Planet Earth

Scottish Travelers, Beware: Fugitive Vulture Could Take Down an Airplane

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaAug 18, 2010 9:11 PM

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World of Wings in Cumbernauld claims Scotland's "largest collection of birds of prey," including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. The center also served home to a Rüppell's Griffin Vulture named Gandalf--until Gandalf flew away. David Ritchie, director of the bird center, told the BBC that the bird flew away during one of the center's daily shows:

"She got caught in the wind and just went higher and higher until she disappeared.... We would warn people not to approach her but to call the police. She has no fear of humans and she could give someone a very severe bite. Her beak is designed to tear flesh apart."

There are only about 30,000 remaining Rüppell's Griffins, native to central Africa, and Gandalf has been at the center since 2006 as part of a zoo breeding program. The birds are scavengers, mostly eating dead animals, and can soar to heights of some 30,000 feet. So it's majestic--but its power to reach such heights and its 10-foot wingspan make the escaped vulture a "genuine threat" to airplanes and helicopters, according to Ritchie. The National Air Traffic Services has warned pilots of the threat, the BBC reports. Here's hoping (for Gandalf's, the Scottish National Air Traffic Services', and flesh's sake) that the vulture returns home soon. For a prehistoric bird with a bigger bite but no flight, check out Ed Yong's recent "terror birds" post on Not Exactly Rocket Science. Related content: Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Are birds smarter than mathematicians? Pigeons perform optimally on a version of the Monty Hall Dilemma. Discoblog: Male Birds Can Make Their Sperm Travel Faster for Attractive Females Discoblog: Duck Study: Competition for Mates Causes Males to Grow Longer Penises 80Beats: Mockingbird to Annoying Human: “Hey, I Know You”

Image: wikimedia

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