Friday, February 17, 2006

Reptiles and Raptors

A new animal home has opened up near us called Reptiles and Raptors. Technically, raptors are birds that kill with their claws, and this home is mainly about hawks, owls, eagles and vultures with a few snakes, iguanas and tortoises thrown in. Still a good place to take the grandchildren on a chilly February day.

I learned quite a bit. First that most hawks and falcons can interbreed like dogs. Breeding peregines with harriers and other falcons gives speed plus endurance or strength. Although not as refined as the breeding of dogs, there is quite a tradition in falconry.

Second, the kestrel, at least, can see in the ultraviolet range. It is able to track the urine trails of small rodents from a great height. They say it looks pink, but how would they know? Owls on the other hand, being nocturnal, have poor vision but fantastic hearing. They can distinguish the individual heartbeats of a room fulll of people. They have asymetric ears. Their left ear is located below their left eye and their right ear is above their right eye. There is a space in between, and we all know that space is the final frontier. (Boom! Boom!) Vultures rely on smell rather than either sight or hearing.

There are still working falcons. They are used to clear an area of rabbits. Rabbits are a menace for horses, which stumble in their barrows and break their legs. The New Forest (only relatively new; it was laid out 950 years ago) is full of horses, so falconry thrives.


Anonymous said...

My girlfriend used to work with a wildlife care facility. Her favorite birds were the raptors.

They scare the heck out of me. I think they could tear your eyes out in seconds.

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