Mini-Flood 25: World Bird Sanctuary


photograph by Theresa Harter

The World Bird Sanctuary is one of the most under-appreciated attractions near St. Louis. With a mission that includes preserving both birds and bird habitats, the Sanctuary spans 105 acres, near both Lone Elk Park and Castlewood State Park. Formed in 1977 as the Raptor Rehabilitation and Propagation Project, WBS now serves more than 200 animals with specially designed enclosures, an activity program, and even an animal hospital.


photograph by Theresa Harter


photograph by Jason Gray


photograph by Ron Dempewolf


photograph by Ryan Archer

Often, it takes a person sensitive to their imprint on the world to realize the need for something like an animal rehabilitation facility, and then a determined and selfless mindset to align the resources necessary to overcome the hurdles of seeing their idea actualized. It is seldom that these attributes exist in one person, but the World Bird Sanctuary is fortunate to have an individual, such as this, still at the helm more than 30 years after the concept materialized. Walter C. Crawford, Jr., an ornithologist formerly with the St. Louis Zoo, recognized the need for a facility dedicated to harboring, breeding, and ultimately reinstating nature’s very susceptible birds of prey.


photograph by Theresa Harter


photograph by Jeff Radwill


photograph by Ann Aurbach

His very utilitarian sounding Raptor Rehabilitation and Propagation Project occupied two modest outbuildings in a broad valley inside Lone Elk Park. The site of munitions testing during World War II and the Koran War, the area around the RRPP remained quiet and secluded enough (despite being converted into a Missouri State Park) for the Project to really take flight.


photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis


photograph by Ann Aurbach


photograph by Jeni Kulka


photograph by Jeni Kulka

Today, the Sanctuary has been relocated to 105 acres just outside of Lone Elf Park. The new location is more easily accessible for visitors, and has allowed the WBS to spread out it facilities and enclosures. In 2005, the organization added a Wildlife Hospital that now treats more than 300 birds a year, that originate from throughout the state and country. The Hospital takes pride in releasing as many birds back into the wild as possible. Through veterinary care and propagationing, the World Bird Sanctuary has assisted to bring several birds back from virtual extinction in Missouri and Illinois, these include Barn Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and more. Additionally, their breeding program has successfully bred more than 30 species of birds of prey; this is an amazing achievement for an organization not funded by a major zoo!


photograph by Jason Gray


photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis


photograph by Susan Price


photograph by Theresa Harter

Through Mr. Crawford’s vision, the World Bird Sanctuary continues to be a leading force in the conservation of birds of prey due in part to its educational programs and dedicated supporters. The institution offers many levels of involvement, ranging from free admission to their viewing attractions and performances to volunteer opportunities. On the day we visited, every single employee or volunteer that I spoke with was passionate about the organization and its impact.


photograph by Ann Aurbach


photograph by Jason Gray

It should be noted, the World Bird Sanctuary does not receive funding from the State Parks Program, so it is vital that the St. Louis community and surrounding region sees it as a valuable cultural asset, as well as, an important center for animal research and rehabilitation. Please consider contributing what you can, when you can, here.


photograph by Theresa Harter


photograph by Ann Aurbach



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