Love

Love is in the air, especially for Aldo the American Kestrel. As the days get longer, he senses that breeding season is around the corner.

❤ He spends much of his time preening to make sure his feathers are looking good.

❤ He trills to catch your attention.

❤ He bows inside his hutch, displaying his premium nesting location.

Since Aldo was raised by humans and imprinted on them, he is more likely to show off for any person that walks by than for a female kestrel that might fly by. He may be a little confused, but we love him anyway.

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Fasting

Can you imagine not eating for 3 months, and not losing any weight during such a fast? That’s just what Digger the hognose snake tested out this winter. Weighing in at 338 grams (about 12 ounces) in October, she ignored her weekly mouse for the next three months.

I was a little concerned, but I knew that going off food is a normal behavior for snakes. I continued to track her weight and was surprised to see little variation. By mid-January, she weighed 334 grams, a difference of only four grams (the equivalent of four paperclips)!

Digger decided to eat her next meal, but hasn’t touched a mouse in the last three weeks. I wonder how long she’ll fast this time!
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Bated Breath

A group of 12 people stood with me in the Curiosity Center, motionless. Even the young children refrained from crawling through logs or performing a puppet show in the play area. We all waited with bated breath as we watched Emory the rat snake slide, as if in slow motion, across her enclosure toward the mouse. I could feel the anticipation rising in the room, but her audience stayed quiet, not wanting to startle the snake away from her meal.

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Emory’s tongue flicked in and out as she smelled the air. Then the youngest child freed herself from her mother’s hand and skipped across the room. Emory recoiled at seeing the sudden movement and drew her head back into the safety of the shadows. The adults in the room looked nervous, but they waited to see Emory return to circle the mouse. Now her nose was in the dish and we could practically see her tongue brushing against the mouse. After a moment of what looked like careful consideration, Emory slid away from the bowl and coiled herself under a rock cave.

I had never seen such a patient audience and I was hoping Emory would reward their persistence by swallowing the mouse whole. Unfortunately I had to explain that sometimes the snakes choose not to eat.

Chilly

Red-tailed hawks are a hardy species. While some move farther south for the winter, many red-tails choose to stay in Wisconsin as long as they have a reliable source of food. They’re built to withstand our cold winters if they are able to replace their calories.

Carson the Red-tailed hawk doesn’t have to worry about food with a constant supply of prepared mice, rats, and quail to keep her going. Just like her wild counterparts, Carson will fluff her feathers and tuck a foot to her belly to stay warm. Her injured left wing, however, can’t fold against her body to trap heat as well as it should. It would be like going outside without zipping up my jacket – on a morning like this at -16 degrees, I would definitely feel a chill!

To give Carson relief from the frigid temperatures coming up in the forecast, she came inside for the week. She always prefers to be at home in her mew, but I’ll try to explain that chilling in the classroom will be better than freezing outside at -25 degrees.

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Stages of a Good Bath

Aldo the American Kestrel seems to have bathing down to a science. There appears to be 7 essential elements to a good bath, something he practices eagerly when he comes inside during cold weeks like this.

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1. Feathers Fluffed (a pre-bath preparation stage)

 

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2. Wading in

 

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3. The Beak Dip

 

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4. The Butt Dip

 

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5. The Splash

 

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6. Hopping out…
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7.  …and drying off.

Climber

Emory climbing.JPGNormally quietly tucked under a warm rock or camouflaging with the moss in her humidity box, Emory broke her routine this morning. She took a lap around her enclosure and eventually started heading up.

Great Plains Rat Snakes are known to be excellent climbers. They climb into shrubs and trees in the wild, perhaps in search of tasty small birds or eggs.

In just a few months, this climber will get an updated home in the new Curiosity Center. We are working with the team at KidZibits to design an enclosure with more vertical space to encourage her natural inclination to get off the ground. I haven’t told Emory yet, but I think she’ll like the new climbing opportunities!