Tails From The Zoo

A Sea Eagle Update May 7, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Exhibits,Teacher's Resources,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 11:33 pm
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Now that the eagles have landed in their new home at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, I thought it would be good to update our Steller’s sea eagle fact sheet. So here you go!


At the Assiniboine Park Zoo:

  • The relocation of our sea eagles places them into the Asian area of the Assiniboine Park Zoo, across the path from our Amur tigers.


  • Our male came to us in 2006 from the Lieberec Zoo in the Czech Republic. He was born in 2005.


  • Our female came to us in 2005 from the Tallinn Zoo in Estonia. She was born in 2003.


Fast Facts:

  • Scientific name means “Eagle of the open seas”
  • The Steller’s sea eagle has been designated a national treasure in Russia. They are also honoured in Japan where they are known as “O-Washi”.
  • Persecuted by hunters and poachers for stealing trapped animals.
  • They are diurnal (active during the day)
  • Adult eagles have about 7000 feathers.
  • They are named after Georg Steller (1709-1746), a German biologist. He also lent his name to the Steller’s jay, Steller’s sea lion (endangered), Steller’s eider (a type of duck – vulnerable), and the Steller’s sea cow (extinct).


Status in the Wild: Vulnerable

  • Wild population estimated at 5000 and dropping according to the IUCN.
  • The wild population is declining due to habitat loss, water pollution (from DDT/PCB’s), over-fishing (loss of prey), lead shot hunting (lead poisoning from scavenging) and other factors.


Sea Eagles:

  • Steller’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus) are one of eight species of sea eagle
  • The Steller’s sea eagle is also known as the Pacific eagle and the white-shouldered eagle.
  • The Steller’s sea eagle is considered the most powerful and aggressive of its cousins, the bald eagle and the white-tailed sea eagle
  • This group frequent coasts, lakes and rivers
  • This species is dark brown but dramatically coloured when mature with a white tail, white shoulders, white rump, and white thighs

Stella and Stanley inspect one of their new nest boxes. Photo by Darlene Stack, Assiniboine Park Zoo

Height, Weight, Length:

  • Males: weigh up to 6kg
  • Females: weigh up to 9kg
  • Females average 2 to 4kg larger than males
  • Steller’s sea eagles are amongst the largest and heaviest eagles in the world. They are similar in size to the Philippine eagle and the harpy eagle from South America.

  • Adult Steller’s have an average wingspan of 2.3 metres (7.5 ft)
  • Females have a larger wingspan than males
  • Sea eagles stand 85 to 94cm high


  • Russia: Kamchatka / Amur river, Northern Korea, China and Japan
  • Breeds in Russia and over winters in Japan


  • 4 to 5 years for sexual maturity
  • 6 to 8 years for adult plumage

Sea Eagle Diet:

  • 80% fish (e.g. cod), 10% birds (ducks, gulls), 5% mammals, and 5% other (crabs, shellfish, squid, carrion)
  • Like other eagles, Steller’s also steal food from other birds.
  • Four Steller’s sea eagle hunting techniques have been recorded:

1. Diving off a perch for food

2. Flying over the water and picking up food

3. Wading in shallow water for food

4. Stealing food from other birds, a practice known as “kleptoparasitism”



  • IUCN Redlist, Arkive, Birdlife International, San Diego Zoo, National Geographic Society, Assiniboine Park Zoo Education Library
  • Revised May 3, 2010

Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director


Sea Eagles Land in New Zoo Exhibit

Filed under: Birds,Member Notices,New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 1:02 pm

Stanley and Stella, the Steller’s sea eagles at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, are officially moved into their new home today, May 7th, 2010.   An official opening was held to welcome the eagles to their expansive new Asian-shores home, which includes a bubbling creek, a pond, and lots of room to stretch their massive wings.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba raised over $200,000 for the new exhibit through its members’ contributions and events such as Safeway Boo at the Zoo.  The project was managed by Mr. Steve Stephanson, Director on the Board of the Zoological Society, and designed and constructed by Bridgman Collaborative Architecture and Tractus Projects.  During the opening ceremony, the Zoological Society turned over the keys of the exhibit to the City of Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo.

