Mac warms up for winter
Tuesday 18 October 2005
One of our resident Harris Hawks takes to the sky in training for the winter bird display.
Mac is just one of five Harris Hawks at ZSL London Zoo, yet despite being renowned as sociable animals, Mac is a little bit churlish and therefore prefers to fly alone.
He has been with us for 18 months and has flown in the popular bird shows before. However, the birds go through an annual molting season during which time they are let free in an aviary to fly and feed independently. During this time they are not handled and certainly don’t come into contact with an audience environment, therefore every year they need to be reintroduced to the public and show settings.
Our experienced keepers gradually introduce Mac to different noises, new environments, lights and of course the audience.
This year the training is taking a slightly different course. Traditionally there is only one presenter during the bird show, however this year there will be two presenters working together to allow the birds to fly extremely close to the audience. The result is a unique visitor experience where you can literally hear the birds approach, and sometimes even feel the brush of wings as they slice across the air just above your head.
Harris Hawks originate from South West USA, the Mexico border south to Chile and Argentina. They are naturally gregarious creatures, who hunt in family groups and can be seen to display a strong sense of hierarchy as they perch on the native Saguaro cacti in order of age and group rank.
In the wild they live in dry and arid habitats and in their natural environment the diet of the Harris Hawk appears to be mainly squirrels, prairie dogs and rabbits, however it is also known to take birds - often in flight - and lizards.