In their quest for perpetual flight, researchers at Lehigh University have taken note of the turkey vulture’s amazing ability to stay aloft indefinitely with very little effort, as it scans the terrain beneath it for carrion to feed on. In addition to gauging thermals and wind direction with their own sensors, it appears that turkey vultures closely monitor other birds of prey in the area and use the information gleaned from them to determine which areas would best support their effortless soaring. It is thought that they may even keep an eye on the movement of clouds and the swaying of trees to gather information about wind currents and thermals.
Also of interest to aviation researchers, is the turkey vulture’s unique ability to hold its wings in a shallow V-shaped angle for extended periods of time which allows it to stay aloft with little effort, as well as giving it the ability to use sidewinds to its advantage, converting them into speed and altitude at a moment’s notice.
The concept of ‘dynamic soaring’ was first described in the British journal Nature in 1883 by Lord Rayleigh in an article entitled The Soaring of Birds. There he states that a bird cannot maintain its level indefinitely, either in still air or in a uniform horizontal wind, without working his wings. He concluded that if a bird maintained his course for some time, without working his wings, the conclusion can be drawn that either: The course is not horizontal; the wind is not horizontal; or the wind is not uniform – the latter being the principle relating to dynamic soaring.
Turkey vultures, also known as turkey buzzards, or simply buzzards, have a wide range of habitat, being found from southern Canada right down to the southernmost point of South America. These large scavengers favor open and semi-open terrain where they can spot their next meal with ease, feeding almost exclusively on carrion. They roost in large groups, nesting in caves, thickets, or hollow trees. As they do not have a syrinx, they can only make grunting and hissing noises. Legally protected in the United States, and with very few natural predators, turkey vultures have an IUCN conservation status of ‘least concern’.
The market town of Helmsley in the picturesque Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, England, is the location of the new International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) which opened to the public in March 2013. Spread over eleven acres with historic Duncombe Park as a backdrop, the visitor attraction features more than a hundred birds housed in some forty aviaries, and is set to become one of the top tourist attractions in the district. In addition to being a visitor attraction, the ICBP runs a program of breeding endangered birds, most notably Steller’s sea eagles, which are among the world’s largest birds and listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN.
The ICBP has three flying demonstrations per day where visitors can witness the exceptional abilities of a variety of birds of prey. As each flying demonstration features different birds, with commentary offering fascinating facts about the performers, visitors may want to spend the entire day at the centre and watch all three demonstrations. In the event of inclement weather, the centre will move the demonstration to a sheltered wooded area or indoors, so visitors are assured of seeing the birds in action.
Visitors may want to start their tour of the centre along the Hawk Walk, where they will be able to approach within a few feet of the trained birds which includes hawks, falcons, eagles and buzzards. The main aviary area features a series of enclosures which have been carefully designed with the comfort of the feathered residents in mind. The three solid walls of each aviary provide the birds with a sense of security, which makes them more content and enhances their breeding abilities. The success of the aviary design is evident in the fact that the ICBP has successfully bred 65 species of birds of prey.
Overlooking the parkland in front of Duncombe Park’s main house, the Flying Ground has seating for demonstration spectators, as well as picnic tables and acres of well-tended lawn to relax on. The east and north of the area are sheltered by ancient oak, chestnut, ash and lime trees with the west open to the prevailing wind, providing perfect conditions for the birds to perform in.
Other facilities include the Fountain Tea Room, a shop and a play area. A visit to the International Centre for Birds of Prey is sure to be memorable. Don’t forget to take your camera!
Established in 2006, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in South Africa cares for more than 180 birds representing 50 different raptor species. The sanctuary’s permanent residents have either been bred in captivity, or have sustained injuries which significantly limit their chances of survival in the wild. Located close enough to both Durban and Pietermaritzburg to allow easy access for a day trip, the sanctuary offers unique insight into South Africa’s amazing predatory birds which is both educational and entertaining.
The sanctuary’s permanent residents include vultures, eagles, falcons, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks, buzzards, hawks, kites and owls. Many of the birds have been named, with a record of their rescue story available to visitors. Eagles are rightly viewed as the mightiest of the birds of prey and the sanctuary’s Eagle Alley allows visitors a close up look at some of these majestic birds. Other sections of the sanctuary are Hoot Hollow for the owls; Honeycomb Habitats housing diurnal raptors; and the Vulture Hide with its eight indigenous vulture species, all of which are considered to be threatened.
