It’s January 2014 (this was pre Land Rover) and we’re in our little red rental car. Finally we’re going to meet the Bearded Lady.
We heard about her in 2012 when she was rescued from a chicken coop and we rallied Nikela supporters to help build her a comfortable enclosure at Shannon’s African Raptor Center.
Affectionately called the Bearded Lady, she really is a Bearded Vulture. Albeit a very beautiful one. Unlike other vultures who eat dead meat these vultures eat the bones. Isn’t nature’s clean up system amazing?
Because she was confined to a chicken coop for so long she can’t fly. However, she enjoys her cliff and special brown rock to rub her neck. That’s where the rusty color comes from. In the wilds these birds live high up on cliffs far from human interference until now.
Before you start feeling sorry for the Bearded Lady… although she will never soar high up in the blue sky she is part of a crucial breeding program to save her endangered species from extinction. Loss of habitat, poisoning and those big wind turbines threaten the survival of this beautiful bird.
In September 2015 (now with our Land Rover) we return to the center to see the growing chicks. These chicks are from harvested second eggs. Bearded Vultures typically lay two eggs each spring. Only one survives, therefor the second egg if found at the right time can be saved. These young birds will then grow up to have chicks of their own and those will be released back into the wilds.
September 2016 finds us back again. Look how big the chicks have gotten?
December 2017 Shannon shows us the surrogate mommy. This cleverly constructed puppet is used to feed the young chicks to avoid imprinting on humans. It works beautifully.
In October 2018 we again find the Bearded Lady keeping watch over the newest chicks. The wire fence is allow bonding but protect the little ones.
What an amazing bird! Hope you’re privileged to see one soaring high above you in the mountains some time.
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