Monday, April 27, 2009

New Projects

We’ve been very busy completing projects and starting new ones within the Waterfowl Park. Please plan a trip to the park to see what we're working on.

We added a new exhibit that houses Stella’s Lories, Rainbow Lories, Red-crested Wood Partridges and Sun Conures. The construction of the flamingo shelter was also completed and considerable progress has been made on the final touches to the Avian Winter Quarters.

Currently, we’re working on three new exhibits – two for swans and one for cranes. Construction on these enclosures will be ongoing for some time but, when completed, they will allow us to exhibit every species of swan, as well as an additional, spectacular species of crane.

We look forward to seeing you out at the Park soon and appreciate your comments about the progress that we are making on the grounds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Animal Adoption Packages Now Available

Do you love animals? Do you want one of your own, but just don’t have time to put in all the work that goes into actually feeding and cleaning up after it? Then Sylvan Heights has the perfect solution for you!

Animal adoption baskets are now available in the gift shop. For $25.00, you can currently "adopt" either a swan or flamingo. Each package comes with an official adoption certificate, fact sheet on that species, a 4" x 6" photo, and a plush swan or flamingo. The actual birds themselves stay exactly where they are in the park, so you don’t have to shop for food or lift a finger (or rake or hose!) to clean up after them. Proceeds from animal adoptions go towards their feeding and care, so you can feel the satisfaction of helping to make their lives better through your generous purchase.

These baskets make wonderful birthday and anniversary gifts, and are a super way to help support the care of these animals in the park. Each adoption is good for one year. Adoption packages for other species may be made available later in the year.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eurasian Eagle-Owls Hatch!

We have recently welcomed some new additions here at the park. This past February, we were ecstatic to discover FOUR(!) fertile eggs beneath our pair of Eurasian eagle-owls on exhibit. All four chicks successfully hatched in late March. Sylvan Heights staff members are hand-rearing three of the chicks, one of which will become part of the educational presentations that we offer both on and off-site. The owl chicks are being hand-fed several times per day and we carefully monitor the growth of each chick. The parent owls are rearing the fourth chick in their nest on park grounds.

With a wingspan of 4 to 5 feet and weighing up to 9 pounds, Eurasian eagle-owls (Bubo bubo) are the largest owl species in the world. They are rumored to have killed prey as large as foxes and young roe deer. Though they mainly feed on mammals, they will also consume other birds such as capercaillie and other birds of prey.

A species of horned-owl, eagle-owls are easily recognizable by the tufts of feathers on either side of the head, as well as their size and large orange eyes. As with all owls, their large eyes are an adaptation to their nocturnal habits and allows them to see better during their night time hunts.

Their native range spans the entire Eurasian continent, from Spain and Portugal to Russia and China. Although widespread, Eurasian eagle-owls are considered rare or threatened in many parts of Europe.

In the wild, they prefer to nest on cliff ledges, cave entrances, or rocky outcroppings. At the park, you will find the pair’s nest box located at the back of their enclosure and high off the ground. The three-week-old chick has been spotted by several visitors to the park, so next time you visit, be sure to check out their exhibit which is located next to flamingos.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is it a Goose....or a Duck?

The African pygmy-goose is arguably the most beautiful waterfowl on the planet. Contrary to its name, the pygmy-goose is actually a duck, though it is named for its goose-like bill. Both males and females have rust-colored bodies with rich green wing feathers. However, male African pygmy-geese, like the one featured in our blog header, have a clearly defined head pattern with shades of green on the cap and neck, a stark white face that emphasizes their black eyes, and a bright yellow bill. Females, on the other hand, have a more "dirty" face, the white being darker with smudges of dark feathers and a bill that is a more muted yellow and black.

Considered the smallest of Africa’s waterfowl, these birds are rarely seen on land. Their short legs are better suited for swimming, though they can often be found perched on logs or branches, and frequently roost in trees. African pygmy-geese (Nettapus auritus) inhabit lakes and lagoons heavy with vegetation such as water lilies and other submerged aquatic plants on which they feed. They use their tapered bills for stripping the seeds and clipping the leaves, flowers and buds of water lilies and other aquatic plants.

Despite their size, pygmy-geese are incredibly strong and agile fliers, easily taking flight directly from the water’s surface. Their high-pitched whistles are distinct yet delicate, and are often uttered while flying.

They nest in tree hollows (sometimes as high as 60 feet!) and on your next visit to Sylvan Heights, you can see palm logs with hollows that have been placed around the African Aviary to encourage these birds to breed.