom of their torso with a white patch on their chest. An adult Red-tail will, of course, have a rust red colored tail, however they only develop this characteristic after their first year of life. A Red-shouldered Hawk will not have a belly band and will have coloration all over their torso and wings that ranges from a tan to dark rust color. The Red-shouldered hawk is also smaller than a Red-tail.
Both Hawks are variations of the buteo family, which are classified as heavy-bodied, slow flying birds. You will often find buteos sitting on telephone poles, powerlines, or the tops of dead trees waiting for their prey to move in tall grass or fields. These birds are key players in their ecosystems, without them our populations of squirrels, rabbits, and other small mammals would be out of control. Hawks are also known to eat snakes, lizards, and amphibians in addition to large insects.
Last week we mentioned, Ruby was crepuscular, meaning she would hunt at dawn and dusk. Red-tail and Red-shouldered hawks are diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day!
Come meet Gracie on your next Field Trip to Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center!
|Posted on January 27, 2020 at 10:50 AM||comments (1)|
If you haven't been introduced yet, meet Ruby, our Eastern Screech Owl.
Ruby's journey to us began in 2017. Ruby, like many other Birds of Prey, was unfortunately hit by a car and left with injuries. After a lengthy stay at a rehabilitation center, Ruby was deemed non-releaseable due to blindness in her left eye. She is unable to be released back into the wild, so one option for her was to become an Education Bird. Ruby found a home here at Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center, where she is loved and cared for every day by our Animal Education Director, Dennis Goodin.
Eastern Screech Owls are native to the Eastern United States and can be found anywhere east of Texas. Here in North Carolina, you will find them in the Piedmont or nestled away in the evergreen or deciduous forests of the Appalachian Mountains. They are a cavity nester, meaning they find places in trees, such as old woodpecker holes, to nest in and stay out of predators sight.
The Eastern Screech Owl can be found in 2 colors, a Gray Phase and a Red Phase (also known as Rufous). Their colors will not change like other Raptors after their first molt, if they are hatched a red phase they will continue to be a red phase. The coloring and patterns give them almost perfect camoflage against tree bark. These little owls look like a miniature version of a Great Horned Owl due to the ear tufts on top of their heads, the tufts aid in camoflage when up against a tree.
Ruby, and many other Owls, are crepuscular birds. Meaning they are not diurnal and not nocturnal! They like to hunt during dawn and dusk and sleep during times when most of their predators are out hunting. Remember raptors are meat eaters, so these birds eat things such as mice, voles, small rats, large insects, and other small animals.
Come meet Ruby and her Animal Educator friends at Allison Woods OLC to learn more about Birds of Prey!
|Posted on January 21, 2020 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
Is it a Turtle that looks like a dog? Or a dog that looks like a turtle? What is a Turtle Dog?
The most popular question we get here at Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center is, What is a Turtle Dog? And Why have such an animal? Well, the answer is simple, no it is not a turtle that looks like a dog, or a dog that looks like a turtle. They are simply dogs that look for turtles! We have 3 Boykin Spaniels trained to find the Eastern Box Turtles for research purposes!
The second most popular question we get is, why would you want dogs to look for turtles? Eastern Box Turtles are one of the most commonly observed turtles in the wild, especially here in North Carolina. They are terrestrial and love to stay in areas where they camoflage well, like meadows, forests, and fields near a water source. Sometimes people even find them in their gardens at home!
Eastern Box Turtles are an indicator species that tell us a lot about the environment! Let's say something were to go wrong in our environment, like a forest fire or flood, the entire ecosystem would change! Box Turtles would be one of the first animals to know. All their food would become scarce during a forest fire or flood and change their entire food web!
What should you do when you see a box turtle trying to cross the road? If it is safe to do so, pull over, and move the box turtle to the side of the road in which it was headed. If you place it in the direction it was coming from, that turtle will turn itself around and try to go right back across the road.
Turtles are key players in our ecosystem! We want to keep them around for many many years, which is why it is important to keep track of their population density. The Turtle Dogs job is to find the Box Turtles and bring them to us. The best part is the dogs do not harm the turtle in any way! Then it is our job to study the turtle then release it back into the wild as soon as we can!
For more information about the Turtle Dogs or the Eastern Box Turtle, join us on a field trip or one of our community event days! We are more than happy to talk about the Turtle Dogs!
|Posted on November 20, 2013 at 12:05 PM||comments (2)|
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