Birds

Ruppell’s Vulture

Let’s face it—vultures have one of the worst reputations in the Animal Kingdom just by doing what comes naturally. Yet they are doing the world a favor by handling carrion cleanup duty. It’s a dirty job—and luckily, vultures are willing and able to do it!

The Ruppell’s vulture is the highest-flying bird. Reportedly, a jet flying over the Ivory Coast at an altitude of 35,433 feet (10,800 meters) hit one! The Ruppell's vulture gets on the wing about two hours after sunrise and spends its entire day aloft.

Egyptian Vulture

The world would be a smellier place without vultures. They eat food that other animals leave behind: stinky, rotting meat! Their bald head keeps rotting food from sticking to it as they eat.

Egyptian vultures don’t have a bald head. That's because they eat things that aren’t as messy: lizards, worms, insects, rats, rabbits, and overripe fruit. They sometimes look for food in garbage dumps. Egyptian vultures really like to eat eggs, especially ostrich eggs! But ostrich eggs are tough: so tough, you can stand on one without cracking it.

Pink Pigeon

Endangered pink pigeons are rare in the wild and seldom seen in zoos. Natives of the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar, the birds are victims of habitat destruction. In 1994, there were only 77 left in the wild.

These creamy-faced birds have a soft, rose-colored head and pinkish-brown feathers. You’ll have to be vigilant to spot them among the rain forest foliage in the Hidden Jungle aviary, as their coloring gives them great camouflage.

Hornbill

With long eyelashes, dark eyes, and a large bill, hornbills have many admirers. Did you know their eyelashes are modified feathers? You can pick out a hornbill from other birds by the casque above its bill. This hollow or spongy structure is made of keratin. It may act as a vibrating chamber to make the hornbill's voice louder.

In 1973, we welcomed the first Abyssinian ground hornbill hatchling outside of Africa. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums honored us with the 1974 Edward H. Bean Award “in recognition for the most notable birth.”

Turaco

There are over two dozen turaco species, all native to equatorial Africa. Seeing one of these handsome birds in its native forest or woodland habitat takes patience, persistence, and a good set of binoculars. But you’re in luck—you can see green (pictured), Ross's, great blue, and red-crested turacos with ease in the Safari Park’s Hidden Jungle!

Lorikeet

Parrots are famous for their bright colors. Some of the most colorful parrots are lorikeets. They live throughout the islands of the South Pacific and Australia. Lorikeets have a unique, brush-like tongue. Instead of eating nuts and seeds like other parrots, they dine on flowers, pollen, and nectar. Their beak is perfect for crushing flowers, and their tongue mops up the nectar. They use their strong beak and four-toed feet to hang upside down to get to all the flowers on a tree.

Pheasant

Argus pheasants are the size of peafowl and live in the montane forests of Southeast Asia. They have powerful legs for walking. Strong flight muscles can get their heavy body out of danger, and eyes on the side of their head help detect predators.

Abdim’s Stork

Stork. The word isn’t exactly poetry in motion, but there is much to admire in these graceful birds. All storks depend on marshlands for their survival. Their long legs let them wade through shallow water or tall grasses seeking prey. They nab their food with lightning speed, stretching out their neck to snap it up with their stout bill.

The Abdim’s or white-bellied stork is a bit different. It prefers open grassland in central and southern Africa. Called the grasshopper bird in parts of Africa, it feasts on swarms of the insects.

Bald Eagle

The founders of the United States wanted a bird to symbolize a nation they hoped would be strong and powerful; a bird that could soar high to represent freedom. They chose the bald eagle, a bird of prey found only in North America. You can see images of bald eagles on coins, stamps, and more!

Are bald eagles bald? No! Their head is full of short, white feathers. The term bald may be from the Old English word balde, which meant white.

Burrowing Owl

Owls live in trees, sleep during the day, and come out at night to hunt, right? Not the burrowing owl! It lives in treeless prairies and desert areas of North and South America. The petite, long-legged burrowing owl has an “earthy” lifestyle and prefers to go about its business during the day.

Instead of making its nest in the hollow of a tree, as most owls do, it finds a home in abandoned prairie dog burrows or rattlesnake dens. The owl uses its long legs for further excavating.

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