In addition to being a popular tourism attraction, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is dedicated to ongoing research, including breeding and rehabilitation projects, with a view to conserving the birds in their natural South African environment. The Raptor Rescue operation run by the sanctuary is kept separate from the public area and is not open to visitors. If rescued birds are to be rehabilitated and released into the wild again, it is in their best interests not to be exposed to too many people. In addition to being stressful for them, too much interaction with humans could make the birds tame, thereby hampering their chances of survival in the wild. For research purposes birds are ringed before being released into a suitable habitat, if possible where they were found.
One of the most exciting features of the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is the flying display, and visitors should be sure to plan their day to include one of these demonstrations, bearing in mind that they are weather dependent. Flying display times are Monday to Friday at 10:30am, and at 10:30am and 3pm on weekends and public holidays. As a privately funded conservation initiative, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary relies on entrance fees to continue their work. So, why not support this worthy cause, and enjoy an outing you are not likely to forget.
Adjacent to the Lone Elk County Park and Chubb Trail in Missouri, U.S.A., is a sanctuary that is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey and educating the public on the vital role these birds play in nature. They are also passionate about other wildlife, and the more than three hundred acres of land, which is blanketed in Missouri hardwood forest, is a tranquil location for the birds and animals of the World Bird Sanctuary. Visitors to this magnificent conservation centre will not only be able to view beautiful birds, but the sanctuary also offers educational programs, shows, picnic areas and nature trails.
Ornithologist Walter C. Crawford Jr. started working at the St. Louis Zoo in close cooperation with the director of the zoo and in doing so he recognized the lack of attention given to birds of prey and how important it is to protect these birds. He therefore founded the World Bird Sanctuary in the year 1977, which was originally known as the Raptor Rehabilitation and Propagation Project.
The land on which the sanctuary was establish was an old munitions depot used by the army during World War II, thus most of the sanctuary was housed in these buildings. Each building has a different use, such as offices, a breeding facility and a building to house and treat injured birds. Crawford is still the director of the facility, but has managed to develop the World Bird Sanctuary to such a level that he is now able to afford full-time staff to assist him, and to watch over the sanctuary when he travels to conventions to share his message in regard to conservation. The World Bird Sanctuary has won numerous awards for their work, and visitors can look forward to seeing hawks, parrots, bald eagles, falcons, owls, vultures, reptiles and various other animals that have made their way to the sanctuary.
An extremely proud and excited World Bird Sanctuary opened its Wildlife Hospital in 2005, which features state-of-the-art equipment and staff that are able to assist injured birds and animals, aiding their rehabilitation. They are often called on to assist the government when they have confiscated animals that were being smuggled or when trying to rescue animals. Veterinarians volunteer their time and experience and annually save the lives of more than three hundred birds and animals. The Nature Centre and gift shop is open every day, and visitors are invited to embark on an exciting and fascinating bird of prey adventure at the World Bird Sanctuary.
Gail Laux started the County Raptor Rehabilitation Center in 1988 on her private property. In 1995 the Heart of Ohio Boy Scout Council approved a lease to allow the facility to move to the Camp Avery Hand site. Through generous donations and support, the Ohio Bird Sanctuary was able to open its doors to the public in 1999. The sanctuary was eventually able to purchase fifty-two acres of land it had leased, and went on to buy another fifteen acres in 2009. To become a public facility the sanctuary created a board of trustees. Through the assistance of volunteers, events were organized to raise funds to renovate buildings, create a parking area and make trails for visitors to enjoy.
The visitors centre now proudly boasts a classroom, exhibition lobby, outdoor display facilities, offices, library and an emergency centre that takes in injured and sick birds. This non-profit organization is dedicated to the rehabilitation and protection of the birds of prey of Ohio. Ninety acres of the sanctuary is open to the public, with hiking trails leading to various breathtaking areas of the sanctuary where visitors will be able to view various birds of prey. A few of the local bird residents are visitor friendly and gladly accept the meal worms that are on sale at the sanctuary, allowing members of the public to have a personal and interactive experience with these fascinating birds. Tours are available, as educating the public on the value and importance of preserving birds of prey is the main goal of the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. It also welcomes more than twenty thousand scholars a year, and bird lovers are invited to join the weekend programs that feature workshops such as Breeding Birds Surveys, Creatures of the Night, Fall Wildlife Festival and Christmas for the Birds.
Because of the sanctuary being located on the Clearfork Reservoir border and being surrounded by marsh and dense forests, the trails leading through the sanctuary are breathtaking and will take visitors over meadows, marshlands and between beautiful pine groves. The butterfly garden is another recommended attraction that is filled with wonderful variety wildflowers and is a tranquil location at the sanctuary. The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is not only performing a vital role in protecting the birds of prey of Ohio but is an exciting attraction for visitors to enjoy.