Meet Another Education Ambassador!
By Claudia Kirscher
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Buteo Regalis or Ferruginous Hawk, is sometimes known as the Eagle Hawk or Ferruginous Rough-legged Hawk. It is the largest hawk in North America, weighing up to 4-1/2 pounds. Buteo Regalis means kingly or royal hawk because of its size; Ferruginous or “rust” because of rust-colored back and shoulders. There are either light or dark morphs. Its legs are feathered down to its toes.
This hawk is found in the western half of North America, favoring open-grass/shrub lands, rolling prairie and foothills as well as agricultural fields.
They employ a “sit-and-wait” hunting technique, often on the ground, especially for prairie dogs and ground squirrels. They will grab the rodent while it is still burrowing underground near the surface. It can also hover while hunting.
Ferruginous Hawks build large nests on hillsides, power poles or the ground using a variety of materials such as sticks, grasses, cow or horse dung, and even bones. When bison were plentiful, their bones were often used.
Their numbers have decreased due to habitat loss with urban sprawl, gas line development, and reduced agricultural areas with subsequent prey reduction. They are considered “a species of concern” in the U.S. and “threatened” in Canada.
Liberty has one non-releasable Ferruginous Hawk named Pawnee. He was transferred to Liberty Wildlife from the Wild Bird Sanctuary in Missouri in 2004 as an imprint and already trained for education. He was estimated to be one-year-old when he arrived.
Come on down to visit and meet Pawnee!
The Saguaro Cavity Condo
By Gail Cochrane
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Bird nests range from the bare minimum such as the spartan rock ledges favored by turkey vultures, to cunningly woven nests of hummingbirds. Here in the Sonoran Desert a great many bird species take advantage of the option of nesting inside the cavities of saguaro cacti.
Gila woodpeckers are one of two species that excavate cavities in saguaros, gilded flickers being the other. Gila woodpeckers use their powerful beaks to drill into the middle third of the cactus, piercing the skin but staying outside the woody ribs. They begin boring the two inch holes in late February as several months are required for curing. The saguaro oozes sap at the site of the wound and this excretion forms a boot shaped woody cavity on the inside of the cactus. The saguaro boot is a safe, cozy and temperature- regulated space where the female woodpecker will lay her eggs in April or May. Gilded flickers create similar cavity nests in saguaros, however due to their larger size they excavate in the top third of the cacti. Here they can more easily pierce through the woody ribs into the pithy interiors.
Due to the durable nature of the saguaro boot and the overall desirability of a cavity nest, other species may take advantage of the nest site after the woodpeckers have moved on. American Kestrels, Purple Martins, Screech Owls, Elf Owls, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls, Brown-crested flycatchers and Ash-throated flycatchers all use these nesting holes.
The introduced species European Starlings and House Sparrrows are particularly aggressive cavity nest thieves. These species are known to move right into an active nest and proceed to stuff the cavity with grasses, trash and other nesting material until it protrudes from the opening. Their eggs are then laid in the cushy nest.
Bats, lizards, mice and invertebrates also may find saguaro holes provide attractive shelter and protection from temperature extremes. At the bottom of the cavity nest droppings and uneaten food remains attract more uninvited guests such as beetles, flies, maggots, and ants who benefit from the humid and protected environment. In some cases, the nestlings simply hang out in the midst of the other critters with no harm done. Screech Owls and Elf Owls have been known to bring live blind snakes to the cavity.* The blind snakes live in the debris and consume the bugs. Now there’s a house keeper!
*A Guide to Southern Arizona Bird Nests and Eggs by Pinau Merlin
Previously published November 2019
By: Carol Suits
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Welcome to “Kid Stuff”, designed for kids and the adults in their lives, and found in the monthly issue of Nature News under ‘publications’ at www.libertywildlife.org. Each issue introduces subjects and activities to engage and encourage active participation in helping nature.
Kids are superheroes when they help nature. Be a superhero and find lots of ideas in Kid Stuff past issues to make your yard more wildlife-friendly!
How does nature change from winter to spring?
Do you see plants growing?
Are flowers starting to bloom?
Are birds building nests?
Are there more insects, bees, and butterflies in your yard?
This month is the best time to start a new nature journal to show the changes you see around you. Use this link to learn more about making a journal and then go to the next part to learn about “Sit Spot “
OK – What’s a “Sit Spot”?
A “Sit Spot” is a place on the ground where you choose to sit. There you can watch, listen, and record in your journal everything happening around you. It is your spot only! If family or friends want to do this too, they need to find their own “Sit Spot” a good distance from you.
- Do you feel the wind on your face?
- See a bird nearby?
- Feel the grass under you?
- Hear people or cars in the distance?
Write and draw these things in your journal.
The next time go to the same spot and listen, look, feel.
- Did anything change? Is there anything new?
- Did a flower bloom that wasn’t there last time you sat in your spot?
Do this many times to really discover how nature changes from winter to spring. And guess what? Summer will have more changes!
Next, can you find one thing you can do to help make things better for the creatures or plants that are near your “Sit Spot”?
- Is there water for animals including a watering station on the ground? Water for plants?
- Can you gather nesting material for birds or other creatures to use?
- Can you get seeds to grow plants that pollinators need?
- Can you build a bird house? Or a puddle patch for butterflies? Or a bee house?
Solitary Bee House Bird home and feeder Puddle Patch
Here are two more activities for finding signs of spring.
Superhero Club News
Superheroes find their Partner Pals!
The Superheroes were busy in March, walking on the Interpretive Trail, surveying all the Liberty Wildlife Ambassadors, and searching for THE ONE ambassador to be chosen as their Partner Pal. For some Superheroes it was a choice easily made while others debated between two or three candidates. Who to pick? Would it be Alpo the tortoise, Paco the bald eagle, or Sky the red-tailed hawk?
Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!
After the trail work it was time for Superheroes to make their signs naming their Partner Pals.
Roger working hard Beau and dad confer Micah and Moriah on the trail
Here are the signs that are posted on Partner Pal enclosures. Can you find them on the trail?
The Superhero Club meets monthly at Liberty Wildlife. Children ages 5 – 11 explore our natural world and learn how to help nature. Contact Carol Suits at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
*Our April 8th session will include meeting Ranger Brian Miller. He will be taking us on a nature walk to the river.