The UK may be on lockdown but for the falconers at Warwick Castle, life goes on with continued duties of dedicated care for over 70 birds of prey.
It’s a busy time for the falconers, with daily activities including exercise, flying and feeding for over 10 different bird species, despite the castle being closed during the lockdown period. Head Falconer Chris O’Donnell lives on site and works alongside two others to take care of the birds.
“The castle may be closed for now but our work continues.We have around 70 eagles and vultures, ranging from Andean condors, the largest flying bird in the world, and downwards. They all still need exercise and flying every day - nobody sees it but life goes on!"Chris O’Donnell, Head Falconer, Warwick Castle
The many personalities of Birds of Prey at Warwick Castle
Rosie, Andean Condor – weighing up to 15 kilograms with a wing span of 3.2m, the Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world when measuring a combination of weight and wingspan. A true marvel to watch, this bird is a national symbol of Argentina, Chile and four other countries, plus has long played a role in mythology amongst Andean cultures. Due to its size and mischievous nature, it is tipped to be one of the heroes of The Falconer’s Quest at Warwick Castle.
Barty, Bearded Vulture – intelligent birds renowned in the wild for their ability to smash bones into smaller, bite-size pieces, the Bearded Vulture has a wing span of 2.75m. With a diet consisting almost exclusively of bone, the Bearded Vulture is unique in the vulture world in not having a bald head; its head and breast feathers often appear an eye-catching rust colour caused from dust-bathing or rubbing mud on its body.
Marvin, Steller’s Sea Eagle – the largest eagle in the world with a wing span of 2.5m and a weight of around 9.5 kilograms, the dark brown and black plumage contrasts beautifully with areas of white on the body and the strong yellow colour on the bill and feet.
Poppy, Peregrine Falcon – the fastest animal on earth, with the ability to dive for prey at speeds of over 200mph compared to a cheetah’s run of up to 70 mph, Peregrine Falcons are respected falconry birds thanks to their strong hunting ability and capacity for being trained. It is the world’s most widespread raptor and can be found in urban and rural areas almost anywhere on Earth except extreme polar regions and New Zealand.
To support families at home during lockdown, Warwick Castle recently developed a range of free resources including activities, videos and downlodables, all themed around castles, history and even the birds of prey. The new History Unlocked section can be found at www.warwick-castle.com/history-unlocked and is all available for free.