By Carol Suits
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Kid Stuff is excited about our Superhero Club! The club is open to kids grades 1 – 6 and meets once a month at Liberty Wildlife or on Zoom, to share activities they’ve accomplished to help nature. Last month’s Kid Stuff launched our first superhero subject, “Vulture Culture,” emphasizing the three R’s, reduce, reuse, and recycle, including activities to engage and educate kids. Vulture Culture with all the activities can be found here https://libertywildlife.org/nature-news-march-2022/ Scroll down to “Kid Stuff.”
Kids: What would you like to do outside?
Here are some ideas from previous Kid Stuff publications you might like and a scavenger hunt that is not very easy!
Leaf search Go on a leaf patrol. See how many kinds of leaves you can find. Can you match the leaves to the trees they came from? Go here for this activity and learn how to make a leaf rubbing. https://www.thegreenhour.org/activity/go-on-a-leaf-patrol/
Take a hike Do you have a favorite spot outdoors? Is it a favorite tree or near water? Is it a little spot right in your backyard? Maybe it is a place you and your family like to hike to. This website shows you how to map your favorite spot then see if your family and friends can get there following your map!
Take a wildlife wisdom test
Puzzles! It’s baby wildlife season.
A Scavenger Hunt in Your Backyard
Scavenger hunts are fun ways to get outside and see new things! This scavenger hunt can be done in your backyard, at school or in your neighborhood park. See if you can find all the things on the list! Be careful not to touch things like spiders, caterpillars, or lizards. Leave things where you find them or put them back when done. Thank you!
A spider web and be careful not to disturb it
A flower of any color*
3 different types of leaves*
A crooked stick already on the ground
A flat rock that can fit in your hand
Something yellow in nature (so a shirt, a shoe, or a paper that’s yellow doesn’t count!)
A feather that isn’t brown*
A lizard – not easy to spot! *
2 different birds that can be flying or perched somewhere. *
Something soft – but not a feather. Maybe a worm or caterpillar? *
A bush with no flowers*
*To find out the names of these animals, insects, or plants these Apps may help you.
Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab Seek by iNaturalist Picture Insect and Spider ID
Are You Kind to Insects?
By Gail Cochrane
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
As far as charisma goes, insects rank near the bottom of the heap. Because they are foreign to us, insects strike most people as downright creepy. It’s a rare individual that loves bugs! Yet, a healthy population of insects is critically important to the web of life. These tiny critters pollinate flowers, aerate and enrich soil, and are a protein rich food source for other animals.
Birds rely heavily on insects for food in the spring and summer. Insects provide the nutrition birds need to molt and grow new courtship feathers, breed and build nests, and produce eggs. And, parents must feed hungry babies. Nestlings grow at a tremendous rate while also developing a complete set of feathers. To deal with these demands birds need plenty of protein rich, high fat food. Even birds that eat berries, seeds or greens other times of the year supplement their own diets and feed their young with large numbers of insects. Annual migrations are driven by massive hatches of insects in the far north.
You may wonder, what do insects eat? Most eat plants, and most plant eating insects feed only on specific host plants. These plants contain chemical compounds that perfectly match the nutritional needs of the insect. Over thousands of years insects have developed tools that allow them to find their host plants when the part of the plant they need is produced. These links must continue for insect populations to stay healthy.
Pesticide use, invasive species, habitat loss, and the nursery industry’s inclination to favor exotic plants over native species puts insects at risk. An ornamental plant may add a splash of color to a backyard and birds may perch among its branches, but exotics are useless to native insects. Ornamentals put a crimp in the food chain.
There are many attractive plants that have evolved with our desert environment. These natives require less water and less fertilization than exotics. They provide nutrition for insects, birds and other animals. Native trees and shrubs offer secure nesting sites for birds and shelter for small mammals, lizards and insects. Using multiple species of natives in your yard fosters a resilient community. Each of us can play a part in repairing biodiversity by using native plants in our back yards, front yards, gardens and patios. Remember to be kind to the insects that come to your oasis. Put away the pesticides!