The exhibit is "unveiled"

The Zoological Society of Manitoba hands over the key to the new sea eagle exhibit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Councillor Gord Steeves accepts the key on behalf of the City of Winnipeg

The Steller’s Sea Eagle is native to the sub-arctic west coast of Russia, although individuals occasionally migrate to Alaska and to Japan.  Weighing up to 9 kg and sporting a massive beak, it is the largest of all eagles (the Bald Eagle may reach 6 kg).  Stella arrived at the Zoo in 2005 from the Tallinn Zoo in Estonia, and Stanley in 2006 from the Liberec Zoo in the Czech Republic.   Aged seven and five, the birds have acquired their full size and attractive pattern of white and brown plumage, and have reached the potential reproductive age.  Zoo officials are hopeful that these eagles will soon begin a successful breeding career.  There are only 16 Steller’s Sea Eagles in North American zoos, and only one pair has bred to date.


Fun Friday Zoo Facts April 30, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Birds,Carbon Footprints,Eco-Dates,World News — Scott Gray @ 3:30 pm
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Saving the Earth is a lot easier than you think!

  • A gas-powered lawn mower for one hour can emit as much pollution as driving a car more than 320 kilometres.  Trade in your gas-guzzler for an electric or solar powered lawn mower!


Following up on the recent zoo baby announcements:

  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo now has baby stones sheep, European bison, and reindeer.


Upcoming National and International Days
International Composting Awareness Week – May 3 to 9 –
Visit: The Composting Council of Canada
International Migratory Bird Day – May 9 – Visit: http://www.birdday.org/
International Day for Biological Diversity – May 22 – Visit Biodiversity Canada
World Turtle Day – May 23 – Visit: Turtle Day Celebrations


Kookaburras – The Bushman’s Clock April 18, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 6:24 am
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Chris Reid and I just finished talking about the kookaburra on Zoo Knew (Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB 68) . These birds can be seen in the Tropical House at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Kookaburra (aka: Laughing kookaburra): Is sometimes called the Bushman’s Clock because of its habit of calling in the morning and evening. Their call sounds like loud, raucous laughter.


Laughing Kookaburra

The (laughing) kookaburra

Food: The kookaburra is a carnivorous bird and is known as a stand and wait hunter.

  • The kookaburra eats both invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and vertebrates (birds, rodents, lizards, amphibians and snakes)
  • Small prey is crushed while larger prey is killed by bashing it against at branch or by dropping from a height.


Size: Length: 45 cm  (18 in),  Weight: 0.5 kg  (1.1 lbs)

  • The kookaburra is gray-brown above and gray-white on the head and underparts. It has a dark eye stripe and a barred tail. It has a long, stout (broad), dagger-like bill. It has a large head, a stubby tail and short legs.


Habitat: The kookaburra lives away from water in woodland and scrub. It is a tree (or wood) kingfisher,  which is the most numerous of the three families of birds in the kingfisher group. The other two families are the river kingfishers and the lake kingfishers.

Distribution: South and East Australia. Introduced to Tasmania and other islands.


Find out more about the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s kookaburras here: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/Laughing%20Kookaburra.pdf


Compiled by Scott Gray, Zoo Education Director

References: Birds of the World (Paragon Publishing, 2005), the National Zoo, http://www.avianweb.com.


(Woody) The Pileated Woodpecker April 17, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:54 pm
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Chris Reid and I talked about the pileated woodpecker last Sunday on Zoo Knew (Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB AM)

  • The pileated woodpecker, made famous by inspiring the cartoon character Woody the Woodpecker, is Canada’s largest and North America’s second largest woodpecker species.
  • Pileated woodpeckers range is length from 40 – 50 cm (16 to 19.5 in), with a wing length of 68 – 76 cm.
  • Pileated woodpeckers are mostly black when at rest but show a burst white underwings when in flight.
  • The sexes are similar in appearance, although the males have a larger red crest and a red moustache.


  • The pileated woodpecker is an uncommon species, found in coniferous, mixed and hardwood forests. It prefers dense, mature forest but has begun to frequent woodlots in the past couple of decades.
  • Pileated woodpeckers excavate characteristically oval holes in trees to find ants and other wood-boring insects (and their larvae). They will also eat berries and nuts.


  • The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is related to other Manitoba woodpecker species like the more common yellow-bellied sapsucker, the downy woodpecker, the hairy woodpecker, the red-headed woodpecker and the northern flicker.


For more on some of the wonderful birds that can be seen (wild) at the Assiniboine Park, please visit: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/index.php?option=com_birds&task=birds&Itemid=12

To hear this woodpecker’s call, please visit: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/media/birds/P/Pileated%20Woodpecker.mp3


Compiled by Scott Gray with references from Peterson Field Guides (Eastern Birds), Manitoba Birds (Andy Bezener & Ken De Smet), and The Field Guide to the Birds of North America (National Geographic Society).


