One Life- -Three Ways
Tautphaus Park, Idaho Falls, ID
Welcome, I am Dianne Gates a fourth year docent of Tautphaus (Taw-t-fuss) Park Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It is a city four hours north of Salt Lake City, two hours south of West Yellowstone, two hours west of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and three hours east of Sun Valley. An ideal spot I think. Our Zoo presently uses 10 acres with ninety species represented in our collection of three hundred animals. We have twenty-eight active docents year round. We present Zoo tours, story telling, ask me carts, and event presentations in the summer. Zoomobiles are offered November through March. In addition, we offer tender loving cleaning every day to the education animals housed in our education habitat. We also assist our Zoo staff as requested.
It is the first accredited Zoo in the state. We serve the area of southern Idaho, in addition to southern Montana, and western Wyoming. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how one animal can be presented in three different contexts – 1. What is a bird? preschool level: 2. Animal locomotion, second grade level: and 3. Relationship to conservation, sixth grade level–all from our current Zoomobile format.
Now to the Zoomobile presentations, each of which would start with me giving my name and where I was from in addition to explaining that the word “docent” comes from Latin and German and means volunteer educator. My first presentation is Feathered Friends, the title of our Preschool Zoomobile using the American kestrel, which is commonly called a sparrow hawk.
Our feathered friends are called birds. They can keep warm just like you and me, so they are called warm blooded. They are covered in feathers, lay hard-shelled eggs, have wings for their front limbs and hearts like ours. However, they have a special way of breathing with air sacs that can take air in and let it out at the same time. There are no birds that have teeth. I have with me items to explain about birds, feathers, an egg, a beak, and a Kestrel bone clone skull.
The American kestrel is ten to twelve inches long with a wingspan of twenty-one inches. The male upper feathers have a hazel color except the wings, which are gray and black. The head is white with a gray and hazel nape. It is the only small falcon with two whiskers on each side of its face and the only one with a rusty colored back. The female appears the same but shades lighter. These colors help our bird blend in with the areas where it hunts. The word we use for this is camouflage. In the world of birds we have flighted and non-flighted birds. The American kestrel is a flighted bird that also has the special ability to hover over its hunting area like a helicopter. During the summer, they eat mostly insects and in the winter, mice or small birds.
Even though some birds like penguins may not look like they have feathers all birds do. Show me how birds use their wings to fly (arm flapping). Now show me how penguins use their wings to `fly’ through the water (arm movement). What will you remember about birds? They have feathers, wings, beaks, two feet, lay eggs, and have no teeth. As you can see in the picture, the American kestrel can be trained or conditioned to sit on your wrist. Thank you for your attention and I will leave some papers with your teacher that tells more about the Zoo. Come and visit. This type of good-bye phrasing would conclude all presentations.
`Getting Around’, our second grade Zoomobile, will be the next presentation using the American Kestrel, which will help us explore how animals move. Their ability to move around is necessary to provide them with food, water, living space and a way to avoid predators. I have some examples: a helicopter, and pictures of animal locomotion. Here are some word definitions to share with you, some of which may be new. Locomotion means the ability to move around: Fossorial means burrowing in the ground: Arboreal means dwells in trees or climber: Bipedal means walking on two feet: Quadrupedal means walking on four feet, and Serpentine means slithering motion usually done by legless animals. Our American kestrel is a biped or has two feet. Why would this be important? How would it be to take off flying if you walked on four feet? How does flying help the American Kestrel hunt? How do birds use their feet when eating? As a contrast to the way birds of prey hold their food with a foot and tear bits off, parrots use their feet the way we use our hands. Almost all parrots use their left foot to hold food up to their beaks the same way in which we offer food to our mouths. As birds of prey, the American Kestrels hunt their food by flying in a given territory or area. This usually covers about 10 acres of land or twenty football fields! They have the unique ability to hover over their prey like a helicopter, then seeing the most appetizing of insect, small bird or mouse they swoop down and quickly wrap their talons around it. Teaching their young, called eyases, to fly takes thirty days.
They teach them to fly from the ground up. That means baby kestrels are nudged from the nest onto the ground below in preparation for flying lessons.
Finally – `Going, Going, Gone’ our sixth grade Zoomobile shares the importance of conservation. Few species have remained relatively unchanged since their first appearance. Most species are destined to die out just as humans do. Human activity has accelerated their `extinction time’ at an alarming rate. I have a few biofacts that may provide a visual memory of endangered animal. So what does extinct mean? the animal is gone forever. Endangered animals are in immediate danger of becoming extinct while threatened animals have very low population numbers. Help for these animals comes from SSP or the Species Survival Plan which is an organized program for breeding selected species of wildlife in order to maintain a healthy and self sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. This is to act as a hedge against extinction. Then we have reintroduction, where programs return captive bred animals to their natural environment. The best program may be conservation, which is accomplished through the education of protecting and preserving all of the earth’s natural resources. This is where Zoos around the world can offer important education as people visit.
Our species of topic today is the American kestrel. To keep this bird of prey from becoming threatened, endangered or extinct what needs to happen? We need to be aware of the bird’s requirements to survive with man. With laws banning pesticides with DDT, we have helped considerably. Shrews would eat several grasshoppers sprayed with DDT and then our Kestrel would eat several shrews. This concentration could kill a bird. This could also just interfere with the metabolic pathway like it did in Bald Eagles. This reduced their ability to produce calcium carbonates so their eggs were laid with no or very little shell. Use of DDT is currently banned in America; however, other countries still use it. Of note is that America is the number one producer, selling it to other countries.
The American kestrel prefers to hunt in open grassy fields and likes to perch on poles, wires, and trees. Ideally they prefer fields in the winter where the stubble has been left so that the mice are more plentiful by the protection the straw stubble provides. Other small creatures enjoy this ground cover too. American Kestrels use holes in old or dead trees for nests. Occasionally they will use nest boxes that have been put out for gray squirrels. Public awareness is encouraged because falcons are protected by federal law, as they are migratory birds. Why is it so hard to conserve wild species and places? Consider a desperately poor farmer chopping down forests to make room for crops to feed his family or the farmers selling their land to make way for residential growth or the underground wiring replacements, which removes sources of perching.
Then we add limited nesting areas. What is a poor bird to do? The American kestrel has thus far proven it can adapt well to the changes in its habitat by living closer to humans. It will even nest on building ledges where only tall buildings are available. The Mauritius Kestrel, however, was at two breeding pair before humans took notice and had to intervene to keep the species from becoming extinct. Today they are at five hundred breeding pairs. What places do birds’ lives fill
that we need? Why are their lives important to us? They control the insect population and promote the pollination and dispersal of flowering plants. The examples of chinchilla, desert tortoise bald eagle, Siberian tiger, and snow leopard to name just a few should nag at us continually so that conservation is a daily activity for all of us. I hope you have enjoyed seeing how one animal could be presented three ways.
Notes of interest:
Bio facts and items for display –
- Hawks leg with foot attached
- Toy helicopter
- animal locomotion
- head whiskers
- eating with a foot
- American Kestrel
- sticks 1-11″ and 1-21′
- table cover
- hand outs
This paper is a merge of the Zoomobile format provide by our Education Coordinator, Sunny Katseanes and several hours of independent research done online from a wide variety of sources. My thanks to our Zoo personnel and fellow docents for providing support and knowledge and biofacts.