I first learned about the World Bird Center when I was managing a restaurant in Eureka, Missouri near Six Flags Amusement Park. Back then, I believe it was called the Raptor Rehabilitation & Propagation Project. Walter Crawford, the director of the project, and some of his associates used to come into the restaurant for lunch. I noticed one of the T-Shirts that they were wearing and asked them about what it was all about.
They told me that they were working to save threatened birds species and at that time they were getting quite a few birds from one of the oil spills that had occurred. As we were talking, they asked me if I had anything that I could donate to the cause.
They had a whole “wish list” of things they needed and I noticed that it included Dawn dish washing liquid and bleach, two things that I had in ample supply in the restaurant. Dawn is the soap of choice when it comes to getting oil off the birds. It really does seem to “get grease out of your way” or in this case, out of the bird’s way. It saves their lives.
So, I made regular donations until the company that owned the restaurant changed to a different detergent that was dispensed through a system in the wall. For helping them out I got a nice large limited edition print of a Peregrine Falcon that is framed and hanging over my desk to this day.
One of the projects they were working on at that time (over twenty-year-ago) was locating some of the Peregrine Falcon nests onto the big hi-rise office buildings downtown. The Falcons took to the tall buildings and are still down there today, flying out and gracing the skyline of downtown St. Louis. They are one of my favorite birds and they are also the fastest animal alive, reaching dive speeds of up to 261 miles per hour!
After being away for way too many years, I recently attended the Migratory Bird Exhibit that was held on Saturday, May 11th. I arrived with a friend right at 9:00 am on a beautiful bright spring day. There were only a few people there when we arrived and we were asked if we wanted to attend a bird banding demonstration down “in the woods.” We said sure.
After a short van ride down to an area set up near the director’s (Walter) house, we watched as the three women there, Coleen, Peggy, and the field supervisor Linda, were taking birds out of small nets, banding their legs so they could be tracked, and then releasing them back into the wild. I was allowed to release one of the birds after it was banded. I held the tiny creature in my hands, afraid that he might break, and then opened them and let him fly away. A couple of notes from the song “Free Bird” were playing in my head as I watched him fly away. The only words I can use to describe the experience is “delicate” and “fluttery.” The birds are so light you can barely tell you are holding one until it flops around. An eagle with a seven foot wing span usually weighs less than ten pounds.
Then we went on a short walk through the woods to look at the “mist” nets, so called because they were barely visible, that were set up to catch the birds. At one point, someone called out that they had just captured 14 birds in one of the nets. I was amazed at the variety of birds that were down there.
After the bird banding, we went back to the display area and looked at some of the wide variety of birds that had been rescued and housed there. We walked past the hospital where the injured birds are treated, and depending on the severity of their injuries, either released back into the wild or permanently housed at the center. Some of the birds included Golden and Bald Eagles, Owls, Hawks, Falcons, Vultures, and Parrots. There were even a few reptiles.
Going to the World Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful way to spend the day. It’s also a great place to take the kids. If the ones that were there when I was are any indication, they love to learn about the creatures that are said to be descended from dinosaurs and the place is very interactive, so they are never bored.
Walter Crawford and his staff of 25 full-time workers and numerous volunteers have devoted their lives to helping save these beautiful and wonderful creatures. Heck, Walter’s been going at it since 1977 and shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. I just have to say it: The World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis is really just “for the birds.”
The sanctuary is on 305 wooded acres next door to Lone Elk County Park and Chubb Trail down Highway 44 just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. And did I mention that the admission is FREE.