Putting the “Tiger” in Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamanders, one of seven salamander species found in Wisconsin, are named for their black and yellow markings that sometimes resemble tiger stripes. I think the name is still fitting for our salamander, “Scuba,” whose markings are more splotchy than striped. He lives up to his namesake by being a voracious predator.

Tiger salamanders are carnivores that eat pretty much anything that will fit in their mouth. As aquatic larvae, they might eat insect larvae, tadpoles, and small fish. Terrestrial adults eat worms, frogs, mice, or even other salamanders.

Scuba’s favorite snack is mealworms, but red worms are the bulk of his diet. When he senses a worm (and if he’s hungry), he strikes with surprising speed. A red worm is too long to swallow in a single gulp, so he vigorously shakes it to subdue his prey. Normally we see Scuba as a slow-moving and elusive creature, but he can become quite a tiger when food is around.

Vocal

Our Red-tailed Hawk, Carson, has been very vocal lately. When I enter the mew, she often grumbles and squawks. And every once in a while, we can hear her from the office when she gives her typical Red-tail “keeee-er” call.

I had never heard the high-pitched, repeated squawks before, so I posed a question to an international group of bird trainers online: “Does anyone speak Red-tailed Hawk?” It turns out these sounds are quite common in some birds. Some trainers said their Red-tails only do this in the spring during breeding season. Others said their birds make the repeated squawks when they see the trainer coming with breakfast. It was interesting to hear what other birds do and to try to piece together an explanation for Carson’s chatty habits. The vocalizations just started this spring so it is likely due, in part, to breeding season. She is also very food-motivated; she may be telling me to hurry up and deliver dinner!

 

Bath time

Carson in water bath2.jpg

Last Saturday was finally warm enough for the birds to take a bath outside. When I gave Carson a pan of water, she hopped in as soon as I left the mew. I watched from the door for a moment, but she just looked back at me. I went back to my office to give her some privacy. An hour later I returned to check on her, expecting to see a dripping hawk after splashing and playing in the water. Instead I found Carson still standing in her water, completely dry except for her feet.

I continued to check on her throughout the morning and nothing changed. She simply stood in the water pan for three hours straight. I guess she decided that all she needed was a nice foot soak!

Enrichment

Carson phone book enrichment.jpg

To maintain healthy birds in captivity, we encourage natural behaviors to keep their minds and bodies active. Most of a wild raptor’s day is spent simply sitting on a perch and watching their surroundings. That is easy to replicate in the mews: our birds sit and watch the Museum’s backyard daily.

For the rest of their time, we place new objects in the mew for them to look at or toys to play with. Carson recently received a phone book that Jayme (Living Collections Assistant) carefully folded like a fan. After a few weeks, Carson had ripped up nearly half of the book! Shredding is a natural behavior that wild raptors do when they catch a large meal, like a rabbit. This kind of enrichment keeps Carson busy and gives her an opportunity to rip and tear something for fun.