Gwido takes flight at London Zoo
Monday 1 August 2005
There will be a new addition to the predatory bird display in the coming weeks, as Gwido our black vulture takes to the lawn.
Gwido is not what you may traditionally expect from a vulture. At 3 ½ months old he is already fully grown, though a plume of downy head feathers and a predisposition to hop, skip and jump all over the lawn, means he is a very appealing character to watch.
The training for predatory display birds is an ongoing process that started with Gwido about three months ago, when handlers started to introduce him to new people, noises and surroundings.
The sessions are focused around food and the bird’s flying weight – ensuring that he is not too heavy to fly but also not so eager for nibbles that he won’t leave the trainers side.
Predatory bird displays are very popular as they introduce a wide variety of birds direct to the public with the opportunity of seeing them out in the open.
London Zoo decided that Gwido would be a valuable asset to the display as a way of introducing the vulture to the public and highlighting the plight that other vulture species face around the world.
In countries such as India vultures are now an endangered species, due to cattle inoculations that filter through the food chain and prove to be fatal for the vulture.
Despite the common conception surrounding vultures, these birds are vital to the well being of many environments, as they work like 'rubbish men' getting rid of waste and dead animals and therefore reducing the risk of disease and spread of infection
Black vultures can live in urban areas although they will also inhabit tropical rainforest particularly over the Amazon.
They are good at exploiting human garbage but are intelligent birds who look for the descent of Turkey vultures (they can smell carrion, black vultures can't), and follow them through the canopy to eat carrion on the forest floor.