Hidden on 305 acres of Forest 44 in Valley Park is the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), a fascinating opportunity to get up close with raptors and birds like eagles, hawks, owls, pelicans, and many other variety of large fowl.
Founded by Walter Crawford in 1977, the program was created with the blessing of the Saint Louis Zoo’s Director Emeritus, Marlin Perkins. By 1982 the sanctuary had become a full time job for Crawford, and through his leadership was grown into a nationally known center for rescue, rehabilitation, research and education. WBS’ founder passed away in 2015 and was succeeded by Executive Director Brian Bissonnette, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who shares a deep commitment to environmental and wildlife conservation.
The World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is the preservation and protection of these large birds for future generations and is one of North America’s largest conservation facilities. They are a non-profit organization who relies on donations and receives no state, federal or county funding.
At any given time the WBS is providing refuge, rehabilitation and emergency care for over 200 feathered residents. While the facility is indeed a hospital of sorts, there are plenty of opportunities to view these beautiful birds up close. At the west end of the grounds is a fenced area where you can find golden and bald eagles, turkey vultures, owls and hawks tethered to their roosts for up close observation. Although these birds are beautiful specimens, keep in mind that they are at WBS because they are convalescing. The birds have a variety of visible ailments that would impair them in the wild, including deformed wings and beaks, cataracts, missing toes and other various handicaps. The sanctuary works with all birds with the hope of returning them to the wild, but unfortunately some are unable and they instead provide learning experiences for visitors.
Walking east from the entrance you will find the outdoor exhibits, featuring weathering areas for birds in rehabilitation. A very long row of roomy cages lines each side of the path and are filled with many interesting birds of large size, including many owls, vultures, pelicans, a kucabara from Australia, and even an endangered Andean Condor named Dorothy, who has an impressive wingspan of over 10 feet. Most of the cages provide plaques with names and a short history of the inhabitant(s), as well as some information about their species. There are even domestic and foreign breeds of chickens on site, allowing the little ones a chance to feed them 25 cents worth of corn.
The World Bird Sanctuary offers many programs to involve the community, including volunteer internships, educational programs, an Eagle Adventure Camp for kids age 6-12, and several adoption programs benefitting specific birds. The sanctuary is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Be advised that the current route to the World Bird Sanctuary is partially obstructed due to major construction taking place at Highways 44 and 141. Heading west from Maritz on North Highway Drive you will find easily visible signage pointing the way to the raptors.
World Bird Sanctuary
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd, Valley Park, MO 63088