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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Most Proper Vulture

This is Barf.
Barf is a Turkey Vulture. He resides at the WILD WINGS raptor rescue center near Rochester, New York, along with eagles, hawks, owls, and one lone, declawed bobcat.

Barf was also a model in my Gesture Drawing for Animators class. This is more of a comparative anatomy course, and we've had human, greyhound, ferret, cat, and now avian models moving around the room as students draw them in action.

Our administrative assistant at the Film and Animation department suggested that I book Wild Wings since they visited schools, and our Chair okayed the funds (pretty reasonable) and so I and a couple of strong male students met our presenter Terry Kozakiewicz and one barn owl, one sparrowhawk, and Barf the turkey buzzard at the campus entrance and carried the birds' cases to the classroom.

I was worried that Barf would live up to his name. Turkey buzzards show that they are stressed by...barfing. A vulture defends itself with its lunch, which is in a condition that would repel most other buzzards let alone predators.

There was nothing to worry about. Barf was a perfect gentleman. He was actually a most endearing bird; he was curious about his surroundings, interested in the movement of the pencils and the sound of my camera's shutter, and showed off for the video camera by displaying his very handsome wings. There was no sign of a round trip meal ticket.

"He's enjoying himself", we were told. Barf was raised as a pet by someone who then probably saw him barf...and who simply released him into the wild. In this case the 'wild' was downtown Rochester, and Barf was apprehended while stealing french fries from outdoor tables at McDonald's. Thankfully no one shot the poor bird, who was unable to locate food that wasn't associated with people. He is so firmly imprinted on humans that he thought Ms. Kozakiewicz is his girlfriend.

He played with her and apparently has a lot of toys to amuse himself at home. Vultures are much maligned birds that perform a useful service. They are neat (for birds), and have very pretty feathers when seen close up. They also do not eat living animals.; they do not kill. The Cherokee apparently called them the 'peace eagle' for this reason.

A six foot wingspan is also very impressive. Despite his size and appearance (equivalent to a large turkey) Barf only weighs four pounds.

Melinda the barn owl was beautiful but dangerous. She was bred for a captive breeding program but showed no interest in other owls, or people, and prefers to remain alone. Maybe they should have named her Greta Garbo.

The third bird, Quiver the American Kestrel or Sparrowhawk, was a bit of a dirty birdie. I figured that the vulture would be best-behaved since I'd had visions of vulture lunch all over the classroom floor ever since booking the birds for the class.

The students' drawings were very good. They have to create their own 'creature' as a final project (all 'furries' and pre existing mythological beasts receive an automatic failing grade) and I suspect that a number of them may have wings. But then we also had a ferret, two greyhounds, and an Irish Setter modeling this term so there are lots to choose from.

It's going to be difficult to top this term but fortunately the Wild Wings birds are not averse to traveling in snowy weather, as Barf's picture proves.

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