Keeping Urban Birds Safe, Part 1
By Claudia Kirscher
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
There are many threats to the urban birds that share our communities. You can help to keep them safe and healthy.
Don’t feed ducks/geese bread or bread products. This is unhealthy and potentially dangerous for the birds.
Bread is high in carbohydrates and heavily processed with chemical preservatives. There is very little protein, calcium or nutritional value. Young ducks especially need proteins for feather and muscle development. Lacking proper nutrition, they can develop what is called “angel wings” an irreversible wing deformity where the last joint in the wing is distorted causing it to stick sideways and upwards preventing the bird from ever flying.
Too much bread can also cause an impacted crop or “doughy crop.” The crop is at the base of the neck and the first stage of digestion. It can become blocked by swollen wet bread, leading to malnutrition and death.
The artificial sense of fullness from bread can prevent natural nutritional foraging behaviors. The birds may also become reliant on people again preventing natural foraging. Reliance on people means overcrowding, less fear of humans and the associated dangers such as cars, roadways, and pets.
Leftover bread can damage their habitat causing a foul smell, algae blooms, and pollution of the water which can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life forms. Moldy bread can also cause lung infections in waterfowl. It can also attract predators or pests like rats, raccoons, and insects.
Safer, healthier alternatives to bread are chopped greens (kale, lettuce, collards), defrosted frozen peas or corn kernels, barley, oats or bird seed. The best solution, however, is to let them forage naturally.
Keep in mind there are a few communities in The Valley area that have ordinances in place (i.e. Scottsdale) making it a crime to feed ducks and birds at City parks. This could result in hefty fines or jail time.
Wise, thoughtful choices can help protect birds in urban and wild settings.
MAKE IT PERSONAL AND BE PART OF THE SOLUTION !
ref: National Geographic, thespruce.com, abc27.com, wildlifecenter.org, fox10news
Pygmy Owl Could Gain Protection Once Again
By Aranza Blanca
Liberty Wildlife Intern
The ferruginous pygmy owl can be found in south-central Arizona and southern Texas in the U.S but can be found south through Mexico and Central America to South America into countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. It resides in mesquite thickets, desert riverine woods, and saguaros. Its diet includes insects, birds, rodents, and lizards. It lays 3 to 4, sometimes 5 eggs and incubation is about 28 days, the young first learn to fly at about 27-30 days old.
The ferruginous pygmy owl was initially listed as an endangered species in 1997. In 2006, a lawsuit by the National Association of Home Builders claimed that the actual population in Arizona might be uncertain due to larger populations in Mexico. Following the lawsuit, the owl became de-listed and is now no longer protected.
However, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposal in December of 2021 to classify the ferruginous pygmy owl as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Population range and size in Arizona is less than half of what it was in the 1920s or 30s due to climate change and habitat loss. The bird’s habitat will become hotter and drier therefore affecting prey availability and vegetation cover that the owl needs for nesting, hiding from predators, and keeping itself cool. The clearing of its habitat for city expansion, agriculture, and wood production will significantly increase habitat loss,leaving them with no home as these owls do not migrate and stick to small home ranges.
In order to push for re-enlistment, a Species Status Assessment has to be submitted. This looks at the current status and outlook for the birds. Three factors that include representation, resiliency, and redundancy gauge the overall health of the populations and the likelihood that a species will survive far into the future. These 3R’s determine if there are enough individuals and connected groups across the range that a species is unlikely to go extinct even if random, unwanted events were to occur. They then analyze and evaluate several different outlooks for the bird’s population and well-being over the next 30 years. Outlooks such as if threats continue but don’t increase, if threats increase, and if threats are reduced. Unfortunately, in the majority of different outlooks the future for the birds looks dull except for in western Mexico. The likelihood of the birds successfully surviving is low or moderate if no further extensive intervention is applied.
With this information in hand, it is hopeful that the ferruginous pygmy owl will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the end of this year. If listed once again, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will pursue action towards possibly designating a critical habitat, as there is more flexibility with a threatened species vs an endangered one. Other strategies to increase the population of the ferruginous pygmy owl include captive breeding.