Tuesday Video Lunch: Something Out of Matt’s Dreams

We all know that vultures eat rotting carcasses, but we at Animal News get to chow down on Video Lunch!

According to Himilayan Raptor Rescue, Asian vultures are going extinct. As is often the case, humans are to blame. This time, however, people are killing the vultures with kindness. That is, kindness for other animals.

Sick and dying livestock are given a drug called “Diclofenac” that acts as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller. It is very effective at easing the pain of ailing farm animals. Unfortunately, it is also quite toxic to vultures. Raptor Rescue claims that vulture populations “have declined by a staggering 99.9% in the last 15 years,” primarily due to this drug.

Vultures are not pretty. In fact, most people find them downright revolting. But they are an essential part of the ecosystem. Without them, rotting carcasses would pile up, creating a serious disease threat and also feeding a growing population of feral dogs.

So what can you do to help protect the Asian vultures? You could donate to Himalayan Raptor Rescue. But if you were feeling more adventurous, you could go parahawking.

Parahawking is the act of paragliding with birds of prey. Raptors are experts at using thermal vents for lift, so they can be used to guide paragliders into the right air streams. And the best part is that the Parahawking company donates a portion of their profits to vulture conservation. Actually, the best part is probably that the hawks will land on your hand while you are paragliding. But conservation is a close second.


Podcast: Kristin’s Spray-Painted Bird Quiz, The Swamp, and Anti-plugging Beyonce

We’re talking about stuff today.  Stuff and things.  You should listen to it.

The Harris’s Hawks of the Desert will Cooperate to Destroy Us All

Howdy everybody! It’s Matt again.

I guess I am making a habit of this, but I needed to tell you guys about this one.

Check this out. I’ll wait.

Holy shit, right? I mean, come on, how can you not be psyched about that kind of news story. It’s about a pack of raptors that have been trained to display their natural behavior where people can see it, and actually go straight home afterwards, without being recaptured or restrained. It’s absolutely insane, but in the best way possible.

Look, I know I’m a huge fan boy for this right now, but seriously, imagine having that job. You wake up in the morning, feed the birds, weigh them, and then, you go out and help them display their gifts to the people who come out to see them. Then, you go take them back to their mews, and you keep them healthy and protected.

In a funny coincidence, I have actually been to the reserve that is mentioned in this story. I didn’t know about the falconry demonstrations at the time, but I was completely enthralled by the desert wildlife on display. There were a lot of different insects and other creatures that were at the place. If you are ever in the Phoenix area, I would suggest going to check it out. Then, you can go to the Crocodile Cafe, which is both an obscure movie reference, and a real place, which is delicious. Wear sunscreen though, cause the sun is literally two inches off the ground there.

If you haven’t checked it out, we have a new podcast about bees, and if you haven’t heard our falconry podcast, get on it.

UPDATE: It’s literally two minutes later, but I wanted to say one more thing.

So, I recently have been mining my childhood for nostalgia, because I have been on this weird going back to the US tear, and I wanted to check something out from my childhood. So I started reading Animorphs again. First off, when I was a kid, that shit was no where near as dark as I think it is now. The first book features multiple vicious murders, and the morphing is described in the most insanely grotesque way possible. It’s awesome.

But, I had forgotten about the one person who got trapped in a morph, and what morph he was eventually trapped in. That’s right, Tobias, the sullen emo kid from the broken home, was morphed into a Red Tail Hawk. It’s one of those things that I think spurred my addiction to falconry, that lay dormant in me until I started looking it up recently. So now I have two children’s books that I read that prominently featured falcons used in falconry, My Side of the Mountain, and Animorphs.

Animal Extras: Hipster Owls and Falconry


In the podcast we had mentioned owls rather briefly as poor but interesting candidates for falconry training. I (Kristin) may have referred to the jadedness of hipster owls getting in the way of the owls’ path to training success. I was all thinkin’, owls have these unique bird facial expressions -birdspressions, if you will – that make them too cool for falcon school.

But, as is turning out to be usual, I was wrong.


Although falcons and hawks seem to lack the capability to make the “smiling eyes” or “smize” taught to owls by Tyra Banks, they can generate some fairly expressive faces that lend themselves to a few memes.

Behold, your new favorite word.

And so it seems like a shame that hawks and falcons get all the cool parts in movies when owls are the ones with the talent. I can only think of two famous-ish owls on tv – the Tootsie Roll owl (jerk) and the owl, Owl, from Winnie the Pooh (lame). There’s the giant one from The Secret of Nimh…which is one of the most terrifying animated animals ever.

Where are the juicy owl parts?

Turtle bombing, Falconry, and Bird Self-Reflection

New episode of Animal News: The Podcast. Check out The Modern Apprentice for more about Falconry.

Hope you like it, leave a comment.