JK's bird notes

26 Jul 2021


Handling guidance

(demo position) Stand side-on with your left arm / glove side to where the bird is coming from. Make a firm fist with your thumb on top, hand not higher than your shoulder.

This position makes it more obvious to the birds where they are supposed to land. Also means that a bird can easily fly past you if there is a gust of wind or it suddenly decides not to land. If you stand facing the bird, it’s more likely to fly into you.

You will barely feel the lighter birds land. You’ll need to brace a bit for some of the heavier birds, especialy if the wind is strong.

Keep your right hand well out of the way - don’t be tempted to stroke or poke the birds. The birds are fairly good natured but this might get you a peck.

We are going small food rewards for flying to you. We will handle the food for you and give signals to attract the bird.

You can take pictures although perhaps not when the bird is trying to land on you.

Personal advice

Don’t kneel down to the birds (although Graham did with the vultures)

Feed Walter with a ‘sweep’ to his beak.

Vultures look for the food and not the signal? Not sure about this – it seems to work from the balcony and the mound.

Experience days

First task is to get attendee list from the office

Take food from top-left, leave the bottom shelf

Finish by washing food bins, packets, bags, etc

General things to talk about

Raptors and birds of prey

Raptors – which means ‘seize by force’ – kill with their feet rather than their beaks.


Bigger birds live longer

Birds in captivity can live two or three times longer than in the wild.

Wild Tawny Owls might live for five years. Troy is (?) 11. Troy was ill with a heart condition for a while.


Males and females usually have similar plumage (if not identical). Size is usually the biggest discriminator – with females larger.

Falcons have longer ‘scythe’-shaped wings compared with Eagles and Hawks.

Red kites have forked tails, buzzard tail is squarer / diamond shaped.


Talk about how birds land - flaring to lose speed. Parachutists do the same. Planes can’t rotate their wings but they extend flaps which has a similar effect.

Detecting prey

Hawks and falcons use sight – their hearing isn’t much better than ours. Owls have good sight AND excellent hearing.

Bird eyes are closer to reptile eyes than mammals like ours – birds descended from dinosaur-like creature. Some birds (notably owls) have elongated eyes so can’t move them in their eye sockets – hence head movements (some owls can go 270 degrees in each direction)

Raptors don’t usually have a good sense of smell. The main exception are New World vultures, which have a good sense of smell – as evidenced by their large nostrils (nares) that you can actually see through.



There are five species of owl in the UK: Tawny, Barn, Long eared, short-eared, and Little Owl (although this was actually introduced in the 1800s).

Barn Owl

UK Barn owls are the only example of this genus.

Tawny owls

Most common (?) UK owl

We can have lots of these in the hospital

What to do if you find one

Cite Troy as an example of how not to do it (he was kept for three weeks as a chick and fed by hand every day)

Great grey

Large owl on the outside but little on the inside

Very low flier

In the same genus – Strix – as Tawny Owls – woodland hunters.

Eagle owl

Cinnamon and Molly

One of the largest owls and can take quite large prey Don’t have large ranges and don’t travel very much Very long-lived – twenty years even in the wild Doing relatively well because of their large range and diverse diet – they will catch and eat almost anything

Milky eagle owl



White headed vultures

Will sometimes catch live prey (e.g. mongooses and squirrels) – almost unique amongst vultures.

Raptors - General

Peregrine falcons

World’s fastet bird of prey. Clocked at > 200 mph.

Stiff feathers compared with the owls so can XXXX brace against the wind

Nostril adaptation so can breathe normally in a 200 mph airflow. Unlike cheetahs, can eat immediately they have made their kill (cheetahs are out of breath)

??? Other speed adaptations

The mews

??? explain why being tethered to a perch isn’t as bad it seems


Bald eagles are a type of fishing eagle and as such have the characteristic white patterns that confuse fish.

Tawny and steppe eagles are ‘booted’ – they have feathers down their legs unlike most raptors.



Ennis. Get her out of the aviary with food. Let her eat the food, standing in the doorway, then encourage her onto her stump. She should then fly up into the Arena.

Use the horizontal branch to get her fly up and down. But then need to disappear so that she flies between the bird team people. Call her back down at the end, return her to the aviary and lob food in.

Need to check how long to stay out front before disappearing. When disappearing, make sure Ennis isn’t watching so that she doesn’t take this as a sign to exit.