Posted by: atowhee | October 24, 2017


My daughter-in-law has sent me still more pictures of my youngest grand-daughter and her day at a raptor sanctuary in England.  Here’s the accompanying email:

I thought you might like to see some more photos of Tabitha with a variety of owls at the Hawk Conservancy Trust [in Hampshire] yesterday.  It was such a great day!   The Grey Grey Owl was magnificent; I could NOT get both she and Tabitha to look at the camera at the same time alas.  
The little brown one is a Babook owl; there was a great story that went with that one.  Its parents (now in their 20s) have fostered countless wild, orphaned owl chicks that have been successfully released to the wild.  Each year they lay one egg, which staff would remove to hand rear (being New Zealand owls, their own chicks could never be released in the UK) and they would replace the egg with up to 5 orphaned owl chicks – Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Little Owls – the Babooks weren’t bothered and would happily raise them as their own.  
There’s also a picture of Tabitha with one of the centre’s hooded vultures; the centre’s biggest focus is vultures and raising awareness of their dire state in the wild.  I’m sure you already know this, but the hooded vulture is heading towards extinction due largely to poachers poisoning elephants/rhinos (for their ivory/horns) and the vultures then feeding on the poisoned carcasses.  This vulture was the sweetest, gentlest bird – rather like a labrador – and completely imprinted on the handler who was running the session.  (The vultures, and most of the birds at the centre, all get to fly free most days.  Most of them happily come back at the end of the session, though while we were there there was a fabulous hawk who wasn’t playing ball and sat in a tree for much of the display.  It was coaxed down at the end of the day – but apparently others have absconded from time to time, showing up as far away as Edinburgh!)
Tabitha also got to dissect an owl pellet and could largely reconstruct the entire skeleton of a vole – very very cool.
[First two images are with Great Gray.  The white owl is a Barn Owl I believe, widespread in the Old World as well as here in North America.]
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Here is some information about the Hooded Vulture: “The hooded vulture is an Old World vulture in the order Accipitriformes, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. It is the only member of the genus Necrosyrtes and is native to sub-Saharan Africa.”   Old World Vultures are not closely related to American vultures which in turn are close cousins of the world’s storks.
The bird is considered critically endangered.  It is found only in sub-Saharan Africa.  They are 30 inches tall with a wingspan just over 5 feet.  That is just slightly less than the wingspan of our native Turkey Vulture, more than a Red-tailed Hawk.
There is one living in the Oregon Zoo in Portland.
If the small owl is really a Babook it is from Australia or nearby islands.  I suspect it is really from New Zealand which means it is now considered a Morepork (so named for its two-note call).  The Babook and Morepork were split into seperate species in the late 1990s so when the parents arrived at the sanctuary they would have been Babooks still.


  1. […] Click here for further gallery of Tabitha’s day with owls and a Hooded Vulture. […]

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