Flamingos for Valentine’s Day February 14, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Fund Raising,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:17 am
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Chris Reid and I discussed flamingos on this morning’s Zoo Knew segment (heard every Sunday at 7:15 am) on the Weekend Wake-up Show on CJOB 68. Chris’s theme today was Valentine’s Day and what better animal for  February 14th than flamingos!? The zoo is open year round and visiting the flamingos, even in the winter, is a great way to spend an afternoon. You might even be lucky enough to watch the flamingos dance for you! The whole flock gets involved and they use the whole “dancing floor” to strut their stuff, show off their colourful feathers and create quite the noisy ruckus.  If you would like to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today to see the flamingos, the zoo is open from 10 am to 4 pm.

For more information on this month’s special Zoodoption Animal of the Month, the flamingo, please visit www.zoosociety.com

  • A special animal is available to be zoodopted every month for the special rate of $25.00. You can Zoodopt any animal of your choice at any level during the year, but if you choose our “Animal of the Month” you will receive the same package as the Friend level for the special price of $25.00.


Information on Flamingos

  • Long legs, a long, curved neck, a gooselike voice, and down-curved bills adapted for filter feeding, are characteristics of all flamingo species.
  • The joint in their leg about halfway up that looks like a backward knee is actually an ankle. And, like all birds, they walk on their toes.


  • Brackish inland lakes, coastal shores, mudflats, saltpans, saline lagoons


  • Algae, small crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic insects in the wild
  • Poultry pellets, dried shrimp, meat and bone meal at the zoo
  • Here at the zoo we include synthetic canthaxanthin (a carotenoid pigment) to the flamingos diet to avoid their feathers losing the beautiful colouring. A similar pigment is found naturally in the crustaceans that they eat in the wild.
  • The angled beak of the flamingo has a sieve‑like structure for capturing small aquatic organisms. They will stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom. They then tip their heads upside down, flutter their bills and strain water through their bill, catching food in their lamellae.


Fast Facts:

  • The word flamingo is originally derived from the Portuguese for ‘red goose’
  • Flamingos are an ancient group of birds. Their fossil records date back about 10 million years ago.
  • Both male and female, provide their young with a type of milk called crop milk.
  • Flamingos have different leg coloring from species to species.
  • Flamingos are naturally born white.

  • Most flamingo populations require a large colony for successful breeding. This poses difficulties for breeding flamingos in zoos. Small groups have been tricked into displaying breeding activity by using mirrors (making it look like the group is larger than it really is).
  • There are six species, four native to the Americas and two living in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Some authorities recognize five species and consider the Caribbean and greater flamingos to be sub-species.


Caribbean Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus ruber)

  • We have approximately 30 Caribbean flamingos, housed in two flocks at the zoo.
  • The Caribbean flamingo is also known as the American or roseate flamingo.

Size: Approximately 80 – 145 cm (31 –57 in.) long

  • Females tend to be smaller than males

Weight: Approximately 1.9 – 3 kg (4.2-6.6 lbs)

Range: South America and the Caribbean with a small population in the Galapagos

Status: Not threatened

  • Population decline due to pollution, loss of habitat and hunting.
  • Total population is estimated 80,000 – 90,000 birds.


Greater Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus roseus)

  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo acquired a dozen greater flamingos in the winter of 2007.
  • The greater flamingo is lighter in colour then the Caribbean and is the most widespread of all flamingo species.

Size: 91 to 127 cm (36 to 50 in)

  • Wingspan is 140-165 cm

Weight: Average 8.75 lbs (4 kg)

Range and Status:

  • Southern Africa: 55,000 (decreasing). West Africa: 30,000-60,000 (trend unknown). Eastern Africa: 35,000 (decreasing). West Mediterranean: 80,000 (increasing). East Mediterranean and Asia: 500,000 (stable)



  • World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • BirdLife International
  • Sea World Infobooks
  • Assiniboine Park Zoo Education Archives

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison, Zoological Society of Manitoba

Revised February 13, 2010


New Exhibit Update February 12, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Exhibits,Member Notices,New Animals/Births — Scott Gray @ 1:29 pm
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Steller’s Sea Eagle Enclosure
Stanley and Stella are just waiting for spring to arrive and  for the completion of the landscaping of their new home before moving in.  The new enclosure is in the Northwestern section of the zoo, next to the Sichuan takin enclosure and across the path from the Amur tigers.

The Lion Pavilion
The Lion Pavilion is nearing completion with lions expected to arrive in the spring.  This is a very exciting development for the Assiniboine Park Zoo.  Lions have not had a permanent home here in Winnipeg in 40 years. Lions made a visit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo back in 2005 as a summer special and were a crowd favorite. Watch for news of the arrival of our new friends coming soon.