At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago recently, I got the chance to see some particularly charismatic birds, including a colony of squabbling flamingos, and Sophia the young Cinereous Vulture. Abandoned as an egg, Sophia was raised by humans—with a vulture puppet—until she was old enough to rejoin her parents.
The morning I saw her was overcast and cold, but she was in high spirits: a man was raking her enclosure, and while her parents mostly ignored him, Sophia was fascinated. She chased the rake; he shooed her away; she stalked it. “I helped to raise her,” the man said; then, rolling his eyes, “It’s impossible to get anything done with her around.” Eventually he dropped the rake, and Sophia got to investigate.
Young Cinereous Vulture meets a rake
Chilean Flamingo fight
As with all great conflict in the end it is hard to determine who is the winner; the rake or the vulture.
I think the rake won, but it is hard to be sure.
I like to watch birds worry something that they don’t recognize. It can be fun to see them get frustrated and finally give up.
The flamingo sequence is beautiful.
Me too – it’s interesting to watch animals investigate unknowns. Here, I like how Sophia tries several different things: what if I pick it up? What if I pick it up more? What if I use my foot? What if I pick it up from this side? The rake has some structural resemblance to ribs on a carcass, so I wonder if it matches a mental image her species has of “potential food.” On the other hand, she was young and seemed playful, so it could be general exploration.