An Interview with Bob Smith – Birder and Wildlife Enthusiast

Feb 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Youth Blog

I (Joe Kirkham) interviewed a friend of mine a couple days ago. His name is Bob Smith and he has been working with animal breeding and conservation for many years. I wanted to share some of the things he had to say about wildlife, especially his favorite – birds.

J:Where are some of the places you have worked or volunteered?

Bob Smith Fishing

B: I’ve worked at a lot of different zoos and wildlife parks including the Fort Worth Zoo, the Oklahoma City Zoo, the zoo in Lufkin, Texas and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas. I also worked at the zoo in Nassau, Bahamas.  I have also been an active member of the Fort Worth Audubon Society as we as a volunteer for the River Legacy Park Science Center in Arlington, TX.

J: How long have you been involved with your favorite of all wildlife – birds?

B: Over 45 years, now. I started working with birds when I was about 15 years old. My nickname in school was “The Bird Man.” Over the years I have owned and trained a lot of birds including falcons.

J: Why do you like birds so much?

B: Birds are challenging to take care of and breed. When a mammal is born, for instance, it needs milk – pure and simple. Birds, on the other hand, have a variety of diets. Their diets differ depending on the species of bird. Plus, many have different breeding issues. For example, once we were trying to breed flamingos. Unless there is a huge flock, flamingos won’t breed very well, so some zoos use a trick to get them to breed more — they set up mirrors all around them. It works!

J: What are some of the different types of birds you have worked with?

B: I’ve worked with waterfowl, raptors, parrots, cranes, flamingos. Specific species I have worked with include peregrine falcons, harpy eagles and Africa crowned cranes.

J: Tell me about the falcon you currently have.

B: His name is Quapa. He is about four months old. He is a mix of white gyr falcon and peregrine falcon. Did you know that male falcons are smaller but faster than female falcons? They are considered raptors because they prey on other birds and mammals.

J: I know that the country is pretty hot right now. Since I live in Texas I know all about the drought in this area. How will this affect the different birds in Texas?

B: I’m worried about birds, especially those around the Texas coast. Several years ago when there were drought conditions, it was time for the local whooping cranes to migrate and we saw that a lot of the younger birds did not survive the winter because there was a lot of salinity in bays. This had a sort of domino-effect on the food chain for the cranes. More salinity in the water meant that blue crabs (a major food source for the whooping crane) did not multiply as much so there were less crabs for the cranes to eat. Plus, the acorns from acorn trees (another food source for the whooping crane) dried up and the trees died. In addition to this, the marshes (where the whooping cranes like to hang out in the winter) dried up, so there were less fresh water sources for the cranes to drink from.

J: Is there anything we can do to help birds during a drought?

B:Well, one thing you can do is make sure you have wild bird feed left out in feeders for the birds. Also, make sure that you put out hummingbird feeders. A drought means less flowers blooming which mean the hummingbirds have less food sources. So they need our help.

Hummingbird in New Mexico, photo by Joe K.

I thought that these tips from Bob were pretty good. We also make sure that we have clean water in the bird bath on a regular basis. I’ve noticed that some of the raccoons, squirrels and possums in our area are drinking it, too. This is a good thing to do when the summer is really hot, like it was in Texas this year. Thanks for your time and tips, Bob!

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